The structure and financing of Medicare, the federal health insurance program that serves seniors and the disabled, has become a defining issue in the presidential and congressional campaigns since GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney picked as his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan. KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey answers some frequently asked questions about the numbers and policy surrounding the Medicare debate.
Q: Romney and other Republicans over the past two years have criticized President Barack Obama and Democrats for cutting $500 billion from the Medicare program over the next decade as part of the 2010 health care law. In the past couple of weeks, the number that Romney is using has grown to $716 billion? Which is right?
A: They both are. The $500 billion figure comes from a March 2010 analysis that estimated the 2010 federal health law’s effects on Medicare spending and was put together by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT). It covered the budget years 2010-2019.
As part of their efforts to repeal the law, congressional Republicans in July asked the two agencies to estimate the impact of a repeal on Medicare.
That July analysis, which covered the years 2013-2022, determined that the health law is expected to reduce Medicare spending by $716 billion. It is higher than the previous figure because it covers a later time frame that includes greater Medicare spending reductions.
Q. Is the federal
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