Paul Ryan has been dreaming about cutting Medicaid for a long time—apparently ever since he was drinking at DC keg parties.
National Review editor Rich Lowry interviewed Ryan at a live event on Friday about the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. “We have a littler personal history that Paul may have forgotten,” Lowry told the audience at the start of the half-hour exchange. He recalled that in 1997, when he was selected to lead the magazine at the age of 29, his Washington, DC, housemates threw a kegger in his honor. Ryan attended, though the future House speaker “made a prudently early exit,” Lowry said. Ryan would have been about 27 at the time—he ran for office soon after, and was elected to his Wisconsin congressional seat the following year.
Later in the interview, Ryan discussed the GOP’s efforts to reduce government spending on health care, specifically the party’s plans to alter Medicaid (the main health insurance program for the poor) by giving the states more control and “capping” the program’s rate of growth. “We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around—since you and I were drinking at a keg,” he told Lowry. The remark drew loud laughter from the crowd.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, 24 million fewer Americans would have health coverage by 2026 under the Republican bill than would under Obamacare. One of the specific policies Ryan mentioned—putting a cap on the amount of Medicaid money the federal government contributes to any given state—would almost certainly contribute to the decline in coverage. According to the CBO, states would likely be forced to engage in some combination of cutting payments to providers and health plans, eliminating some services, restricting Medicaid eligibility and, “to the extent feasible,” devising more efficient ways to run the program.
Ryan’s comments were first reported by Politico’s Adam Cancryn.