Mitt Romney now calls it “extraordinary” that under his 10-year budget plan, President Obama has dared to reduce growth in Medicare spending by an estimated $716 billion. In comments today, Romney even pledged to restore that money as soon as possible if elected.
Romney’s top campaign surrogate, John Sununu, put it even more harshly today on CNN, alleging that the cuts in question have “gutted” Medicare and declaring that Obama “stole” the money in question.
There are several interesting points to be made about those statements:
1.) Judging from Romney’s statements, he considers it morally wrong to cut future growth in Medicare spending. Yet in his public statements and on his campaign website, Romney also pledges to take action against the “unsustainable nature of existing entitlement obligation.” Such a claim is central to his critique of our current financial situation.
So … which is it? Does spending on Medicare need to be cut, or not? Romney cannot credibly campaign as the candidate willing to make the hard decisions about spending on entitlements while simultaneously ruling out hard decisions about spending on entitlements. I know that the man is a master of being on all sides of an issue, but this is ridiculous.
2.) On his campaign website, Romney says that his Medicare plan “almost precisely mirrors” the Medicare plan put forward by his running mate, U.S. Paul Ryan. Yet the Ryan plan also reduces projected 10-year growth in Medicare spending by that identical “extraordinary” “stolen” $716 billion contained in the Obama budget.
The difference is that in Ryan’s version, that’s just the starting point for Medicare reductions.
So again … which is it? Does that $716 billion reduction “gut” Medicare when proposed by Barack Obama, while even larger reductions proposed by Paul Ryan and endorsed by House Republicans do not gut said program?
3.) According to the Congressional Budget Office, the vast majority of the $716 billion in reduced Medicare spending under the Obama approach will not affect services delivered to Medicare beneficiaries. The natural and obvious question is, how could that be?
Here’s the answer: As CBO points out in a report dated July 24, hospitals, doctors and other Medicare service providers have agreed to accept $585 billion in lower Medicare payments over the next 10 years, with no reduction in service to Medicare beneficiaries. The service providers were willing to accept that reduction not because they felt charitable, but because under ObamaCare, they would be forced to provide much less free medical care to uninsured Americans. The tradeoff — lower Medicare reimbursements in return for providing much less uncompensated care — made financial sense to them.
As mentioned above, Sununu appeared on CNN today to discuss Medicare, the CBO report and the Obama spending reductions (see video below). During that discussion, the former New Hampshire governor became belligerent with host Soledad O’Brien, insisting that the Obama cuts “gutted” Medicare and directly reduced Medicare benefits. In particular, Sununu cited pages 13 and 14 of the CBO report to support his claim.
That report can be found here. Turn to pages 13 and 14, and you will find nothing to support the allegations that Sununu made. Instead, it lays out the facts as described above regarding payment reductions to Medicare service providers, not to beneficiaries.
All in all, the Romney/Ryan camp makes two shamelessly contradictory claims. It is attempting to position itself as the courageous champion of fiscal sanity willing to confront the problems of overspending on entitlements, while simultaneously condemning the Obama administration for making any reductions in entitlement spending whatsoever.
So again I ask: Which is it, gentlemen?
– Jay Bookman