A controversial House Medicare plan is "on the table" despite getting voted down in the U.S. Senate last week.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday that he still supports the plan by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to transform Medicare into a voucher-like system in which future beneficiaries -- those 54 and younger -- would get subsidies to buy health insurance rather than have the government directly pay their doctor and hospital bills.
The House plan has come under a sustained assault from Democrats, who charge it would "end Medicare as we know it." The Senate rejected it in a vote last week, but also unanimously struck down an alternative plan proposed by President Obama.
Democrats said they wanted to leave it off the table while Vice President Biden leads a bipartisan group of senators to come up with a new budget that would include cuts in spending that would satisfy lawmakers who don't want to increase the nation's borrowing limit without reducing government's size.
"The one thing we can't do is nothing," McConnell said. "The president, to his credit, is at the table. ... We're going to negotiate the contours of the plan in these negotiations. I'm personally very comfortable with the way Paul Ryan would structure it in the out years, but we have a Democratic president. We're going to have to negotiate with him on the terms of changing Medicare so we can save Medicare."
Appearing on the same program, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Republicans to abandon the House Medicare plan, noting an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that says it would require seniors to shoulder an increasingly large share of their health care costs.
Schumer said there are only three options -- doing nothing, the Ryan plan or a Democratic vision that preserves benefits and changes "delivery systems," but does "not let providers like drug companies get away with so much."
Schumer added that the president's health care reforms that passed Congress last year extend the life of Medicare by 12 years. Medicare trustee commissioners say the Medicare trust fund is scheduled to go into deficit in 2024.
Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., said people 55 and over won't see any changes in their Medicare coverage if the Ryan plan were to become law, but if nothing is done, people under 54 could face a much more devastating outlook.
"You got 13 years and something very bad is going to happen to Medicare," West, who is 50 years old, told "Fox News Sunday." "So what's going to happen when I'm 63, 65?"