During campaign stops in Florida on Monday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney defended running mate House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) plan to overhaul Medicare, the AP/Miami Herald reports (Hunt, AP/Miami Herald, 8/13).
Ryan's fiscal year 2013 budget proposal -- which passed the House in March and was approved again in a procedural move in early April -- would transform Medicare from a fee-for-service program to one in which beneficiaries could either purchase coverage on the private market or maintain traditional Medicare coverage.
The proposal also would reduce Medicaid spending and convert the program to a block-grant system, in which states would receive a fixed amount (California Healthline, 8/13).
Romney Defends Ryan's Proposal
During his speeches, Romney said that Ryan's plan to alter Medicare would protect the program for beneficiaries. He also said that the federal health reform law was funded in part by more than $700 billion in cuts to Medicare (Mehta, Los Angeles Times, 8/13).
Romney said that Ryan has developed "ideas that are very different than the president's" (Thomas/Hunt, AP/U-T San Diego, 8/13). "We shouldn't cut Medicare to pay for ObamaCare," Romney said (Smith et al., Miami Herald, 8/13).
However, according to AP/U-T San Diego, budget plans developed by Ryan in the last two years call for the repeal of the federal health reform law but would retain the overhaul's Medicare cuts (AP/U-T San Diego, 8/13).
Florida Campaign Stops a 'Critical Test' for GOP
Romney's Florida campaign stops "quickly emerged" as a "critical test" for Republicans, as they seek to find a balance between promoting proposals to address the federal deficit with plans to revamp Medicare. Voters age 65 and older represented 22% of Florida's electorate in the 2008 presidential election (Nagourney, New York Times, 8/13).
Because of the "politically explosive nature" of Ryan's plans to alter Medicare, Romney previously had sought to distinguish his own budget plans from Ryan's. However, when pressed by reporters in Miami on Monday, Romney did not delineate the differences, Politico reports.
Romney said, "I'm sure there are places that my budget is different than [Ryan's], but we're on the same page as I've said before," adding, "You know, I can't tell you about the politics of something like the Medicare issue but I can tell you about the truth. ... And the truth is we simply cannot simply continue to pretend like a Medicare on track to go bankrupt at some point is acceptable" (Gibson, Politico, 8/13).
Democrats Say Romney Quietly Backs Ryan's Medicare Plan
Democrats on Monday said Romney privately backs Ryan's plans to overhaul Medicare and other budget proposals, AP/U-T San Diego reports.
Vice President Joe Biden said Ryan "has given definition to the vague commitments that Romney has been making," adding, "There is no distinction" between the two (AP/U-T San Diego , 8/13).
National Republican Congressional Committee Offers Candidates Guidance on Medicare, Ryan
The National Republican Congressional Committee in a memo to congressional candidates on Saturday provided talking points on the Ryan budget plan and Medicare, Politico reports.
The memo states, "Do not say: 'entitlement reform,' 'privatization,' 'every option is on the table.'" Instead, the memo suggests that GOP candidates say that Republican plans "'strengthen,' 'secure,' 'save,' 'preserve,' protect'" Medicare (Isenstadt, Politico, 8/13).