Ryan Touts Medicare Program He Wants To End At Florida Rally

Paul Ryan doubled down on the GOP’s strategy of staying on offense against criticisms of his plan to partially privatize the Medicare program for future retirees and defended the proposal during an appearance with his 78-year-old mother in The Villages, Florida Saturday morning.

Without explaining how the program would change for the next generation, Ryan rallied the mostly 55-and-older crowd by pledging to protect the existing government-run program that his plan would radically restructure and criticizing President Obama for cutting $716 billion out of Medicare. The House Budget Committee Chairman and most House Republicans actually voted to preserve the $716 billion in savings in the GOP budget, though Romney and Ryan promised to restore the cuts to Medicare earlier this week.

But where Ryan fell short on specifics, he was long on attacks. Below are five myths Ryan told seniors as he sought to transform his unpopular Medicare plan into a political asset:

RYAN: “The President raided $716 billion from the Medicare program to pay for the Obamacare program.” Obamacare’s $716B in Medicare cuts, which Ryan included in the GOP budget, would slow the growth of Medicare over the next decade (2013-2022) and would not affect seniors’ benefits. Instead, the savings would eliminate overpayments to private insurers, reform provider payments to encourage greater efficiency, tie reimbursements to improvements in economic productivity, and reduce fraud and abuse. As a result, the solvency of the Medicare trust fund is extended by 8 years.
RYAN: “He puts a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of Medicare, who are required to cut Medicare in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors.” The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is tasked with making binding recommendations to Congress for lowering health care spending should costs increase too rapidly. The panel’s plan will modify payments to providers but cannot “include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums…increase Medicare beneficiary cost- sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and co- payments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria” (Section 3403 of the ACA). Its members are appointed by the president but confirmed by the Senate. Ryan himself proposed two IPAB-like structures in a 2009 health plan.
RYAN: “One out of six of our hospitals and our nursing homes will go out of business as a result of this. Four million seniors are projected to lose their Medicare Advantage plans that they enjoy and they chose today under this Obamacare plan.” Far from destroying Medicare Advantage, the choices available through the program are “stronger than ever.” Premiums for the program are lower and enrollment has increased since Obamacare became law. Studies have also shown that the provider cuts in the law will lead doctors and hospitals — who will see an influx of new patients enter the health care system as a result of reform — to improve productivity and efficiency, resulting in substantial savings throughout the health care system.
RYAN: “Our solution to preserve, protect and save Medicare does not affect your benefits [for those 55 or older].” By repealing Obamacare, Romney and Ryan would affect the 16 million seniors receiving preventive benefits without deductibles or co-pays as a result of the law and the current beneficiaries who have saved more than $3.9 billion on prescription drugs. Romney/Ryan’s plan to introduce “premium support” into the Medicare system could also increase premiums for existing beneficiaries as private insurers lure healthier seniors out of the traditional Medicare program.
RYAN: “[F]or those of us who are younger, when we become Medicare-eligible, we get a choice of guaranteed coverage options, guaranteed affordability, including traditional Medicare.” Under the Romney/Ryan plan, future retirees will have a choice of traditional Medicare or private insurance and will receive a pre-determined government “premium support” payment with which to purchase coverage. That support will not keep up with health care costs and seniors could pay up to $5,900 more by 2050. The plan saves the federal government money by shifting costs to beneficiaries, but does not say how it will lower health costs throughout the health care system.