Romney: No Medicare for me, thank you

Mitt Romney is 65 years old today — and, so, eligible for Medicare. The multimillionaire has no need of it, though, and says he thinks he’ll keep his private insurance plan, thank you very much. CNN Political Ticker reports:

“No, he’s keeping his current private insurance plan,” a Romney source told CNN.

Should Romney become the nominee, the disclosure that the former Massachusetts governor will opt against using Medicare could become a campaign issue. Romney has proposed drastic changes to the government insurance program for senior citizens.

Last month, Romney unveiled a Medicare reform package that included raising the program’s eligibility age and offering seniors the option to enroll in a private insurance plan. The changes would take effect for new retirees in 2022.

What else could he do? If he chose to enroll, his enrollment would underscore an absurdity of the program: Under Medicare right now, taxpayers pay for the health care of plenty of seniors who could afford to pay for their own. As the tone of Political Ticker’s report hints, though, it could actually become a campaign issue that Romney opted out: Critics will find some way to make that a negative. They’ll cite this as further evidence of his supposed inability to understand the average American’s financial reality or they’ll say it underscores that he has the luxury of proposing to reform Medicare without worrying about how it will affect current enrollees. Never mind that no politician really has that luxury. High voter turnout among seniors ensures their demands will always be met first!

Smartly, though, Romney has seized his birthday as an opportunity to highlight his Medicare reform proposals once more — and to call out the president for a lack of leadership on this issue. The president’s unwillingness to touch the program will — whether inadvertently or intentionally — “end Medicare as we know it,” Romney’s spokeswoman said today.

“If President Obama’s plan is to end Medicare as we know it, he should say so,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “If he has another plan, he should have the courage to put it forward. Until he explains his position and answers the following questions, he and his spokespeople are irrelevant to the national debate.” …

The Romney campaign said Obama has not proposed big enough changes to save Medicare from insolvency. The program’s fund for hospital care will run out of money in the next 10 years, according to recent projections from the Congressional Budget Office.

While arguing that Obama has not done enough to cut Medicare spending, Romney also criticized the president for Medicare cuts in the healthcare reform law. His statement slams the law for cutting $500 billion in payments to private insurance companies and for establishing an independent board to reduce payments to doctors and some other providers.

Romney’s campaign said the panel would “ration care for today’s seniors.” The House will likely vote soon to repeal the cost-cutting panel, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board. …

Romney has called for partially privatizing the Medicare program. His plan — similar to the one introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) — would let seniors choose between the existing, single-payer Medicare system or a subsidy to help them buy private insurance.

Republicans’ ability to win on this issue depends on their ability to get the facts out. A quick refresher:

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