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Paul Ryan Says It's Okay For His Budget To Cut Medicare, But Not Okay For Democrats To Do It

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WASHINGTON -- House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday defended his budget plan's Medicare cuts, even though Republicans have relentlessly attacked Democrats for supporting the same cuts under the Affordable Care Act.

The GOP for the third straight election cycle is assailing Democrats in TV ads for cutting Medicare by roughly $700 billion. Ryan's proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, released Tuesday, would pocket the same savings from Medicare Advantage, hospitals and health care providers.

Ryan rejected charges of hypocrisy during a Tuesday conference call with reporters, saying Republican attacks on Democratic cuts to Medicare were fair game. Medicare cuts under Obamacare would be used to fund the health care law, he said. But his budget would establish a reserve fund and funnel money back into Medicare.

"By repealing Obamacare, we stop [the] raid and that money stays within Medicare," Ryan said. "So it actually helps make Medicare stronger and more solvent, more secure."

Asked if it would nonetheless complicate the GOP's message if, under his budget, Republicans were also voting for steep cuts to Medicare, Ryan disagreed.

"No, not at all," Ryan said. "We're spelling out a comprehensive plan to save and strengthen Medicare with premium support, with the traditional Medicare option alongside of it.

"We want to make sure that all the savings that come from Medicare go back to Medicare to shore up its program," Ryan added. "And if we have problems with Medicare, for instance say Medicare Advantage, we have created a system to address that as those problems arise."

Ryan has used this line of reasoning before, as have other Republicans who voted for Medicare cuts in previous budgets. But as Brian Beutler at Salon pointed out, the impact of the cuts would be the same, regardless of how the savings are spent:

Republicans would have you believe that they contemplate storing the savings from these cuts in a bank vault somewhere to draw upon in the years ahead for the sole purpose of financing future Medicare benefits, whereas Democrats waste the savings on Obummercare. But that’s not how Medicare finance works or how the federal budget works or how any particular budget proposal works.

The Affordable Care Act does not actually "raid Medicare," but is partially financed by reductions in Medicare payments to providers and by reductions in subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans. Some of those on Medicare Advantage plans may lose extra benefits other Medicare enrollees don't get, but no regular Medicare benefits have been cut under the health care law.

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