Boehner to Wealthy Senior Citizens: Pay Your Own Medicare Costs

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner made some statements Monday that could put a chink in the claim that Republicans care only for the wealthy.

After making a speech to the Economic Club of New York, Boehner allowed a Q&A session. When asked about health care remaining in the private sector, he said he thought the wealthy should pay for their own Medicare coverage, and it shouldn’t fall on taxpayers’ shoulders.

Boehner was addressing the federal debt and entitlement spending when asked a question by Economic Club member Peter Peterson. The exchange went as follows (paraphrased from C-Span coverage of the event):

Peterson: The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) projects doubled out-of-pocket expenses for senior citizens. The private market hasn’t been effective at bringing health care costs down. How can we be sure the private sector will bring it down in the future?

Boehner: The idea that the government can be innovative in health care delivery is in my opinion an oxymoron. The private sector can bring change in a way to protect the best health care system in the world —

Turning to Peterson, Boehner addresses U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal that still would have upper-, middle- and lower-class people choosing and paying their own health care like we do today, and says to Peterson:

Pete, I love you to death, but I don’t think the taxpayers should be paying your Medicare premiums — for people of means, you can pay your own premiums.

Peterson: I’m beginning to take that personally (jokingly) — but all kidding aside, I fully support that idea. Those of us who are well off should participate in sharing the burden. If we don’t, who will? The concept of reducing benefits to those who are well-off is essential.

Peterson was CEO of Lehman Brothers from 1973-77, far before the 2008 economic crisis involving the firm’s bankruptcy, which contributed to the financial crash on Wall Street and subsequent government bailouts. These days, he runs the philanthropic Peter G. Peterson Foundation, in which he invests some of his own millions, to make citizens aware of America’s financial crisis and “invest in the next generation,” as stated on the site.

In answering more questions from other participants, Boehner stated:

* Companies should continue to get tax breaks if they bring their jobs home to America.

* Tax hikes will only hurt America’s economy, economic growth ability and job prospects.

* We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Let’s address the spending problem.

Excerpts at Boehner’s official site cover his Economic Club speech, but do not show this portion of the Q&A session.

Sources:

C-Span coverage, Boehner at Economic Club of New York, 5/9/11.

John Boehner, official U.S. House page, 5/9/11.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, H.Con.Res.34

Peter G. Peterson Foundation