WASHINGTON -- Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney said Wednesday his Medicare plan was "close to identical" to that of his vice-presidential choice, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), marking a full public embrace of the proposal from which his campaign initially sought to distance itself.
"Actually, Paul Ryan and my plan for Medicare, I think, is the same, if not identical -- it's probably close to identical," he told Green Bay station WBAY. Ryan, as a House member, in 2011 proposed shifting Medicare entirely to a voucher-like system, then tweaked the proposal in 2012 to offer traditional Medicare alongside private plans.
"Our plan is, for people 55 years of age and older, there's no change. The only change I'd mention for 55 or older is we'd restore the $817 billion President Obama took out of the Medicare trust fund," said Romney.
Romney initially misstated the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of the cost increase -- $716 billion -- that a repeal of the Obama health care law would entail for Medicare over 10 years. That reduction doesn't come from patient care, but changes in hospital payments and Medicare Advantage payments to private insurers.
Romney did not answer why he did not object to the $716 billion cut when it was included among the savings in Ryan's proposal.
"I think the $716 billion that our seniors have paid for should stay with our seniors' program. It should be restored to the Medicare trust fund ... to make its solvency last longer," he said.
That's precisely the opposite of what would happen, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. Repealing Obama's health care law would cause the Medicare trust fund to become insolvent eight years earlier, in 2016, rather than in 2024 if it were to stay in place.
Throughout the interview, Romney sought to emphasize who exactly his plan would affect, repeating that his plan would not touch Medicare for those 55 and older.
When Romney announced Ryan as vice-presidential nominee Saturday, the campaign initially sought to distance itself from Ryan's budget plans. "Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance," read the campaign's talking points.
Since then, Romney on Monday described his plan as "very similar" to Ryan's. Top surrogate and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu disputed that on Tuesday, calling them "very different."
"For example, when Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it, the Romney plan does not do that. The Ryan plan mimicked part of the Obama package there. The Romney plan does not. That's a big difference," he said to CNN.
But in Wednesday's interview, Romney made it clear that there was no daylight between the two plans, and that the difference was with Obama. "The place there's a big difference is between myself and Paul Ryan and the president," he said to WBAY. "The president has a very different plan. By the way, of course, individuals are going to have some differences even among those in the same party, but nothing compares with the difference we have with President Obama."