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Ryan on Medicare Debate: "Bring it On"

September 3, 2012

Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan gave a barnburner of an acceptance speech at last week’s Republican National Convention. He was bold, confident, on point and on the offensive throughout. And on what may be a central item in this campaign for Ryan—Medicare reform – he threw down the gauntlet: “We want to have this debate. And we will win this debate.” I hope he’s right.

Of course, when all the celebrating and high emotions of the convention are over, things are never as cut-and-dry as we’d like to think. All one has to do is remember what happened to Sarah Palin after the terrific acceptance speech she gave in 2008. It was pretty much all downhill from there, her great efforts on the stump notwithstanding.

For example, the Romney/Ryan position that President Obama diverted $716 billion from Medicare to Obamacare is being vigorously challenged by the Obama team, who claim that the $716 billion is in reality a reduction in allowable fees to providers not a reduction in services; therefore, in their view seniors will not be impacted. This is where Ryan, sharp numbers guy that he is, needs to make his secondary case—that is, that these reductions in allowable fees will impact seniors as more physicians and other providers stop seeing Medicare patients. Keep in mind, this is already occurring and has been for some time, as Medicare reimbursements have been reduced and are not even close to market value. Even by Washington standards, $716 billion is a pretty sizeable chunk of change to cut from an already-struggling program.

The reason that Ryan must stay on the offensive on the $716 billion is that the Democrats will do everything they can to put him on the defensive about his plan to reform Medicare with a voucher system for future seniors. The Dems are already claiming that seniors will not be able to afford the coverage for a private carrier. I believe that Ryan’s response is that those who wish to stay in traditional Medicare may choose to do so. He apparently has confidence that the voucher system will prove popular enough to be selected, if not by a majority then at least a healthy minority. Ryan must defuse the negative connotation the Democrat mantra “Ryan’s plan will end Medicare as we know it” may give to voters—and not just seniors.

In their desperation—and Romney and Ryan take that too lightly at their peril—the Democrats will “fact-check” in their inimitable way every last tidbit of every speech to “prove” that the Republican candidates are lying. When Ryan says that attacks are all the other side has left, he’s right—and he and Romney need to be fully prepared to counter the onslaught. They’re up against an opponent with the characteristics of a cornered, rabid animal that will do whatever it takes to survive.

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Copyright ©2012 Phil Perkins