Just one day after President Obama declared that the Republican budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) would “ultimately end Medicare as we know it,” his likely Republican opponent appeared at the Newspaper Association of America and threw the accusation right back at him. Obama, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said, “has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it” and “is the only President to ever cut $500 billion from Medicare”:
ROMNEY: I’d be willing to consider the President’s plan, but he doesn’t have one. That’s right: In over three years, he has failed to enact or even propose a serious plan to solve our entitlement crisis.
Instead, he has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it. He is the only President to ever cut $500 billion from Medicare. And, as a result, more than half of doctors say they will cut back on treating seniors. He is destroying the Medicare Advantage program, eliminating the coverage that millions of seniors depend on and reducing choice by two-thirds.
To control Medicare cost, he has created an unelected, unaccountable panel with the power to prevent Medicare from providing certain treatments. The result will be fewer treatments and services available to patients in need, and nowhere else to turn.
Romney rarely lets the facts get in the way of his rhetoric, but these oft-repeated accusations ring particularly hallow — and are hardly rare. The savings achieved in Medicare through the Affordable Care Act will help stabilize Medicare by eliminating overpayments to private insurers and slowly phasing in payment adjustments that encourage greater efficiency. As a result, the law extends the life of the Medicare trust fund by eight years and allows seniors to retain all of their guaranteed Medicare benefits. Medicare beneficiaries are already paying less for prescription drug coverage and receiving preventive care as a result of the law, while enrollment in Medicare Advantage has increased and premiums have fallen. The law, in other words, does exactly the opposite of Romney’s claim: it expands Medicare “as we know it.”
That doesn’t mean that it solves all of our health care cost problems. It doesn’t and Obama has proposed accelerating some of the law’s cost-control mechanisms to further lower the growth of spending. But Romney has labeled such efforts “rationing” and is offering an alternative “premium support” scheme that transforms senior’s guaranteed Medicare benefit into a voucher and significantly reduces the government’s contribution to the program. As a result, seniors will likely pay more for their health care, while the market clout and purchasing power of traditional Medicare — which has led on delivery reform and efficiencies — will shrink. So if the question is, which candidate ends Medicare for seniors, it’s hard to see how Romney’s plan to push future retirees into private insurance doesn’t fit the bill.