Mitt Romney's campaign continued to try and gain the upper hand in the Medicare wars by releasing a new ad on Wednesday that attacks President Barack Obama's health care law and contrasts it with a Romney-Ryan plan.
Like previous ads released by Romney's campaign, the new spot, titled "Nothing's Free," focuses on the $716 billion the president "raided" from Medicare.
"Some think Obamacare is the same as free health care," the narrator says. "But nothing is free." Then the ad pivots to the figure, which has also been a regular talking point for both Romney and running mate Paul Ryan on the campaign trail.
But Obama didn't exactly cut Medicare, as the Romney campaign claims. Most of the Medicare savings in the Affordable Care Act come from a combination of reducing vast overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans and reducing reimbursement rates to hospitals. Furthermore, Ryan included the same savings in his own budget plan, backed by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and most House Republicans.
According to The New York Times, independent analysts have also noted that Romney and Ryan's pledge to restore those reimbursement cuts would immediately increase out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries by hundreds of dollars a year.
The article notes that those costs would be in addition to those incurred by a full repeal of the health care law -- which would entail removing expanded coverage of prescription drugs, free wellness care and preventive checkups -- thus contradicting Romney's current promise that his plan would not impact current beneficiaries or Americans within 10 years of eligibility for the program.
The Romney campaign contends that lowering payments to Medicare providers will result in a cut in benefits, because providers will simply pass along the cost.
The new Romney ad also accuses Obama of raising taxes on middle-class and low-income Americans, referring to the individual mandate, which the Supreme Court ruled was a tax. The mandate is something Romney has found difficult to distinguish from the health care plan he passed as governor of Massachusetts.
By adding Ryan to the ticket, the Romney campaign has been fully aware that the debate would quickly shift back to health care, because cuts to Medicare are at the heart of Ryan's budget proposal. Both Romney and Ryan have advocated for turning Medicare into a voucher-like program, which Democrats have argued would "end Medicare as we know it." In turn, Romney and Ryan have added an option to their plan for voucher recipients to purchase traditional Medicare coverage.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith responded to the ad with the following statement:
Mitt Romney’s newest ad is right about one thing: nothing's free, especially the Romney-Ryan plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system. While providing tax credits to help families and small businesses afford health care, Obamacare extended the life of Medicare by nearly a decade, strengthened Medicare benefits, and achieved $716 billion in savings by cracking down on fraud and needless payments to insurance companies.
The Romney-Ryan plan would end the Medicare guarantee and raise costs by up to $6,400 for seniors. Under their plan, seniors would face higher Medicare premiums and prescription drug costs, and would be forced to pay out of pocket for preventive care. And their plan would give $150 billion taxpayer dollars back to private insurance companies and allow waste and fraud back into the Medicare system, raising costs for everyone.
This article has been clarified to more accurately represent where Medicare savings will come from.