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The Telegram
  • Editorial: The return of ‘Mediscare’

  • Democrats immediately attacked Ryan as the author of a plan to "end Medicare as we know it." Republicans responded by attacking President Barack Obama for having "robbed" Medicare of $716 billion. Democrats responded by saying the same $716 billion in cuts to projected Medicare increases over 10 years are included in Ryan's budget.

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  • Like many, we had hoped the entry of GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan into the campaign might encourage an honest debate on serious issues facing the nation.
    The proposals Ryan forged as chairman of the House Budget Committee provide useful specifics that could focus the electorate on difficult choices, particularly on Medicare and other entitlements.
    The fear was that, as in campaigns past, entitlements would ratchet up political demogoguery, leading to polarization, not resolution. So far, that seems to be the case.
    Democrats immediately attacked Ryan as the author of a plan to "end Medicare as we know it." Republicans responded by attacking President Barack Obama for having "robbed" Medicare of $716 billion. Democrats responded by saying the same $716 billion in cuts to projected Medicare increases over 10 years are included in Ryan's budget.
    Now Romney has responded with a pledge to restore the $716 billion to the Medicare trust fund if elected, but he doesn’t say where he’d get the money. If he restored the funds – Romney’s repeated promises to “repeal” the Affordable Care Act never explains how he would do it – it would move Medicare nearly 10 years closer to bankruptcy.
    Thus, what could be a worthwhile discussion of how to reduce out-of-control spending on a vital program has again been reduced to pandering promises not to change anything.
    The Medicare cuts in the ACA come in the form of reduced payments to health care providers and insurers, not direct cuts in benefits. The act also brings enhancements to Medicare coverage, closing the “donut hole” limiting prescription drug benefits, and coveing preventive care without co-payments.
    But in the long run, the most important Medicare initiatives are pilot programs that aim to reduce cost increases through health information technology, better coordination of care, payment system reforms and the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
    The IPAB, while demonized by Republicans, is based on a simple premise: Independent medical experts, not politicians, ought to make decisions about saving money while protecting the quality of care. For starters, the taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for treatments that don’t work.
    The long run is where the distinction between the candidates is most clear. Under Obama, the government, as the largest purchaser of health care, takes the lead in keeping costs from rising too fast.  Under the voucher approach favored by Romney and Ryan, the government’s contribution to seniors’ medical bills would be capped, removing its incentive to restrain costs. If costs rise beyond those limits, it’s up to consumers to find savings or pick up the difference.
    There is room for debate on those approaches, and maybe even room for compromise. We’d rather see both candidates promise to pursue common ground on long-term Medicare reforms in the next Congress. But that’s not likely. For now, “Mediscare” is back, and there’s no room in the debate for common ground, or common sense.
    Page 2 of 2 - -- MetroWest Daily News (Mass.)
     

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