FORBES: Fact Checking the Obama Campaign's Defense of its $716 billion Cut to MEDICARE

FORBES: Fact Checking the Obama Campaign's Defense of its $716 billion Cut to MEDICARE

Washington : DC : USA | Aug 20, 2012 at 6:11 PM PDT
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Fact-Checking the Obama Campaign's Defense of its $716 Billion Cut to Medicare

Five days ago, Democrats were cheering the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s choice for Vice President. Democrats thought that Ryan’s efforts at Medicare reform would terrify seniors (with Dems’ encouragement, of course), thereby handing the election to President Obama. Contrary to their expectations, however, it has been the Obama campaign that has been forced to defend its $716 billion in cuts to the Medicare program, cuts that Mitt Romney promises to repeal. In the weeks ahead, those defenses won’t hold up. Here’s why.

Defense #1. Paul Ryan’s GOP budget preserved Obamacare’s Medicare cuts

Yuval Levin calls this the “Ryan did it too” defense. It has the merits of being factually accurate, up to a point. As I discussed on Tuesday, it’s true that the House GOP budget preserved Obamacare’s Medicare cuts. But it’s hard to see how “Ryan did it too” allows Democrats to say that Ryan is throwing granny over a cliff, unless they are confessing guilt to the same crime.

There are two other points to bear on this subject. The first is that Ryan’s Medicare cuts were solely used to extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund, and not to fund new spending elsewhere. By contrast, Obamacare cut $716 billion from Medicare in order to fund $1.9 trillion in new health care spending, through the law’s expansion of Medicaid and its new subsidized exchanges.

The second point is that Mitt Romney is not campaigning on the Ryan budget. He’s campaigning on his own budget, which fully repeals Obamacare, and eliminates that law’s Medicare cuts.

APOTHEFACT CONCLUSION: Romney’s budget doesn’t preserve Obamacare’s Medicare cuts. Simple as that.

Defense #2. Obamacare’s Medicare cuts don’t harm seniors’ health benefits

“Mitt Romney’s Medicare ad is dishonest and hypocritical,” claims Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith. “The savings his ad attacks do not cut a single guaranteed Medicare benefit.”

This is a deeply misleading statement by the campaign. It’s true that the Obamacare Medicare cuts don’t make any changes to the Medicare insurance benefit, which means that the health-care services covered by the Medicare insurance plan are technically unchanged. But Obamacare’s Medicare cuts are bluntly structured, in ways that will harm seniors’ access to care.

Of the $716 billion in cuts, $415 billion come in the form of “updates to fee-for-service payment rates,” a euphemism for reducing Medicare’s payments to doctors and hospitals. But what happens when you reduce payments to doctors? Doctors stop being willing to see Medicare patients. And if you can’t actually get a doctor’s appointment, what does it really matter what your insurance plan covers on paper?

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agb100 is based in New York City, New York, United States of America, and is a Reporter on Allvoices.
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