Politics & Government

Herrera Beutler finds crowd friendlier to her Medicare vote

Freshman U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas got a warm reception today at the Tumwater Rotary meeting where she about her first 4 ½ months in office in the 3rd Congressional District. It was a sharp contrast to a boisterous crowd she met in Vancouver recently

Herrera Beutler voted for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan for 2012 that in effect turns Medicare into a voucher program that eventually would let seniors buy insurance from private firms. Today Medicare pays allowable costs under formulas, and skeptics say Ryan’s plan means more cost to enrollees.

But at Tumwater Rotary, Herrera Beutler caught no flack, and retired insurance salesman Dave Estergard called the Republican “the best member of Congress in the United States.”

No one pressed the more difficult questions about how Ryan’s approach would increase what seniors pay out of pocket for health care. Herrera Beutler only said it preserves Medicare beyond 2020, the year the Congressional Budget Office has said it will start falling short paying bills. And she said those age 55 up are not affected by Ryan’s proposal.

Despite her vote for Ryan’s budget, Herrera Beutler sounded like she might be backing away from the Medicare plan. “The model I supported is one model. We will have many models to choose from as we have conversations” with the Senate and President Obama, she said.

Asked later whether she was indeed backing away from the Ryan policy, she said: “I voted for it. I don’t think I’m backing away.’’

In any case, the plan isn’t going far with the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Bruce Studeman of Centralia was among the 30 or more people who listened to her talk, and he said he was impressed. “I just like her attitude and believe she is taking us in the right direction,” Studeman explained.

“I think she’s on the right track,” said another man who described himself as a fiscally conservative Democrat and doctor but declined to give his name. But asked about her comments on Medicare, he added: “You can’t tell the truth in this venue. You have to cut Medicare.’’

The doctor added that he supports Medicare but thinks the program set up last century was based on a shorter life expectancy and lower costs than are today’s reality.

FOOTNOTE: Herrera Beutler’s staff plans mobile office hours in Olympia next week. Staffers say they are available to take questions from constituents on Tuesday, May 24, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30pm and from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Thurston Regional Planning Council offices, 2424 Heritage Court SW, Room B, in Olympia.

Go here for a full list of mobile office hours.