Gibbs and Gillespie Debate Big Issues

The pick of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Mitt Romney’s running mate has brought the issue of Medicare reform to the forefront of the race, and both parties claim to relish the fight.

The Romney camp made clear immediately that the approach to Medicare reform in a Romney administration would be based on Romney’s proposals for reform, which bears some distinction from the plan House Republicans passed authored primarily by Ryan as budget chairman.

One important distinction the Romney camp is trying to draw is that of a $716 billion cut in growth to projected Medicare spending found in both the president’s health care law and the Ryan budget.

Romney has said he will repeal the entire health care law, including the $716 billion cut.

And his campaign has charged President Obama is raiding Medicare to fund health care.

Senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs joined “Fox News Sunday” to make the case that the Obama administration has actually strengthened Medicare.

Reacting to Ryan’s visit to Florida’s The Villages, Gibbs said Ryan should “thank President Obama” for implementing policies to “extend the Medicare trust fund, help seniors with prescription drug costs, and provide preventative care.”

Gibbs, a former Obama White House press secretary, defended the $716 billion figure as cuts to root out inefficiencies in the program.

And while detractors criticize the president’s policy, Medicare’s Board of Trustees has reported that the cuts have actually extended the solvency of Medicare Part A, which deals with hospital insurance, until 2024, and a wholesale repeal of the health care law would cause that fund to become insolvent in 2016, just four years from now.

Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, pointed out that the estimate does not factor in any new reforms that might be put in place of the new health care law, and he argued that a Romney presidency would be prepared to address these projections with their own proposals.

Governor Romney’s proposal to reform Medicare would offer future seniors the opportunity to choose to stay in traditional Medicare or opt for a premium support system.

The Congressional Budget Office, in scoring a similar plan put forward by Congressman Ryan in prior years, had projected that future beneficiaries would have higher out of pocket costs than under the status quo.

Gillespie said the campaign disagrees with that projection.