By putting Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan on the Republican presidential ticket, Mitt Romney has made it clear that fiscal policy will be at the center of his campaign.
That means voters will be hearing a lot about Ryan’s budget plan that would make dramatic changes to how some programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, are structured and administered.
During an interview with ABC’s This Week host George Stephanopoulos, former Minnesota Gov. and Romney surrogate Tim Pawlenty defended Ryan’s budget plan. And he pointed out that President Obama’s signature health care law makes big cuts to Medicare.
“There’s only one candidate in this race who’s actually cut Medicare and signed such a thing into law, and that’s President Obama: $700 billion cut over the next 10 years,” Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty’s claim, which had been repeated by many other Republicans in recent days, is misleading.
PoliGraph and other fact-checking organizations have checked similar claims before. Since the health care law was put on the books, Republicans have frequently accused Obama of making a $500 billion cut to Medicare.
But the claim deserves some clarity. The law doesn’t cut Medicare benefits.
Rather, the law slows the future growth of the program by reducing payments to Medicare Advantage, a private insurance alternative to the traditional Medicare program, and ties reimbursement to performance. Additionally, the law slows future growth in payments to hospitals and other providers, according to a joint reporting project by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Kaiser Health News.
The savings are used to help pay for other parts of the health law.
Up until recently, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the law would save about $500 billion over 10 years. But in July, the CBO increased its savings estimate to more than $700 billion over 10 years.
Finally, there’s an important twist buried in all the rhetoric: Ryan’s budget overturns Obama’s health care law, but it preserves the Medicare savings.
Pawlenty’s claim is misleading for two reasons: he doesn’t make clear that the health care law makes no cuts to benefits, and it suggests that Obama is the only person in the race who wants to slow the program’s growth.
In fact, Ryan’s budget plan assumes the same Medicare savings as Obama’s health care law.
ABC’s This Week, Transcript: Tim Pawlenty and David Axelrod, Aug. 12, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, Letter to House Speaker John Boehner on cost of repealing health care law, July 24, 2012
The Washington Post, Health care law fact check: Medicaid, health spending, and abortion myths and missteps, by N.C. Aizenman and Julie Appleby, Oct. 18, 2010
Minnesota Public Radio News, PoliGraph: Republican ad aimed at Peterson is a stretch, by Catharine Richert, March 30, 2012
AP, Ryan’s Medicare plan would be tricky to pull off, by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldiva, Aug. 13, 2012
The Boston Globe, The Romney-Ryan $700B Disagreement, by John McDonough August 12, 2012
Slate, Who’s Slashing Medicare?: Obamacare would cut the program by $700 billion–but so would Ryan’s budget plan, By David Weigel, Aug. 13, 2012
The Washington Post, Romney’s right: Obamacare cuts Medicare by $716 billion. Here’s how, by Sarah Kliff, August 14, 2012
E-mail exchange, Sara Imhof, The Concord Coalition, Aug. 13, 2012