Romney, Ryan defend economic proposals but provide few specifics

September 9, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says that while he intends to dismantle the Obama administration’s health-care law if elected, he will retain several key provisions, including coverage for preexisting conditions.

In an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Romney said his health-care overhaul will also allow families to cover adult children with their policies through age 26 and include access to coverage for unemployed people seeking insurance. Both are part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by Obama in 2010.

“I’m not getting rid of all health-care reform,” Romney said. “Of course there are a number of things that I like in health-care reform that I’m going to put in place.”

Romney’s promises are not altogether new. But, delivered in a major network interview at the outset of the fall campaign, they had the ring of an explicit appeal to a general-election audience, especially moderate independent voters leery of wrenching changes in their health care.

The Obama campaign disputed some of Romney’s assurances. It said that his plan would cover preexisting conditions only for the continuously insured, excluding those who have never had private coverage or who have lost it because of unemployment. People in such circumstances have been protected under federal law since 1996.

“When Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he really did have a comprehensive plan to make sure people with pre-existing conditions could get coverage, which is why his Massachusetts health reform law formed the basis for Obamacare,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Liz Smith said in a statement. “But now, he has pledged to repeal the national law modeled on his successful efforts, and has offered an inadequate plan in its place.”

Independent health-care analysts have said that Romney’s promise to retain coverage for those with preexisting conditions would be difficult to keep without enforcing the individual mandate, which the GOP opposes.

The two campaigns continued Sunday to debate the future of Medicare. Romney and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan propose establishment of a voucher option beginning in 2023 so that seniors can buy their health insurance from private companies. They can also opt to remain in traditional Medicare.

Campaigning in Florida, President Obama cited a new study by Harvard University professor David Cutler that concludes that seniors stand to pay tens of thousands in additional health-care costs under the Romney-Ryan proposal. The study, based on data from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, said the value of the vouchers would not keep pace with rising health-care costs. Seniors turning 65 in 2023 would see their Medicare costs during retirement increase by $59,500 in 2012 dollars; seniors entering Medicare in 2030 would see an increase of $124,600, according to the study.

“No American should have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies,” Obama said at a rally in Melbourne, Fla.

The Romney campaign quickly challenged the work of Cutler, a former adviser to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and his co-authors, who conducted the study for the Center for American Progress Fund, a liberal advocacy organization.

“The president’s latest false attacks are a sign of desperation,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said. “The president’s decision to use discredited studies and outright falsehoods to attack Mitt Romney is an admission that he can’t talk about his record.”

Williams also contended that “only one candidate in the race has robbed today’s Medicare of $716 billion to pay for Obamacare — Barack Obama.”

The reduction Williams describes actually refers to lower payments to Medicare hospitals and doctors, not reduced benefits to Medicare patients.

In their Sunday talk show appearances, both men on the Republican ticket defended the math underlying their economic proposals, insisting that cutting taxes for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes will spur economic growth.

But Romney and Ryan continued to deflect questions about what loopholes they would seek to close.

Both responded to criticism leveled by former president Bill Clinton that Republican budget “arithmetic” — including cuts in tax rates for the rich and increased defense spending — cannot work without elimination of big middle-class tax advantages such as the mortgage interest deduction.

Romney cited multiple economic studies that he said show that closing loopholes and bringing down tax rates across the board “can create enormous incentive for growth of the economy.’’

“Middle-income people are going to get a break,” Romney said.

Both candidates resisted naming specific loopholes they would seek to cut. Ryan (R-Wis.), speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” said such a discussion is best left for after the November election, when the issues can be debated before the public in Congress.

“I’ve been in Congress a number of years,” Ryan said. “I’ve been on the Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. And we think the best way to do this is to get this framework in place and then negotiate, work with Democrats, work with people across the aisle, have these kinds of hearings, have this conversation to get this objective.”

Romney, who has promised to create 12 million new jobs in his first term, discounted a report by Moody’s Investors Service and other analysts predicting the creation of 12 million new jobs no matter which of the two major presidential candidates is elected.

“If the president’s reelected, you’re going to see chronic high unemployment continue for another four years or longer,” Romney said. “You’re going to see low-wage growth, if any growth at all. And of course there will always be this fiscal calamity at our doorstep, a crisis potential at our doorstep, the kind you’re seeing in Europe today.”

Romney also criticized congressional Republicans for agreeing to defense cuts as part of a deal with the White House last summer to raise the debt ceiling. The deal cuts $1.2 trillion in spending over the next decade, beginning in January. The Obama administration had hoped to use the agreement, called sequestration, as the basis for further negotiations on reducing the deficit. Romney called Republican support for defense cuts “an extraordinary miscalculation in the wrong direction.”

Among the House Republicans voting for the deal was Ryan.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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