Both parties see gains coming from Medicare debate

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 20 2012 9:25 a.m. MDT

They say that law was financed partially by reducing the projected growth of Medicare, not cutting it. Ironically, it is the same argument that Republicans often fall back on when they are accused of seeking cuts to education or other programs.

Democrats also say that none of the $716 billion came from cuts in guaranteed benefits, but primarily from reductions in projected payments to private insurers in the Medicare Advantage program, as well as reimbursements to hospitals and other providers.

They also note that the health law eliminated the doughnut hole, a gap in coverage that required seniors with especially high prescription drug costs to pay large sums out of pocket.

But Republicans accuse Obama and the Democrats of making false accusations of their own.

They stress that neither Romney nor Ryan has proposed any changes for current beneficiaries or those within 10 years of enrolling in Medicare. They also cite independent fact checks concluding that Democratic claims of a $6,400 increase in out-of-pocket costs for seniors under the GOP approach are bogus, based on an outdated version of Ryan's plan.

Republicans also say that unlike Ryan's plan, Romney's does not include a mandatory cap on growth of the overall program to guarantee budget savings. Romney has yet to release details of his own proposal, or even a comprehensive description of ways in which it differs from his running mate's blueprint.

There's no doubt about the millions going into the campaign debate on the issue.

Obama's campaign seized on Medicare shortly after Romney named Ryan as his running mate. It spent nearly $16 million on ads in eight battleground states for several weeks beginning in mid-August, according to records compiled by ad checkers. Romney spent about $7.7 million over roughly the same time period.

There the issue sat, until Romney's strong showing in the first debate on Oct. 3 and Obama's poor one.

Suddenly, the president's campaign was back on the air attacking Romney over Medicare again, trying to blunt the Republican's gains in the polls.

Last week, Romney, too, mentioned Medicare in an ad that begins by cataloging the high unemployment and large deficits during Obama's term. "He just hasn't been able to put in place reforms for Medicare and Social Security to preserve them," the commercial says.

A similar clash is playing out more than two dozen Senate and House races, largely along the same rhetorical lines.

In California, Democratic challenger Raul Ruiz and the party's campaign committee have both paid for ads targeting Rep. Mary Bono Mack's record on Medicare. One accused her of "voting to end Medicare, leaving seniors at the mercy of insurance companies, paying $6,400 more."

The sixth-term congressman aired an ad of her own, and the National Republican Campaign Committee defended her as well.

"The truth: Mary voted to protect Social Security and Medicare. She always will," the congresswoman's ad said, before going on to accuse House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of being behind the ads. It claimed the ads were part of a campaign to put liberals back in charge of the House. "We get more taxes, higher spending, fewer jobs."

Online:

Obama campaign Medicare ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O50SljBBRYE&feature=plcp

Romney campaign Medicare ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4gPvToKTWU&feature=plcp

DCCC ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVI_YoFT8gw

Raul Ruiz ad: http://www.drraulruiz.com/videos

Rep. Mary Bono Mack ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjeGp_M5TPM&feature=relmfu

NRCC ad: https://www.nrcc.org/video/prescription-ca-36/

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