Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan kept getting tripped up in their attacks on Barack Obama’s “$716 billion in Medicare cuts” by the inconvenient fact that Ryan included the same cuts in his budget. So after a fruitless week, Romney and Ryan came up with a new plan: to explicitly disavow those Medicare cuts.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mitt Romney on Wednesday unequivocally rejected more than $700 billion in Medicare spending cuts proposed by his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
In an interview on “CBS This Morning,” Romney was asked how he squared his running mate’s plan to cut spending on the popular health care program for the elderly with his criticism of President Barack Obama for making the same reductions.
“First of all, Congressman Ryan has joined my campaign, and his campaign is my campaign now, and we’re on exactly the same page,” Romney said in response to anchor Anthony Mason’s question. “And my campaign has made it very clear: The president’s cuts of $716 billion to Medicare — those cuts are to be restored if I become president and Paul Ryan becomes vice president.”
This is part and parcel with repealing the Affordable Care Act, where these cuts were located.
By the way, before I keep saying cuts, I should define terms. We’re talking about about 1/3 a reduction in the growth of hospital reimbursement rates, 1/3 a reduction in overpayments to the wasteful Medicare Advantage private insurance program, and 1/3 in reductions to things like Medicare Disproportionate Share Payments (for hospitals that accept more uninsured patients, which in theory there will be less of under the ACA) or cuts to payments to home health care providers. No Medicare benefits are cut under the law. You can make the argument that quality may suffer from the reduction in reimbursement, but since this just slows the growth rather than cuts, and since hospitals entered into the agreement voluntarily, it’s unlikely to have a significant effect.
This is why Paul Ryan kept these cuts in his budget, because they made sense on policy grounds. But Republicans have been successful in making them politically toxic. So now, even Ryan had to attack the cuts that he signed onto just a few months ago:
Perhaps unwilling to fully embrace Romney’s attacks on the cuts themselves, Ryan parsed his words carefully — he only referred to them in the context of using the funds to finance the Affordable Care Act. But by claiming in Ohio that the cuts will hurt services to seniors, which the White House strongly denies, Ryan essentially accused himself of doing the same thing twice in his own budgets.
“The president’s campaign says this raid of Medicare to pay for Obamacare, which leads to fewer services for current seniors, is an achievement,” Ryan said. “Do you think raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare is an achievement? Well, neither do I.”
The President actually punched back against this yesterday, saying that Romney and Ryan “want to turn Medicare into a voucher program,” and added:
My plan has already extended Medicare by a decade. Their plan ends Medicare as we know it. My plan reduces the cost of Medicare by cracking down fraud, and waste, and subsidies to insurance companies. Their plan makes seniors pay more so they can give another tax cut to millionaires and billionaires.
Vice President Biden essentially said the same thing yesterday, and hinted closer at a bright line on Medicare. After describing the Romney-Ryan voucher program, he said “We see an America where Social Security is protected, where Medicaid is available to distressed people and where Medicare fulfills its original mission.” Now, that’s not a guarantee of much of anything, but it inches closer. The only positive that can come out of this insistent talk on deficits and social insurance is if it forces the Obama-Biden ticket into a corner where they must defend the programs and vow not to cut benefits for them. We’re taking baby steps in that direction every day.