On March 12, the Romney campaign put out a document called “Five Questions for President Obama on Medicare.” Each one begins by asking “Why is President Obama ending Medicare as we know it by [fill in the blank]?”
In the first question, the Romney campaign asserts that Obama is allowing Medicare to go bankrupt in less than 15 years, citing a Wall Street Journal editorial that criticizes Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget for proposing “no meaningful reforms in entitlements.”
Question No. 2 asserts that “Obamacare” is funded through $500 billion in Medicare cuts.
The third question states that Obama is creating an “unaccountable board to ration care for today’s seniors.”
No. 4 states that Obama is “destroying Medicare Advantage for today’s seniors.”
And No. 5 says Obama is “ending access to care for today’s seniors.”
The Obama administration, of course, denies that it is “ending Medicare as we know it,” and argues that it is strengthening Medicare with its health-care reform of 2010. The $500 billion in savings from Medicare represents the difference over 10 years between anticipated Medicare spending and changes the law makes to reduce spending, according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker. These savings are wrung from providers, not beneficiaries.
Furthermore, Fact Checker says, in last year’s House Republican budget, which repealed Obama’s health reform, all but $10 billion of the $500 billion in Medicare savings were retained – a sign that Republicans in fact don’t have a problem with most of the cuts.
The “unaccountable board to ration care” that the Romney campaign refers to is the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB. Created by the new health-care law, IPAB aims to achieve savings from Medicare without harming the quality of the program. Critics object to the fact that the agency’s 15 members are unelected and therefore unaccountable.
Regarding the Medicare Advantage assertion, it’s true that government payments to the program – an alternative to traditional Medicare that is run by private insurers – are being cut. But the Obama administration argues that seniors benefit from an enhanced Medicare prescription-drug program.
Republicans also argue that Obama’s changes to Medicare mean that some seniors will no longer have access to care, as doctors stop taking Medicare patients. So far, limited data make it hard to tell if doctors are in fact leaving Medicare over questions of pay, according to a recent report by the Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General.