Experts Question Vow by Romney To Reverse $716B in Medicare Cuts

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Many health care analysts are questioning Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's pledge to restore $716 billion in Medicare cuts included in the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reports.

Policy experts say repealing the cuts to insurers and hospitals would hasten the program's insolvency by eight years and would increase beneficiaries' out-of-pocket costs by hundreds of dollars.

According to the Times, the cost increase to beneficiaries would violate Romney's promise that U.S. residents ages 55 and older would not be affected by his proposal to shift Medicare to a premium-support program.

Marilyn Moon -- vice president and director of the health program at the American Institutes for Research -- said Romney's plan to restore the $716 billion would boost premiums and copayments for beneficiaries by an average of $342 annually for the next 10 years. Moon estimates that the average increase would be $577 in 2022.

Henry Aaron -- an economist and health policy analyst at the Brookings Institution and the Institute of Medicine -- said those figures make Romney's vow "both puzzling and bogus at the same time."

Andrea Saul, a spokesperson for Romney, said, "The idea that restoring funding to Medicare could somehow hasten its bankruptcy is on its face absurd," adding, "Romney's plan is to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered reforms that control cost throughout the health care system and extend the solvency of Medicare" (Calmes, New York Times, 8/21).

Draft GOP Platform Would Embrace Premium Support

In related news, a draft of the GOP platform released Tuesday would officially commit the party to converting Medicare to a premium support program, an idea championed by Romney's running mate, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Politico reports.

The draft notes that a "defined contribution model" is the "only way to limit costs and restore consumer choice for patients and introduce competition." The official platform will be published next week (Hohmann, Politico, 8/21).

Voters Disapprove of Ryan's Plan, Poll Finds

Forty-nine percent of voters oppose a plan to make Medicare a premium support program, compared with 34% who support such a plan, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

However, the findings indicate that many voters do not associate Ryan with the premium support plan -- just 23% of respondents correctly identified the proposal as Ryan's.

Meanwhile, 17% said it was Obama's plan, even though Obama has repeatedly criticized such a plan over the last two years, "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 8/21).
Tom Johnson
Who are these "policy experts" and "health care analysts"? I agree with Ms Svorny that most people, other than the afformentioned wonks, could not identify a premium support program if it landed on their nose. I was at a senior's meeting once where the audience was against any government tampering or involvement with the Medicare program. Indeed, our "non-system" of healthcare is so complicated and costly that more bandaids (AKA, the Affordable Care Act) won't help it.
Shirley Svorny
Voters surveyed may oppose turning Medicare into a premium support program because they don't understand how it would work and they don't understand the alternatives. They are familiar with the current system and imagine there is some way it can be saved.

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