WASHINGTON -- Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus defended newly minted Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan on Sunday, saying that if anyone had ''blood on their hands" regarding Medicare cuts it was President Obama.
The most controversial part of the Ryan budget is the Wisconsin representative's proposal to end the guaranteed benefit in Medicare and instead give recipients vouchers to pay for private insurance. As The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim has explained, "By reducing the amount of money that Medicare would pay out over time, the plan reduces its long-term costs in an effort to become solvent without raising taxes or lowering health care costs. But it leaves seniors on the hook should costs rise faster than the value of the vouchers."
Democrats have already started going after Mitt Romney and Ryan on this point.
In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday morning, Priebus responded by accusing Obama of stealing from Medicare in order to fund his own health care reform plan.
"He stole $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare," said Priebus. "If any person in this entire debate has blood on their hands in regard to Medicare, it's Barack Obama. He is the one that's destroying Medicare."
Priebus's charges come after Republicans complained over the past week about a Democratic super PAC's ad that draws a link between Romney and a woman's cancer-related death.
On ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, former Minnesota governor and top Romney surrogate Tim Pawlenty similarly charged Obama with cutting Medicare. "There’s only one candidate in this race who’s actually cut Medicare and signed such a thing into law, and that’s President Obama. $700 billion cut over the next 10 years," he said.
Republicans frequently use this Medicare talking point, even though it's false. While the Affordable Care Act does reduce Medicare spending, as Politifact has explained, "Those dollars aren’t taken out of the current budget, they are not actual cuts, and nowhere does the bill actually eliminate any current benefits."
Instead of targeting beneficiaries, the spending cuts largely come from reduced payments to hospitals, discounts on prescription drugs and cuts to private insurers under Medicare Advantage.
Priebus also said during his "Meet The Press" interview that Medicare must be changed, or face insolvency by 2024. "[If] we go down the road that the president wants to go down and these Democrats, Medicare will be changed forever as we know it," he said.
The latest report from Medicare trustees does say that the program will be insolvent by 2024, but that report also found that the Affordable Care Act -- whose repeal has been made a top priority by Romney and other Republicans -- has significantly improved the financial outlook of the program.
"Projected Medicare costs over 75 years are substantially lower than they otherwise would be because of provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," wrote the trustees in their June report.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed comments about Medicare's projected insolvency made by Reince Priebus to an interview with "Fox News Sunday." He in fact made those comments on "Meet The Press."
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