I have a feeling that I’ll be writing this with some regularity over the next three months, but the Romney campaign has released a new, shamelessly dishonest ad attacking President Obama for the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act:
Romney’s ad paints the Medicare cuts as some kind of theft—the money was meant for seniors, but Obama took it away to fund his “government takeover of health care.”
The truth of the matter is that Obama achieved the bulk of his cuts by reducing costs in Medicare Advantage, a program within Medicare that subsidizes private health insurance plans. Advantage allows seniors to purchase private health insurance plans, with most of the cost covered by Medicare. The program had been overpaying for coverage, and ACA reduces those payments to generate savings. Billions more are saved by reducing reimbursement rates to providers and using Medicare's heft to lower payments to drug companies. These savings were then used to extend the life of Medicare—by eight years, according to the Congressional Budget Office—pay for greater preventative care, and further fund prescription drug coverage. Far from harming seniors, the Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act improves Medicare for its beneficiaries.
What makes this especially mendacious is the fact that Paul Ryan includes the same cuts in his budget. I’ll repeat: the only way Ryan can make his budget work is by including Obama's changes to Medicare, even as he promises to end the Affordable Care Act. At the same time that Romney is demogoguing Medicare cuts that have improved the program for seniors—beneficiaries have saved more than $4 billion on prescription drugs since the ACA went into effect—he is hiding the extent to which his running mate supports making those same cuts in order to fund a trillion dollars in new defense spending, and trillions of dollars in new tax cuts.
This gets to a point I’ve made with some regularity on Twitter. Democrats want to protect Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage for seniors. Republicans do not. This highlights an important distinction in the rhetoric of the two parties. When Democrats attack Republicans for gutting Medicare, it’s because they want to maintain the program in much of its current configuration. When Republicans turn the attack around, as they have in this campaign, they’re hiding their intentions for political gain. This isn’t hard to understand, and I wish the press would do more to highlight the dynamic.