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Joe Biden and Paul Ryan On Medicare: Fact-Checking The Candidates Claims

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Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the Republican vice presidential nominee, attacked President Barack Obama's health care reform law for reducing Medicare funding during a debate with Vice President Joe Biden Thursday, again ignoring that his own plan for the program includes the same cuts.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Ryan have repeatedly assailed Obama for including cuts in Medicare spending in his 2010 health care reform law. But budgets authored by Ryan, passed by the Republican-controlled House and supported by Romney included those same cuts.

"They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar using Medicare as a piggy bank for Obamacare," Ryan said Thursday.

Ryan accurately stated that the health care reform law cuts $716 billion from what Medicare pays hospitals and other health care providers to partially finance the expansion of health insurance coverage to 30 million uninsured people.

Ryan has also stated that the law reduces the benefits available to people on Medicare. But, as Biden noted during the debate, the reforms actually added new benefits to the program, including richer coverage of prescription drugs and free wellness visits and preventive medical services. The American Medical Association, the AARP and other organizations endorsed the health care law, including the Medicare spending cuts, Biden said.

Romney has pledged to restore the $716 billion in Medicare funding.

As part of his same budget proposals, dubbed the "Path to Prosperity," Ryan also proposes transforming the current Medicare system, which guarantees a specific set of benefits for all enrollees, with a "premium support" program that would provide seniors and the disabled with vouchers to use on a private health insurance plan or traditional Medicare plan. Earlier version of Ryan's Medicare plan didn't preserve the original Medicare program as an option.

Medicare benefits "absolutely" will have to change to keep the program solvent into the future and Ryan said at the debate. Ryan's plan would set a cap on annual increase in the program's budget in order to reduce future spending.

Beneficiaries can't be guaranteed coverage without being exposed to higher costs because the value of the premium support vouchers won't be high enough to cover the costs of private health insurance, Biden said. "The bottom line is people are going to pay more money out of their pocket," he said.

Biden also rejected Ryan's claims that his Medicare proposals have bipartisan support. Ryan drafted versions of his Medicare reforms with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Alice Rivlin, who served as President Bill Clinton's budget director. Wyden has objected to Romney and Ryan's assertions that he supports their plan and has rejected the Ryan budgets passed by the House, however.

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