Grasping the Medicare Distortion
The Left’s case against the Romney-Ryan plan is not based on the facts.

Mitt Romney introduces Paul Ryan as his running mate, Norfolk, Va., August 11, 2012.


Yuval Levin

The Democrats continuing to make such charges either do not know about the difference between Ryan-Wyden and past premium-support ideas or are knowingly lying. And those who argue that “Medicare as we know it” is the alternative to the Ryan-Wyden proposal are also either ignoring or denying reality. The fact is that Obamacare cuts Medicare by $700 billion over its first ten years to fund other programs and imposes a board of price controllers — the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) — over Medicare to cut costs in ways that (particularly by driving providers out of the business of serving Medicare patients through inadequate payment rates) would reduce the access of both current and future seniors to care. And without further reforms, the Medicare program will soon run out of funds in ways that would either require dramatic benefit cuts or would drive the government bankrupt.

Medicare as we know it is thus not an option. The choice is between, on the one hand, a reform that leaves current seniors untouched for life and offers future seniors a guaranteed comprehensive benefit and more choices about how to get it or, on the other hand, cuts that affect both current and future beneficiaries and yet are still likely to fail to avert the program’s fiscal collapse. Mitt Romney offers the first — a plan for saving Medicare without increasing the risk to seniors. Barack Obama offers the second — a plan for raiding Medicare and watching it crumble.

The only way for Democrats to avoid the political consequences of this painful fact is to deny it, and to insist that the opposite is the case: that Romney and Ryan seek to arbitrarily cut Medicare and increase costs for seniors. In the wake of Paul Ryan’s selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate, some of them have seemed downright giddy at the prospect of unleashing that lie, and perhaps even building their entire fall campaign around it. Many of them surely don’t even know it’s a lie. But it is, and a strategy based on a lie can work only if it is left unchallenged. Romney, Ryan, and their supporters must not leave it so.

— Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.