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Paul Ryan defends Medicare plan after criticism by Newt Gingrich

Rep. Paul D. Ryan defends his reworking of Medicare after it was sharply criticized by fellow Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

May 16, 2011|By James Oliphant, Washington Bureau
  • House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan defended his Medicare overhaul plan after criticism over the weekend from fellow Republican Newt Gingrich. Ryan said it was among "credible steps" proposed to limit spiraling heathcare costs. Gingrich had called the plan "right-wing social engineering."
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan defended his Medicare overhaul… (Carolyn Kaster, Associated…)

Reporting from Washington — Rep. Paul D. Ryan fervently defended his plan to radically rework Medicare after it came under fire in surprising fashion from fellow Republican Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich became the first GOP presidential candidate to openly rip the proposal after the plan — which would convert Medicare into a private insurance program as part of a House blueprint to tame federal spending — drew heavy criticism and polls showed it to be unpopular.

"The budget passed by the House last month takes credible steps to controlling healthcare costs," Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said in an address Monday to the Economic Club of Chicago. "It aims to do two things: to put our budget on a path to balance, and to put our economy on a path to prosperity."

Gingrich, in an interview Sunday, called Ryan's plan "right-wing social engineering." He said the effort imposed "radical change."

And while Ryan (R-Wis.) didn't mention Gingrich's critique in his address, he fired back earlier in the day on a radio show. "With allies like that, who needs the left?" Ryan said on Laura Ingraham's program.

Gingrich's campaign moved to tamp down the differences between the two men Monday, saying the candidate objected to Ryan's proposal only because it would be mandatory for seniors to join it, not optional. And weeks ago, Gingrich, a former House speaker, appeared to support Ryan's proposal.

Gingrich believes the current government-run Medicare plan should survive and compete with the kind of private option that Ryan is suggesting, said campaign spokesman Rick Tyler.

Gingrich believes Ryan "is a great leader and a great chairman," Tyler said.

While Ryan delivered his remarks in downtown Chicago, dozens of protesters marched outside, the Associated Press reported. They carried signs that read "Hands off my Medicare," "Hands off my Social Security" and "Paul Ryan plan: Let them eat cat food."

james.oliphant@latimes.com

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