Paul Ryan: why taking Medicare message to Florida wasn’t a risk
In his visit to a retirement community in Florida, Paul Ryan pledged to 'preserve and protect' federal health benefits for those at or near retirement. And he brought along his mom to prove it.
THE VILLAGES, Florida
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The Republican vice presidential candidate pledged to “preserve and protect” federal health benefits for those at or near retirement, and reform the system for the next generation. But Congressman Ryan was light on the details of a Romney-Ryan reform, choosing instead to attack President Obama.
“Medicare should not be used as a piggy bank for Obamacare,” the youthful Wisconsin Republican told the outdoor crowd, mostly aged 55 and above. “Medicare should be the promise that it made to our current seniors, period end of story.”
Ryan’s focus on seniors reflects their crucial role in the nation’s biggest battleground state, where polls show the presidential race deadlocked. In Florida, 26 percent of the electorate is 65 or older.
Mitt Romney’s selection of Ryan to the ticket a week ago reignited debate over entitlements, particularly Medicare, because of Ryan’s controversial proposal as chairman of the House Budget Committee to turn it into a voucher-like system. Team Romney has clearly decided that the best defense is a good offense, as it pounds hard on the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Obama “raids” Medicare to the tune of $716 billion, and his board of “unelected bureaucrats will lead to denying care for current seniors,” Ryan told the crowd.
The $716 billion figure comes from a July estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that the health-care law slows the growth of Medicare by that amount over the next 10 years. The new Independent Payment Advisory Board is tasked with making Medicare more cost-effective without affecting coverage or quality.
Ryan’s 2011 and 2012 budgets, in fact, also included some $700 billion in reduced Medicare spending, though Ryan says his savings would go toward extending the life of Medicare. In his remarks Saturday, Ryan avoided wonky explanations and instead went for heart-warming imagery surrounding the care of elders.
So suddenly, it’s not Ryan who is throwing Grandma over the cliff – as a liberal interest group’s ad portrayed last year – it’s Obama. And Ryan brought Grandma herself – a.k.a his mother, Betty Douglas – to reinforce his image as a caring son. For good measure, he also talked about his grandmother, and the care he and his mother provided her when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and came to live with them.
“Medicare was there for our family, for my grandma, when we needed it then,” Ryan said. “Medicare is there for my mom while she needs it now. And we have to keep that guarantee.”
Ryan called his 70-something mom a “snowbird” – she spends her winters in the southeastern Florida coastal town of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, and the rest of the time in Wisconsin.