In order for Medicare to be saved, a key Republican lawmaker says, it has to be reformed. And Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, says "that's what we intend to do."

The budget plan he released on behalf of conservative House Republicans combines steep cuts in social programs with reduced tax rates. It would bring down the deficit to a manageable size, but only through cuts in Medicaid, food stamps, Pell Grants and other programs that President Barack Obama has promised to protect. It would gradually raise the Medicare retirement age from 65 to 67.

The plan doesn't have a chance of passing into law this year, but stands in sharp contrast to the budget released by Obama last month -- which relied on tax increases on the wealthy and mostly left alone the benefit programs.

In a written statement, White House communications chief Dan Pfeiffer says the GOP plan "once again fails the test of balance, fairness and shared responsibility." He says it would dole out tax cuts to the rich while protecting tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers.


(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)