To recap: As part of the Obama health reform law, Congress voted to reduce payments to certain hospitals, insurance companies and other health care providers by about $716 billion over the next ten years. The law directed the money to help pay for expanded prescription drug coverage for seniors – eliminating the so-called doughnut hole – and to help cover younger Americans who do not have insurance at their jobs.
When Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney’s choice as his running mate, drafted his budget plan, he included repeal of Obama’s health law. But he kept those Medicare cost cuts and applied the savings to reducing the federal deficit. Why wouldn’t he, after all? Ryan was trying to close a huge budget gap, and here was a rare case in which Congress had already agreed to a spending restraint that was relatively non-controversial -- the hospitals and provider groups had agreed to the cuts, and they would not reduce benefits to Medicare patients.
But Ryan’s decision – logical though it may have been in the budget context – blunted a Republican attack on Obama for “raiding” Medicare. So on Wednesday, Romney made clear that he would eliminate the Medicare savings, and Ryan fell into line.
The move would mean Medicare’s main trust fund would run out of money in just four years, rather than 12 under Obama’s plan. And because Romney did not offer any new revenue to cover the $716 billion cost, nor any offsetting reductions, the price tag would simply be added to the national credit card – worsening the “prairie fire of debt” that Romney decried in a speech this spring.
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