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Medicare: Not about jobs right now

There’s so much on this issue, it deserves its own section.

This headline from Reuters might be the most important point: “Presidential campaign focus turns to Medicare, not jobs.”

“Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is trying to stay on the offensive in the increasingly heated debate over the future of Medicare,” the AP writes. “Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, signaled Wednesday that they invite scrutiny of their plans for the health care program that affects tens of millions of seniors. Such a focus would thrust the budget proposal Ryan authored — which included a controversial measure to transform Medicare into a voucher-like system — into the center of the race for the White House… The debate comes as Romney’s campaign continues an effort to undermine one of Obama’s greatest campaign strengths, his personal likability, trying to portray the outwardly calm Obama as a man seething with animosity and power lust.”

“GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s new promise to restore the Medicare cuts made by President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law could backfire if he’s elected,” the AP adds. “The reason: Obama’s cuts also extended the life of Medicare’s giant trust fund, and by repealing them Romney would move the insolvency date of the program closer, toward the end of what would be his first term in office. Instead of running out of money in 2024, Medicare says its trust fund for inpatient care would go broke in 2016 without the cuts. That could leave a President Romney little political breathing room to finalize his own Medicare plan.”

Yet here’s how the campaign responded: ‘The idea that restoring funding to Medicare could somehow hasten its bankruptcy is on its face absurd,’’ said spokeswoman Andrea Saul.

USA Today tries to set the record straight on the Medicare plans: To hear President Obama's re-election campaign tell it, you would think Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to end Medicare immediately and give the money to millionaires. And to hear Romney and Ryan tell it, you'd think Obama wants to fleece Granny and Grandpa of $700 billion in Medicare benefits and use the cash to finance ‘Obamacare.’

The truth is nothing of the sort — but those charges may drown out the truth between now and Election Day.”

It notes that Ryan’s original plan could have been characterized as ending “Medicare as we know it,” but not anymore. “The original budget plan written by Ryan and passed by House Republicans would turn Medicare into a ‘premium support’ plan. Seniors would have a fixed government subsidy with which to purchase private insurance — but the new version of that plan includes an option to retain traditional Medicare coverage.” But it adds that Ryan’s plan would make Medicare more expensive for seniors, “because the money seniors would get to put toward their insurance would be capped, while medical costs would not.”

It also points out of Obama’s “cuts”: “There are no cuts in benefits, and, in fact, seniors have already seen preventive services, such as annual exams and cancer screenings, with no co-pays. Instead, the savings comes by decreasing provider payments.” And: “Ryan's plan would repeal the health care law but keep the $716 billion in savings in place.”

And what about Medicaid? “Mr. Ryan’s budget is tougher on Medicaid, the big state-federal insurance program for the poor, which currently picks up the tab for a much of the nursing-home care of the elderly,” the Wall Street Journal writes.

The Wall Street Journal: “Paul Ryan Ventures Into the Medicare Debate.” The Wisconsin congressman did not discuss his budget proposal, which would use government-funded premium vouchers to subsidize the cost of private insurance plans. And he did not offer a specific plan from the Republican ticket beyond saying that he and Mr. Romney would protect and strengthen Medicare for today’s seniors and the seniors of the future. Instead, he argued that a second Obama term would mean drastic cuts to Medicare.” That’s even though Ryan’s budget assumes the same cuts.

Reuters: “Republicans gambling in taking Medicare issue head-on.” “The danger, according to political analysts, is that elderly dislike for Ryan's plan could shave off as much as 5 percentage points of voter support from the Republican ticket in closely fought races in half a dozen swing states, including Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” it writes. “Many Republican officials initially expressed misgivings about the Ryan pick. But a growing number now believe a powerful offensive could recast Medicare as a debate about President Barack Obama's unpopular healthcare reform law, a tactic that drew enough senior citizen support in 2010 to win a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.”