Fact Check: Obama Ad Challenges Ryan on Medicare

By Steve Kanigher

Published 08/27 2012 03:53PM

Updated 08/28 2012 10:06AM

Claim: An advertisement endorsed by President Barack Obama that is airing on KLAS-TV Channel 8 quotes AARP as a supporter of his Medicare plan and then states: "And the Ryan plan? AARP says it would undermine Medicare and could lead to higher costs for seniors. And experts say Ryan's voucher plan could raise future retirees' costs more than $6,000."

Verdict: Partly true and partly misleading. It is true that AARP CEO A. Barry Rand, who heads the nation's largest advocacy group for seniors, wrote a March 21 letter to congressmen expressing concern over a Republican budget resolution presented by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan for fiscal 2013. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, is the vice presidential running mate of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The ad takes an excerpt from a sentence in the letter that states in entirety: "Converting Medicare to a series of private options would undermine the market power of Medicare and could lead to higher costs for seniors." The experts referenced in the ad come from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning think tank. It is true that in April 2011 the center concluded that the Ryan budget plan would cost seniors who turned 65 in 2022 roughly $6,000 more a year than if the current Medicare program continued. The center, which said it based that figure on a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, argued that giving seniors vouchers to purchase private health insurance coverage as proposed by Ryan would actually increase seniors' out-of-pocket costs. One problem with the ad, though, is that the $6,000 was based on Ryan's proposed budget plan for fiscal 2012, which was rejected by Senate Democrats. Even if one trusts the $6,000 calculation -- and conservative commentators don't -- that number is moot. That's because Ryan has retooled his Medicare proposal for fiscal 2013. As reported in March by CBS News, he called for a plan supported by Senate Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon to give seniors who don't turn 65 until 2023 the option of using government subsidies to purchase either private insurance or government-run insurance. Ryan has since reiterated that he supports a plan that would give seniors the option to retain traditional Medicare if they don't want other types of insurance. None of Ryan's plans would impact individuals who are at least 55 as of this year. Another problem with the ad is that it challenges the number two man on the Republican ticket. What matters most is what Romney proposes, and he has said the Ryan-Wyden plan nearly mirrors his ideas. But Romney's campaign website states that he is still refining his Medicare proposal with the goal of offering seniors "affordable options that provide coverage and service at least as good as what today's seniors receive."

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