PLATTSBURGH — Ever since Congressman Paul Ryan was selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate on the Republican presidential ticket, his controversial stance on Medicare has been grabbing headlines.
The issue has spilled over into other races, including the contest for the 21st Congressional District in the North Country.
Incumbent Democrat Bill Owens has been pressuring challenger Republican Matt Doheny for the past few weeks to come out with his platform on how the expensive Medicare program should be handled.
Doheny answered the call this week with a detailed presentation on Medicare, which Owens promptly criticized.
Doheny’s plan calls for six main ideas that he believes will make the program better.
One of them calls for allowing private companies into the system.
“Medicare should welcome competition, just like the program that members of Congress use for their benefits,” Doheny said in his statement.
“Market forces have been proven to constrain costs. To participate, private plans would have to meet or exceed benefits offered through traditional Medicare, and plans should not be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.”
Doheny went on to say that the federal government should pay insurers directly in all instances.
“This is not a voucher program,” he said.
But Owens said it sounds very much like the voucher program that Congressman Ryan supports.
“He is saying it is not a voucher program, but it is a distinction without a difference,” Owens said.
“The government can give a senior a voucher to buy insurance on the private market, or it can pay the private insurer directly. Either way, it’s privatization, and it ends the Medicare guarantee.”
Owens said privatizing the program is not the way.
“My opponent wants to turn Medicare into subsidized private insurance,” he said. “Paul Ryan and Matt Doheny have their priorities wrong. We need to strengthen Medicare and reduce costs to ensure better outcomes.”