Does ObamaCare cut or save $716 billion in Medicare? Depends who you ask

There's a critical dispute over whether President Obama cuts $716 billion dollars from Medicare, which could seriously affect seniors, or whether he saves $716 billion, as he argued in the first presidential debate.

Obama touts the "$716 billion we were able to save from the Medicare program by no longer over-paying insurance companies, by making sure that we weren't over-paying providers."

Conservative critics, however, say that's not savings -- its shortchanging providers such as doctors and hospitals.

"When you pay a provider of a service much, much less than they actually need to cover their costs," says Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, "many of them will stop supplying it."

That's the same conclusion reached by Medicare actuaries who determined the $716 billion would reduce reimbursements so much that Medicare would be worth less to doctors than Medicaid, the health care program for the poor.

"So the senior citizen will be less desirable than the welfare mother to doctors," says John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis. "And when that happens, seniors are going find long waits for care, they're going to find it very difficult to find doctors who will see them and facilities who will admit them."

In the recent debate, Mitt Romney picked up on the report, saying "Some 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes say they won't take any more Medicare patients under that scenario. We also have 50 percent of doctors say they won't take more Medicare patients."

And the Congressional Budget Office determined that repealing the new health care law would add back $716 billion to Medicare -- money the president used to offset the cost of his health care reforms.

“What ObamaCare does is it taxes seniors, it takes money away from them and spends it on younger people," Goodman said.

The Obama campaign, though, minimizes the impact. "You know what those cuts are? It's taking subsidies away from insurance companies, taking rebates away from prescription drug companies," Obama campaign aide Stephanie Cutter recently told CBS' "Face the Nation."

Jim Capretta, however, points out that "the Medicare program wastes more than $60 billion a year on fraud and abuse. That's according to the Government Accountability Office."

"And that's more than the profits of the top 10 largest insurance companies in the United States combined."