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Right Turn
Posted at 08:45 AM ET, 08/16/2012

What is the Democrats’ response on Medicare?

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is running on Mitt Romney’s ticket, and I see no reason for him to indulge the media in the search for differences between his prior budgets and the proposals of Mitt Romney. Ryan’s own Medicare reform plan changed this year when he offered a premium-support plan that included Medicare as one option. You’d think the liberal media would appreciate someone who has “grown” in office or is willing to try new things to tackle our most critical domestic issue.

But on a serious note, Ryan should consistently make several points, beginning with the obvious: He supports Romney’s Medicare plan and the full repeal of Obamacare (which he voted for), including the grab of $716 billion to fund Obamacare (which his vote to repeal Obamacare would have reversed). Neither Romney nor Ryan ever approved of robbing Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

Second, President Obama’s Medicare cuts are a big deal, which directly impact seniors’, current seniors’, care. Yuval Levin writes:

The basic argument the Democrats are trying to make is that because the cuts consist mostly of reductions in provider payments, they’re not actually cuts to benefits that seniors get but only to money given to the people who provide them with coverage or care. So, for instance, the New York Times today quotes a White House spokeswoman saying these cuts “do not cut a single guaranteed Medicare benefit.” But in a fee-for-service system, cuts to fees are cuts to services, especially because administrative price controls create supply shortages, which means seniors will have fewer options and less access. That’s exactly why the way to reform Medicare is through market competition—which increases options and seeks an equilibrium between supply and demand—rather than yet more administrative price controls.

Third, where is Obama’s plan to keep Medicare reform solvent going forward? He has only one mechanism: the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which is empowered to further cut providers, thereby making services scare or nonexistent.

Ryan explained it well a few months ago:

None of this puts House Republicans in jeopardy. They also voted to repeal Obamacare lock, stock, barrel and the Medicare raid. They also voted to fix Medicare going forward.

Now, does anyone doubt that both Romney and Ryan both want to get rid of Obamacare and fix Medicare for those 55 years and younger?

In plain English, Romney’s Web site explains: “Shortly after Mitt presented the proposal described here, Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Ron Wyden introduced a bipartisan proposal that almost precisely mirrors Mitt’s ideas. Unsurprisingly, the Obama administration immediately rejected the proposal. Mitt has applauded the Ryan-Wyden effort and looks forward to working as president with leaders from both sides of the aisle to implement meaningful reforms that will preserve Medicare for future generations.”

Romney and Ryan would do well to repeat these points again and again. They have the virtue of being true. Moreover, Democrats like to point out that the individual mandate for non-seniors’ care was originally a conservative idea. Well, as Karl Rove notes, premium-support Medicare reform was originally the idea of reform-minded Democrats: “Called ‘premium support,’ it was recommended in 1999 by Louisiana Democratic Sen. John Breaux, chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Medicare Reform Commission. There’s evidence of how effective — and popular — this approach would be. In 2003, Congress structured Medicare’s prescription drug benefit by using the ‘premium support’ concept. Though more seniors signed up and used it more than expected, the Congressional Budget Office now says the 10-year cost of this popular drug benefit will be 43% less than it estimated in March 2004.”

In the spirit of bipartisanship, perhaps Romney should ask Erskine Bowles to head the Office of Management and Budget and Breaux to shepherd Romney-Ryan Medicare reform through Congress.

In the meantime, Democrats need to stop sputtering and come up with a cogent response to Romney-Ryan. Otherwise, they will have lost the issue that was going to rescue them from their dismal economic record.

By  |  08:45 AM ET, 08/16/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign, Obamacare

 
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