The Romney campaign is still working out the kinks in its messaging on Medicare in the days since Rep. Paul Ryan joined the Republican ticket.
The Romney campaign is charging that President Obama has cut $700 billion from Medicare. It has been less vocal about the fact that the Ryan plan, too, takes $700 billion from Medicare.
But one Romney surrogate admitted Tuesday morning that Ryan’s plan does make those same cuts.
John Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire, said the $700 billion in cuts is one of the big differences between the Romney and Ryan plans.
Romney’s plan is “very different,” Sununu said. “When Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it, the Romney plan does not do that,” Sununu said on CNN’s “Starting Point” Tuesday. “The Ryan plan mimicked part of the Obama package there. The Romney plan does not. That’s a big difference.”
The distinction embodies the tough road ahead for Romney: Romney has said he would have signed the Ryan budget, which would have contained the same cuts over which he is currently attacking Obama.
As recently as Sunday, top Romney adviser Ed Gillespie said that “If the Romney, I’m sorry, if the Ryan budget had come to his desk as president, he would have signed it, of course.”
The Romney campaign promises the cuts are not in its plan going forward without mentioning that they existed in the Ryan budget.
“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have always been fully committed to repealing Obamacare, ending President Obama¹s $716 billion raid on Medicare and tackling the serious fiscal challenges our country faces,” Lanhee Chen, Romney’s policy director, said in a statement to TPM. “A Romney-Ryan administration will restore the funding to Medicare, ensure that no changes are made to the program for those 55 or older and implement the reforms that they have proposed to strengthen it for future generations.”
Romney seemed to deny Monday that the $700 billion figure was among the differences between his and Ryan’s proposals. “We haven’t gone through piece by piece and said, ‘Oh, here’s a place where there’s a difference,’” Romney said, according to First Read. “But my plan for Medicare is very similar to his plan, which is ‘Do not change the program for current retirees or near-retirees but do not do what the president has done and that is to cut $700 billion out of the current program.”
Though both Obama’s health care reform law and Ryan’s budget take $700 billion from Medicare, the cuts are actually different. Cuts made in the Affordable Care Act are to future growth and come from reimbursement reductions to hospitals, Medicaid prescription drugs and private insurance plans under Medicare Advantage. Ryan’s cuts come from shifting Medicare from its current form to subsidies for seniors to buy care themselves.
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.