‌If Washington continues the status quo, the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, the backbone of Medicare coverage, will go broke by 2020 and will be unable to pay out scheduled benefits. Anyone who says America can continue down the same old road is not telling the truth.

Republicans know that proposing essential changes to our social safety net could open us up to cowardly political attacks like those claiming our efforts will abolish Medicare. But instead of putting our heads in the sand for political self-preservation, we want to do what’s right for the American people so the health care security that many depend on is there when they need it.

Our proposal, called “The Path to Prosperity,” seeks to address the drivers of our nation’s spending addiction while paying down America’s massive debt.

Under the House Republican budget, Medicare recipients 55 and older would see no changes to their current plans. Americans 54 and younger would receive a menu of guaranteed health care coverage options similar to those now available to federal employees. Ensuring all seniors have affordable coverage, Medicare would deliver a defined contribution toward a plan of their choice, and seniors with lower incomes or more serious health conditions would get a higher subsidy.

Contrast the Republican plan to save Medicare with President Barack Obama’s plan: the president himself in 2010 cut Medicare by $500 billion to pay for the government takeover of health care, now called ObamaCare. That is an undisputed fact. Now in 2011, the president’s latest answer to Medicare’s exploding costs is to launch partisan attacks, propose to raise our taxes, and delegate personal and family health care decisions to a board of 15 unelected, faceless Washington bureaucrats.

This approach not only enters the realm of “rationed health care,” it irresponsibly fails to deal with the source of the program’s unsustainability. The president’s plan kicks the can down the road and empowers the government rather than empowering the individual. An individual’s health care decision is supremely personal — a decision that a person should be able to make with their families and doctor, not faceless D.C. bureaucrats.

House Republicans have been taking responsible steps to ensure Americans continue to have health and retirement security while confronting the looming debt crisis and its causes head-on. People in Wyoming and Americans from every corner of our nation can see our country’s looming debt disaster from miles away. Each American man, woman, and child’s share of the current $14 trillion debt is nearly $45,000 — and climbing with every second.

Foreign countries like China are keeping our country afloat as the federal government borrows nearly 40 cents of every dollar it spends. And as if we didn’t need another reminder, it was announced that our country’s credit rating has been given a negative outlook. Cutting discretionary spending is not enough; if we don’t tackle entitlement spending we risk the collapse of our country’s crucial social safety net under its own weight.

People in Wyoming are ready for the truth. They know that our country is on an unsustainable path. They know that we must make meaningful reforms if we want our children and grandchildren to have the opportunities our parents gave us. They want Washington to put politics aside and get the U.S. on sound fiscal footing.

I was disheartened to see the president invite the author of the GOP budget, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., to the president’s budget announcement two weeks ago, have Mr. Ryan sit in the front row, and then rip into him and demonize his budget proposal. Further, the president ignored the recommendations of his own Simpson-Bowles commission and now wants Vice President Joe Biden to start over from scratch. These delay tactics make matters worse and pander to 2012 election-year political strategies. This is not leadership — the American people deserve better.

Shying away from the root of the problem is a dangerous approach. It will only make the tough choices we need to make now even more difficult in the future. We cannot move forward until Washington puts aside its own self-interests and summons the gumption to save our nation’s economy and our children’s future. The American people get it — Washington, why don’t you?

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Cynthia Lummis is Wyoming’s U.S. representative in Washington, D.C.


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