The idea that a Republican and Democrat would actually propose a serious overhaul of a major federal program is surprising in the era of failed Super Committees and an abandoned budget process. Yet today, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Paul (R-WI) did just that, and offered a serious proposal to overhaul Medicare.

At its core, their plan would move toward a premium support model (to help seniors purchase private health insurance) rather than continue Medicare's fee-for-service approach, which analysts recognize encourages the over-consumption of health care and drives costs up.

In addition to helping control costs, the Wyden-Ryan approach would have other benefits, such as spurring much needed innovation in the medical field. Here's how they put it:

By allowing private plans to compete directly with traditional Medicare, our plan would also spur a wave of innovation to lower health-care costs and provide higher-quality health care.

The reason is simple: In order to offer better benefits and lower costs than traditional Medicare, private plans will have to develop better delivery models and design better ways to care for patients with chronic illnesses. Imagine health plans tailored to help patients manage diabetes, prevent heart disease, or combat high blood pressure.

The Members close with an assessment of the chances that this legislation will move anytime soon: They know such an outcome is impossible. Yet they hope–and shouldn't we all?–that this might help in encouraging a constructive debate about the future of our entitlement programs, rather than allowing them once again to be used as a political weapon.

I'm interested to read more of the details of their Medicare plan.  I'm sure that there are many aspects that I'll believe fall short.  But regardless, I applaud their leadership and willingness to take on this important issue.