Avik Roy, Forbes.com's Apothecary
The first presidential debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama was easily the wonkiest such debate I can recall in my lifetime. That's great for the country. But even better was the fact Mitt Romney was able to correct a number of the misleading statements that President Obama has been making about Romney's plans for health care and entitlement reform. Let's review the details.
(DISCLOSURE: I am an outside adviser to the Romney campaign on health care issues. The opinions contained herein are mine alone, and do not necessarily correspond to those of the campaign.)
1. Obamacare's $716 billion in Medicare cuts reduce benefits
Here's what President Obama said about the $716 billion in Medicare cuts enacted within Obamacare: "$716 billion we were able to save from the Medicare program by no longer overpaying insurance companies by making sure that we weren't overpaying providers. And using that money, we were actually able to lower prescription drug costs for seniors by an average of $600, and we were also able to make a--make a significant dent in providing them the kind of preventive care that will ultimately save money throughout the system."
Um, no. As I discussed on Tuesday, the "donut hole" closure imposed by Obamacare only affects 6 percent of seniors. Furthermore, Obamacare's new spending on prescription drugs and preventive care is offset by a far greater amount of cuts. The cuts outweigh the new spending by a ratio of fifteen to one.
Romney hit that point. "That's $1 for every $15 you've cut. They're smart enough to know that's not a good trade. I want to take that $716 billion you've cut and put it back into Medicare. By the way, we can include a prescription program if we need to improve it. But the idea of cutting $716 billion from Medicare to be able to balance the additional cost of Obamacare is, in my opinion, a mistake."
2. Romney's Medicare plan doesn't expose seniors to higher costs
President Obama tried, once again, to mislead voters about Romney's Medicare plan. "The idea, which was originally presented by Congressman Ryan, your running mate, is that we would give a voucher to seniors and they could go out in the private marketplace and buy their own health insurance. The problem is that because the voucher wouldn't necessarily keep up with health care inflation, it was estimated that this would cost the average senior about $6,000 a year."
That's an improvement from what Obama has said on the campaign trail, when he has claimed that Romney's plan would cost seniors $6,000 a year. Indeed, Obama anticipated that he would get push-back on this point: "Now, in fairness," he said, "what Governor Romney has now said is he'll maintain traditional Medicare alongside it. But there's still a problem, because what happens is, those insurance companies are pretty clever at figuring out who are the younger and healthier seniors. They recruit them, leaving the older, sicker seniors in Medicare. And every health care economist that looks at it says, over time, what'll happen is the traditional Medicare system will collapse."
No. That isn't what "every health care economist" has said. Left-wing health economists who support the President, like David Cutler, have argued that Romney's plan would incentivize insurers to cherry-pick healthier seniors. But right-of-center economists, such as James Capretta, Steve Parente, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, disagree.