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Romney muddles facts on his Medicare plan

Mitt Romney is sending out his message on Medicare reform to voters. The problem is, it's not accurate.

In a podcast Saturday on the Romney campaign website, the 2012 presidential hopeful told Americans that Obamacare had taken $716 billion from the Medicare fund to finance “his takeover of the health care system.”

In truth, the Obama cuts to the Medicare budget are aimed at reducing provider fraud, waste, and abuse. Nothing in Obamacare scales back benefits for seniors. Obamacare actually adds benefits like preventive screenings at no charge to the patient.

Romney also resurrected the scare tactic of death panels, which was untrue when Sarah Palin used that line of attack, and equally true with Romney's use of it.

Romney accused Obama of denying elderly Americans "the care they've worked for their entire lives, all because President Obama trusts bureaucrats more than he trusts seniors and their doctors," a line repeated in a new Romney-Ryan campaign ad.

However, a Romney administration repeal of Obamacare would actually cut benefits to seniors right away, not 10 years from now, by eliminating the free health screenings covered in Obamacare, along with some prescription drug benefits.

Neither Romney nor Obama deny that their plans for Medicare are very different.

Obama wants to keep the current, government-administered Medicare program and focus cost reduction efforts on controlling waste and abuse from health care providers. The Romney-Ryan plan phases out government involvement in Medicare guarantees and puts seniors in the hands of private insurance companies. A voucher system, Romney calls "premium support," is like a co-pay from the government, to help offset the cost of health insurance premiums for seniors. Vouchers would be paid directly to one of the insurance companies on a list of approved insurers.

The Economic Policy Journal explains in simple terms how the Romney-Ryan Medicare overhaul would work. "For Americans currently under 55, his plan will give them a health insurance voucher as high as $8,000 per year. Government will get to decide what insurance companies are eligible to accept the vouchers. Ryan says all the major health insurers will be approved and accept the vouchers. Guess what that means?"

Limiting seniors to a list of approved insurance companies leaves the door wide open to corruption and price-fixing on the part of insurance companies. Much like a kick-back, which is currently illegal, health insurance companies could exchange the promise of campaign donations for a spot on the list of approved government provider companies.

What the Romney campaign has also failed to acknowledge is what happens when the voucher system kicks in? Will parents be expected to help their children financially if the vouchers are not enough to buy health insurance?

What may sound good to some voters on the campaign trail and in TV commercials does not necessarily reflect the truth. This is a hotly contested presidential race and both sides may be tempted to try to woo voters with false and misleading information.

If the details of Medicare reform make your head spin, there is an easier way to syphon through the rhetoric. For the most part, Democrats, who created Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, are more likely to work harder at keeping the programs solvent and intact.

Republicans, on the other hand, have historically opposed entitlement programs. They have made numerous attempts to dismantle and/or privatize Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare in the past, and are not ashamed to admit that getting rid of the programs completely is their ultimate goal.

"It only took two hours after the Paul Ryan vice presidential announcement for Republican congressional candidates to get their talking points on how to spin the Ryan budget and Medicare attacks," according to Politico.

Republicans were advised not to use the words, "entitlement reform," "privatization," or "every option is on the table."

Instead, the National Republican Congressional Committee said in an email memo reported in Politico, to use the words "strengthen, secure, save, preserve, and protect.”

Whether the words are true appears to be irrelevant. In an election year, no one who expects to win would dare tell seniors that they intend to take away their Medicare.

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