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Katie Sanders
By Katie Sanders August 22, 2012

Obama radio ad says Ryan-Romney plan will end Medicare and replace it with a voucher

The buzz among Floridians these days isn’t the start of college football. It’s Medicare, says President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

"In Florida, they're already talking about how the Ryan-Romney plan will end Medicare and replace it with a voucher," begins a new radio ad from Obama’s campaign.

The ad moves at a slow pace, featuring a back-and-forth between soothing male and female voices that say things such as the "Ryan Medicare Plan" would affect future retirees, and the "Romney-Ryan plan" would raise health care costs. They decry Romney’s VP pick because Ryan wanted to "change the whole game when it comes to Medicare and Social Security."

"What does that really say about Mitt Romney and whether he really understands Florida, the folks who live here, or what matters to our future?"

PolitiFact Florida wanted to analyze the statement that "the Ryan-Romney plan will end Medicare and replace it with a voucher."

What is the Ryan-Romney plan?

The "Ryan-Romney" or "Romney-Ryan" Medicare plan isn’t a written-out plan, but Romney’s statements of support for previous Medicare proposals.

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman from Wisconsin, has released several ideas since 2011 to overhaul the government-run health insurance program mainly for seniors. After Romney selected Ryan as his running mate, he said he and Ryan were on the same page for changes to Medicare.

"Paul Ryan and my plan for Medicare, I think, is the same, if not identical -- it's probably close to identical," he said in an Aug. 15, 2012, interview with a Wisconsin TV station.

Romney was referring to Ryan’s most recent plan, released earlier this year, which would rewrite how Medicare works for people who are under age 55. Instead of paying for seniors’ health care bills, the government would offer future beneficiaries fixed payments -- voucher-like credits -- that could go toward private plans.

Beneficiaries could use those credits to select a traditional Medicare plan or a private plan from a competitive marketplace, or exchange, that complies with standards set by the government. The amount a beneficiary receives would be based on the second least-expensive plan available.

We don’t know whether the premium subsidy would be able to cover the same set of benefits as traditional Medicare, or how much it would add to out-of-pocket costs to beneficiaries, because the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office hasn’t released a detailed analysis, as it did for an earlier version of Ryan’s proposal when he provided the office with more substantial details.

Does this approach "end Medicare"?

No. Even when discussing Ryan’s earliest Medicare overhaul, which would have moved the program entirely to private insurers,  PolitiFact has said repeatedly the proposal would not "end," "destroy" or "abolish" Medicare.

While Medicare under the original Ryan plan would have been essentially privatized, and many seniors would have had to pay more than they do now as health care costs increase, government-supported health insurance coverage for seniors would not have gone away away.  

Now, under Ryan and Romney’s proposals, a traditional Medicare plan would remain an option.

Would Medicare be replaced with a voucher?

Pretty much. PolitiFact visited the semantics of the "voucher" issue in an Aug. 16, 2012, story, dissecting the linguistic differences between calling the Republicans’ Medicare vision a "voucher" system versus their preferred terminology, "premium support." After consulting experts in health care and language, PolitiFact rated Obama’s characterization of Romney and Ryan wanting "to turn Medicare into a voucher system" Mostly True.

We should note, though, the government would continue to regulate Medicare plans. Also, the plan does not literally provide people with a paper voucher, but it does give them a credit to buy their own insurance. We think that’s voucher-like.

Our ruling

A radio ad from the Obama campaign says, "In Florida, they're already talking about how the Ryan-Romney plan will end Medicare and replace it with a voucher."

None of the plans presented by these candidates will "end" Medicare. Instead, Romney and Ryan support substantial changes to Medicare for people under 55. Depending on their income, future beneficiaries will receive a "premium support payment" to help offset the cost of a plan purchased through a competitive marketplace or for a traditional Medicare plan. We rate the Obama campaign’s claim Mostly False.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Obama for America radio ad, "FL Already Talking," Aug. 20, 2012

WBAY ABC-TV-2 (Green Bay, Wis.), "Mitt Romney Talks Medicare in Exclusive Interview with Action 2 News," Aug. 16, 2012

U.S. House of Representatives, Path to Prosperity budget for fiscal year 2013, accessed Aug. 21, 2012

Mitt Romney’s campaign website, Medicare section

PolitiFact, "Do Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to turn Medicare into a voucher program?" Aug. 16, 2012

PolitiFact, "Barack Obama’s ‘Life of Julia’ says Mitt Romney would replace Medicare with ‘nothing but a voucher’," May 24, 2012

PolitiFact, 2011 Lie of the Year: 'Republicans voted to end Medicare', Dec. 20, 2011

Interview with Kara Carscaden, Obama campaign spokeswoman, Aug. 20, 2012

Interview with Ryan Williams, Romney spokesman Aug. 20, 2012


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