New Romney/Ryan ad plays offense on Medicare. Will that work?(Read article summary)
Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate means the team has to play defense on Ryan's past Medicare reform proposals. It's doing that by trying to get in the front foot.
The spot, titled â€śYou Paid,â€ť begins with a still photo of a concerned-looking white-haired guy. â€śYou paid into Medicare for years, every paycheck,â€ť says the narrator, while the camera moves in tighter on the shot.
Then thereâ€™s a quick cut to a photo of an empty wheelchair. â€śNow when you need it, Obama has cut $716 billion from Medicare. Why? To pay for Obamacare,â€ť says the narrator. â€śSo now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program thatâ€™s not for you.â€ť
Then a shot of a smiling Mitt Romney and his new running mate,Â Paul Ryan, appears. â€śThe Romney/Ryan plan protects Medicare for todayâ€™s seniors and strengthens Medicare for the next generation,â€ť it concludes.
If nothing else, the quick release of this ad shows that the Romney campaign knows it has to move fast to blunt Mr. Obamaâ€™s charge that Congressman Ryan wants to end Medicare as we know it. Plus, it picks up on talking points that some proponents of Ryanâ€™s approach have been urging the GOP to use.
The first of these is obvious: that $716 billion slice out of the programâ€™s funds.
Romney and his campaign surrogates â€śneed to point out that it was President Obama, not Romney, who cut $700 billion from Medicare to fund other priorities. Listening to [top Democrats] on the Sunday shows, youâ€™d think it was the other way around,â€ť wrote American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Andrew BiggsÂ earlier this week.
To this Democrats would reply, "Yes, the Affordable Care Act did make that reduction. But the money was cut from Medicare payments to hospitals, Medicaid prescription drugs, and reimbursements to private insurance plans under the pilot Medicare Advantage program. It did not come directly from benefits."
(They might also add that both Ryanâ€™s and Obamaâ€™s Medicare budgets foresee the same general financial path for the system. Both foresee per-person benefits rising at the rate of increase of the gross domestic product (GDP), plus 0.5 percent. The difference is in how the respective budgets plan to get to that financial goal.)
The second point the ad makes is simple, though made in a subtle way: Current recipients would not be affected by the Romney/Ryan teamâ€™s proposed changes. Thatâ€™s why the ad says the pair would â€śprotect Medicare for todayâ€™s seniors.â€ť
Thatâ€™s true. The Ryan-produced budget passed by the House earlier this year draws the line at age 55. Those 55 or older would not see any change in the Medicare system. Those under 55 would participate in Ryanâ€™s â€śpremium-supportâ€ť model for the giant government health-care system.
â€śNo one over the age of 55 would be affected in any way,â€ť wrote Mr. Biggs.
But for people under age 55, Medicare would fundamentally change. â€śPremium supportâ€ť means â€śvoucher,â€ť in the view of Democrats. Beneficiaries would receive a fixed sum of money from the government to buy private insurance from a Medicare Exchange. (The traditional fee-for-service would be one of the exchangeâ€™s options, and the premium would be adjusted for different regional costs and the health of the beneficiary.)
Democrats charge that under this system seniors would inevitably end up paying an increasingly large percentage of their health-care costs. Ryanâ€™s proponents proclaim thatâ€™s not true. Competition for customers between private plans on the exchanges would effectively keep prices down, they say.
But is the Romney campaign smart to confront the issue in such a direct manner? After all, many GOP operatives worry that focus on Medicare diverts attention from the issues on which Obama fares worst among voters, the overall state of the economy and jobs.
Plus, Democrats have long â€śownedâ€ť Medicare, in the sense that polls show voters trust them rather than Republicans when it comes to the big programâ€™s fate, notesÂ George Washington University political scientist John Sides on the Monkey Cage political blog.
Such stereotypes are remarkably persistent, according to Mr. Sides. Political scientistsâ€™ research shows that when candidates try to â€śtrespassâ€ť on the other partyâ€™s turf â€“ when a Republican runs as pro-education, say, or a Democrat runs as tougher on defense â€“ voters donâ€™t really pay much attention.
Thus the Romney/Ryan ticketâ€™s attempts to portray itself as the savior of Medicare â€świll be an uphill battle for the GOP,â€ť he concludes.