Monday, August 13, 2012

Ryan/Romney Push Zombie Lie of $700 Billion In Medicare Cuts, Here's The Truth

Within hours of "boldly" picking Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate, presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, immediately tried to back away from Ryan's long and detailed record - especially when it comes to eliminating Medicare as we know it and privatizing Social Security.

If media reaction in Florida is any indication, Romney has good reason to distance himself.

Romney's campaign has tried to inoculate itself somewhat from that criticism by claiming it's Obama who wants to throw grandma under the bus, not him.

Characterizing $700 billion dollars in Medicare savings through the Affordable Care Act as "stealing", Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus blasted the Obama administration, saying “This President stole $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare… If anyone in this debate has blood on his hands in regard to Medicare it’s Barack Obama.”

As a talking point, it's a great one, but like most things coming from the Romney campaign these days, it's also a lie.

In fact, the $700 billion in Medicare savings don't come from cuts in services, they come from cuts in waste, fraud and abuse in the system. Something you'd think Republicans would love.

Here's a statistic to help you understand the scale of the problem. The Government Accountability Office found that improper payments made by Medicare/Medicaid added up to $64.8 billion in 2011 alone. 

Improper Payments Improper payments by Medicare and Medicaid programs were estimated at $64.8 billion for fiscal year 2011, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The GAO estimated improper payments – meaning the care was not necessary or the bill was wrong – as follows:
  • Medicare fee-for-service (“Original” Medicare): $28.8 billion in improper payments, an 8.6 percent error rate, primarily due to medically unnecessary services and insufficient documentation
  • Medicare Advantage: $12.4 billion in improper payments, an 11 percent error rate, primarily due to insufficient documentation, errors in the transfer and interpretation of data, and payment calculations 
  • Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit: $1.7 billion in improper payments, a 3.2 percent error rate, primarily due to payment errors, payment adjustment errors, and program complexity 
  • Medicaid: $21.9 billion in improper payments, an 8.1 percent error rate, primarily due to ineligible or indeterminable eligibility status for Medicaid beneficiaries
Now, contrast this with the Ryan plan, which would also cut hundreds of billions from Medicare, but by ending the program as we know it. Ryan would replace the existing defined benefit system with a voucher system, with payments tied to changes in the consumer-price-index rather than healthcare inflation, which is higher. What that means is that, over time, vouchers wouldn't keep up with the real cost of health care insurance, and seniors would end up eating the difference, paying thousands of dollars more each year for insurance.

Worse, in order to keep the insurance plans affordable for seniors, it's likely coverage would be scaled back. So instead of being a defined benefit plan as we have now - where seniors could count on a defined level of care and services - "RyanCare" would progressively erode services and care over time, leaving seniors and their families vulnerable to catastrophic medical expenses.

You can see where this is going - increased medical expenses for seniors will inevitably lead to medical rationing - death panels if you will. 

That's not Medicare as we know it. It never has been and it never will be. And that's why Romney is running as far from Ryan's voucher proposals as fast as he can. That's why he's lying - again - about Obama's record and the Affordable Care Act. Because once seniors figure out the truth, it's game over for Mittens.

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