For the first time since being named Mitt Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan journeyed to Pennsylvania, where he warned that President Obama's new health care law will force Medicare recipients to pay more for their coverage and make it harder for them to find hospitals and nursing homes that will let them in the door.
Speaking at a steel manufacturer outside Pittsburgh, Mr. Ryan said that some Medicare Advantage recipients will be forced out of the popular program and others will have to pay about $3,600 more for their health coverage — all thanks to the Affordable Care Act that Mr. Obama signed into law in 2010.
"Nearly one out of six hospitals and nursing homes are going to go out of business or just stop taking Medicare patients because — you know why? President Obama treated Medicare like a piggy bank to fund Obamacare, and his campaign calls that an achievement. Do you think that's an achievement?" Mr. Ryan said, eliciting a resounding "No!" from those in attendance.
"Medicare should be there for Medicare — not Obamacare," he concluded.
Mr. Ryan's entrance into the race has triggered an intense political scrap over his legislative push to transform Medicare into a voucherlike program, where seniors would receive a fixed subsidy from the government to purchase private health coverage.
Democrats say Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan want to "end Medicare as we know it" and that the Wisconsin Republican's plan would force retirees to pay an additional $6,000 for their health care coverage.
Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have tried to turn the tables on Democrats by arguing that the $716 billion in Medicare "cuts" that are included in the president's health care law will hurt beneficiaries.
What the Republicans describe as cuts, Democrats argue are actually savings that are found through reduced payments to hospitals and nursing homes and slowing the faster-than-anticipated growth of Medicare Advantage.
Democrats also are more than happy to point out that before joining the Republican ticket Mr. Ryan authored budgets that basically embraced the Medicare spending cuts that he now insists on restoring.
The fight has serious electoral implications and a new poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center suggests that Democrats so far have the upper hand.
Among more than 1,000 adults nationwide, the survey showed that Mr. Ryan's plan remains unpopular among adults nationwide by a 49 percent to 34 percent margin. Seniors opposed the plan by a wider 55 percent to 24 percent margin.
Mr. Ryan, though, has been seemingly unfazed by the attacks, saying that his position on the Medicare cuts has evolved and on Tuesday he continued to blast the president's cuts to projected Medicare spending during a campaign swing through Pennsylvania — a state Republicans hope to win for the first time since George H.W. Bush pulled off the feat in 1988.
The first stop took the House Budget Committee chairman to the family-owned Beaver Steel Services Inc., where he received a warm welcome after bounding onto the stage to an acoustic version of Twister Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take it" pumping out of the speakers, while waving the Pittsburgh Steelers' yellow-and-black "terrible towel" above his head."
Minutes into his speech, Mr. Ryan said that retirees in Pennsylvania would be hurt because Mr. Obama siphoned $716 billion out of Medicare to pay for his health care law — a move that he and Mr. Romney claim jeopardizes coverage for those 65 years of age and older.
"Thirty-eight percent of all seniors in Pennsylvania have chosen Medicare Advantage for their Medicare benefits," he said. "It's a plan they got to choose for themselves that they like. About half of them are going to lose it under Obamacare within five years."
He also played up his conservative credentials by reminding voters of comments Mr. Obama made at a 2008 fundraiser in San Francisco, where he said that people in small towns in Pennsylvania bitterly "cling to their guns and their religion."
"Hey. I'm a Catholic deer hunter. I am happy to be clinging to my guns and my religion," he said.
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