Mostly True
Says Paul Ryan’s budget would turn Medicare into a "voucher."

Robert Menendez on Thursday, October 4th, 2012 in a debate on NJTV

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez says Paul Ryan’s budget would transform Medicare into a voucher system

To hear U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez's claim, go to 1:01:30.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez yesterday attacked a Medicare reform proposal from Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan by claiming it would turn the health care program into a voucher system.

The Democratic senator made that criticism during a debate last night against his Republican challenger Joe Kyrillos, a state senator representing Monmouth County.

"But listen what I don’t want to do is what my opponent says, he basically embraces the Ryan budget. But what does the Ryan budget do?" Menendez said. "It ends Medicare as we know (it), makes it a voucher, privatizes Social Security, dramatically cuts assistance to education in our country."

For this fact-check, we’re focusing on Menendez’s claim that the Ryan budget would turn Medicare into a "voucher."

We issued a Mostly True ruling on a similar claim in September from state Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, and PolitiFact National issued the same ruling on a related statement by President Barack Obama in August.

Just as in those two cases, Menendez’s claim is mostly accurate.

Ryan has proposed providing "premium support" payments to future Medicare beneficiaries to purchase health insurance. There are some distinctions between the two terms, but the word "voucher" generally describes this approach.

The plan would not affect current Medicare beneficiaries and individuals who become eligible before 2023. Those individuals could remain in the current Medicare program.

But starting in 2023, newly eligible beneficiaries would receive a premium support payment to purchase private insurance or a plan that acts like traditional Medicare. The payments would either pay for or offset the cost of health care premiums.

The latest version of Ryan’s plan was approved in March by the GOP-controlled House as part of a budget resolution, but it was later rejected by the Democrat-led Senate.

It’s true that Ryan’s most recent plan more closely reflects a pure premium support, but substantively, it’s somewhere between the two approaches. As our PolitiFact colleagues noted, there are distinctions between the two terms, dealing with the type of inflation adjustment used and the degree of marketplace regulation imposed.

Our ruling

In a debate Thursday against Kyrillos, Menendez claimed Ryan’s budget would turn Medicare into a "voucher."

It’s accurate that Ryan’s plan, starting in 2023, would provide premium support payments for new beneficiaries to purchase private insurance or a plan that acts like traditional Medicare. The term "voucher" generally describes this approach.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

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