Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Obama and Romney Teams Battle for Leverage on Medicare

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Obama and Romney Teams Battle for Leverage on Medicare

Article excerpt

The Romney campaign is attacking in detail President Barack Obama's health care plan and seizing an issue that has the potential to be a significant liability for Paul D. Ryan as he joins the Republican presidential ticket.

Moving beyond campaign-trail generalities, the Romney campaign is seeking to play offense on Medicare, attacking in detail President Barack Obama's health care plan and seizing an issue that has the potential to be a significant liability for Representative Paul D. Ryan as he joins the Republican presidential ticket.

Mr. Ryan, who has proposed a voucher program for Medicare, on Saturday accused Mr. Obama of being the bigger threat because of savings wrung from the growth of spending in the program contained in the president's health care overhaul of 2010.

"The president raids $716 billion from the Medicare program to pay for the Obamacare program," Mr. Ryan told a crowd of more than 1,000 residents in The Villages, a vast retirement community in Florida, a crucial battleground state. As a result, he said, many hospitals and retirement homes would close.

Having Mr. Ryan take the Medicare fight to Florida represented an effort by Mitt Romney's campaign to turn what many strategists predicted would be the ticket's Achilles' heel -- Mr. Ryan's detailed and aggressive budget cuts, many of them targeting social protections -- into an asset.

Left unsaid by Mr. Ryan was that his own budget, passed by the House in March, includes the same $716 billion in savings, to be used to reduce the deficit. Mr. Romney, who said earlier that as president he would sign that budget into law, now says that he would restore the $716 billion to Medicare and that Mr. Ryan agrees.

Democrats, facing the forceful Republican attacks on an issue that long has favored the president's party, pushed back hard on Sunday. Stephanie Cutter, Mr. Obama's deputy campaign manager, accused the Romney team of spreading "lies" about Medicare.

She said that since being picked by Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan had "completely reversed himself" on Medicare. The Romney/Ryan voucher plan -- which would allow the elderly to remain with the current plan or accept a government subsidy to buy private insurance -- would benefit the insurance companies while undercutting Medicare, she said. Under the Romney plan, Ms. Cutter said on the CNN program "State of the Union," Medicare would go bankrupt in four years. In contrast, she added, Mr. Obama's actions had given the program eight years of added viability.

Mr. Obama himself expressed surprise at the Republicans' focus on Medicare.

"Now you think they'd avoid talking about Medicare, considering both of them have proposed to voucherize the Medicare system," he said while campaigning on Saturday in New Hampshire. "They want seniors to get a voucher to buy their own insurance, which would force seniors to pay an additional $6,400 for their health care. …

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