Debate over Medicare at forefront of campaigns - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Debate over Medicare at forefront of campaigns

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW)-- There are a number of issues within Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" budget, that Republicans will highlight and opponents will attack.

But perhaps the issue that will monopolize the conversation is Medicare.

It's one of the nations most popular and utilized entitlement programs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal cost of the program in 2011 was $275 billion.

Democrats are critical of the proposed changes within the Ryan budget. Meanwhile Republicans say it's Obama's Affordable Care act that is harmful to the entitlement program. And it didn't take long for the debate over entitlement programs to begin.

As he introduced Representative Paul Ryan in Norfolk, VA on Saturday, former Governor Mitt Romney criticized Obama's healthcare bill for cutting Medicare funding.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Affordable Care Act would cut Medicare spending between $400 billion and $600 billion dollars in first 10 years.

"Seniors were particularly negative towards ObamaCare, when it promised to take half a trillion dollars out of Medicare," said Dr. John McAdams, an associate professor of Political Science at Marquette University.

Meanwhile just hours after Romney announced Rep. Paul Ryan as his running-mate, the Obama campaign released an ad attacking the Ryan budget, specifically citing the proposed overhaul of Medicare.

"He has put forward a budget plan that is highly consequential," McAdams said. "Saying highly consequential is not saying that it's good or bad, just that it really does make a difference."

Part of what Ryan's plan does is it morphs Medicare into a premium support program, similar to a voucher system. The government pays part of the premiums to the private insurance company an individual chooses.

"The idea that old people will be able to have a choice among competing private insurance programs, doesn't sound that terribly unattractive," McAdams said. "The problem for the Romney campaign is you have to explain that to people."

Republicans say that competition between private companies will help manage costs.

But Democrats argue, even the changes would only apply to those 55 and younger, seniors could see a rise in Medicare costs.

"There are going to be two competing explanations," McAdams said.

Now both sides will battle to peg their opponent's plan as detrimental to seniors; an important voting demographic come November.

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