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Friday, September 21, 2012

For AARP Convention, Obama Plays Fact-Checker in Chief


President Obama's re-election campaign released an ad on Thursday that uses an analysis of an outdated Medicare plan by Representative Paul D. Ryan to warn, “The Romney-Ryan plan could raise seniors' costs up to $6,400 a year.”

On Friday that statistic - which the Obama campaign has used in previous ads, and which was used in several speeches at the Democratic National Convention - was questioned by a fact-checker who noted that the figure referred to Mr. Ryan's “original plan” and that it had since been “modified.”

The fact-checker? President Obama, who mentioned it in a speech beamed by satellite to AARP's convention in New Orleans.

Mr. Obama noted in his speech that independent analysts had found that Mr. Ryan's original Medicare proposal to give older Americans fixed amounts of money to buy private health insurance could force future recipients to pay “over $6,000 more for their Medicare” because it would cap the amount of money they would get each year and would therefore fail to keep up with rising health care costs.

But then Mr. Obama included some context and clarification that his ads do not.

“Now, that was his original plan, and I want to be fair here,” Mr. Obama said. “He then modified it, because, obviously, there was a lot of pushback from seniors on that idea. So he said, well, we're going to have traditional Medicare stand side by side with the voucher program, and no current beneficiaries will be affected.”

The Romney campaign says that its version of the Medicare plan - which would offer recipients the option of using the money to buy traditional Medicare - does not call for the kind of hard spending caps that would have left many recipients making up the difference out of their own pockets.

But it is not exactly clear how that plan would work.

The Romney campaign's Web site asks: “How high will the premium support be? How quickly will it grow?”

The answer: “Mitt continues to work on refining the details of his plan, and he is exploring different options for ensuring that future seniors receive the premium support they need while also ensuring that competitive pressures encourage providers to improve quality and control cost. His goal is for Medicare to offer every senior affordable options that provide coverage and service at least as good as what today's seniors receive.”

In his address to AARP, Mr. Obama warned that even without the cap the move toward private insurers could pose risks to the program. “The problem is that insurance companies, once they're getting vouchers, they're really good at re cruiting the healthier, younger Medicare recipients and weeding out and leaving in traditional Medicare the older, sicker recipients,'' he said. “And over time what happens is that because there are older, sicker folks in the traditional Medicare plan, premiums start going up, they start going through the roof.”