GREER, S.C. -- It has long been part of the foundation of Mitt Romney’s case against President Obama: Federal spending is out of control and must be checked in order to revive the stalled U.S. economy.
So the irony was hard to escape on Thursday when Romney blasted the president for cutting too deeply into one of the nation’s biggest social programs.
Shortly after his chartered plane landed here for the last stop on a two-day fundraising swing across the Deep South, the Republican presidential hopeful stepped before news cameras outside a private air terminal to offer new evidence for how wrong Obama was to slash $716 billion in Medicare spending.
“This is going to be a big issue in places where there are a lot of seniors,” Romney said, using a black marker to write down a few key points on a white board mounted on an easel.
In the latest stage of an offensive on Medicare that he launched after his selection of Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate last weekend, Romney argued that Obama’s cuts harm the elderly -- even though the cuts would have no impact on the benefits that they receive.
The bulk of Obama’s cuts come from reducing government reimbursement rates for hospitals, nursing homes and other care providers.
Romney said that under Obama’s cuts, 4 million seniors would “lose their coverage” under the Medicare Advantage program. In fact, the cuts might require some seniors in the enhanced coverage program to switch plans, but it will not cause any of them to lose Medicare benefits.
“And then,” he added, “some 15% of hospitals and nursing homes [are] saying they won’t take future Medicare patients -- this is a dramatic change in the quality of healthcare and the opportunity for choice that seniors expect.”
Romney went on to defend his support of a long-term plan to offer seniors a new voucher system so that they could buy their own health coverage as an alternative to the current Medicare program, although he objected to use of the word “voucher” to describe it.
“There’ll be greater competition between the government and the private plans,” he said. “I think ultimately you’ll see the cost reduced as there’s more competition.”
A voucher system for Medicare is the centerpiece of a budget proposal championed by Ryan, passed by the Republican-led House and embraced by Romney. Democrats say the system would force seniors to pay more for less coverage.
Since Romney announced the selection of Ryan as his running mate, Obama and his Republican challenger have been battling over the issue, which could have a major impact in Florida and other battleground states with large populations of seniors.