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The Tennessean - DesJarlais: Ryan's Path to Prosperity is Best Way to Save Medicare


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As a practicing primary care physician in Marion County, Tenn., for nearly two decades, I know firsthand how important Medicare is for our seniors. Unfortunately, this program that so many Tennesseans rely on to provide quality medical care is on the path to bankruptcy.

There are several factors causing Medicare to go broke. Longer life expectancy, increases in medical technology and costs, and the rapid rate of retiring baby boomers has created a situation where Medicare is now paying out $3 for every $1 it takes in.

The nonpartisan Medicare Board of Trustees' most recent annual report showed that the program is fiscally unsustainable and will go insolvent in the year 2024. Further, they state that "lawmakers should address the financial challenges facing Social Security and Medicare as soon as possible."

In light of these undeniable facts, House Republicans put forth a bold plan to preserve and protect Medicare so that it will continue to be available for current seniors and future generations. The architect of this plan, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, named this proposal the Path to Prosperity.

I was proud to support the Path to Prosperity when it was brought to the House floor. I believe that it is the only serious legislative plan that puts our nation back on a fiscally sustainable path while securing important retirement programs for seniors.

House Republicans weren't the only ones supportive of Ryan's proposal. Erskine Bowles, co-chair of President Obama's Deficit Commission and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, called the Path to Prosperity a "sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget."

Ryan will be the first to admit that his budget is not perfect. It is meant to serve as a starting point from which we could build a broad and sensible yet serious plan to put our country on a secure fiscal path.

But rather than work with us, Senate Democrats and President Obama hit the airwaves claiming that Republicans voted to end Medicare. Their charges were so unfounded that it led the nonpartisan fact-checking group PolitiFact to label their claims as the "Lie of the Year" for 2011.

Gov. Mitt Romney's recent announcement that Rep. Ryan will be his vice presidential running mate has once again put the national spotlight on the Path to Prosperity. While we welcome this opportunity to further call attention to the importance of preserving Medicare, it has caused some Democrats to once again resort to politics of fear and deception.

But where is the Democrats' plan?

If they truly felt that Medicare is as vital to our seniors as they say it is, wouldn't they want to prevent it from going bankrupt? Yet, the only idea Democrats have put forth is Obamacare, which does nothing to make Medicare more solvent. Further, the Senate hasn't passed a budget in more than 1,200 days, and Obama's budget didn't receive a single vote in either the House or the Senate.

We need to have an honest, grown-up conversation about what it is going to take to prevent Medicare from going bankrupt. Rather than continuing to put politics before our seniors, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama should work with us in finding a solution to save this critical program from bankruptcy.

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