Veep debate: Healthcare fact twisting with feistiness

Medicare and Social Security comprised one of the nine segments in Thursday’s night’s fiery debate between Vice President Joe Biden and challenger Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The discussion had far more feistiness than the first presidential debate held one week ago, on every topic, not just on healthcare.

But it was replete with the same fact twisting that has sculpted health reform rhetoric on the campaign trail – the notion that Medicare and Medicaid are teetering on bankruptcy, the voucher plan, the phrase “death panel,” and that pesky $716 billion figure.

The consensus: Both politicians said they want Medicare and Medicaid to survive, along with Social Security, and that was where the similarities ceased.

“Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt,” Ryan shot.  “These are indisputable facts.” And Ryan said a Romney/Ryan ticket would “honor that promise” for today’s senior who paid taxes and planned their retirement believing that Medicare and Social Security would be there.

“You see, if you reform these programs for my generation, people 54 and below,” Ryan continued, “you can guarantee they don't change for people in or near retirement, which is precisely what Mitt Romney and I are proposing.”

Biden fired back that Americans should be wary of such promises. “Now they got a new plan: ‘Trust me, it's not going to cost you any more,’” Biden cracked, then added to voters, “Folks, follow your instincts on this one … Their ideas are old and their ideas are bad, and they eliminate the guarantee of Medicare.”

Ryan argued that President Obama and VP Biden “haven’t put a credible solution on the table,” rather, they’re trying to scare voters with words like “voucher”.

“Here's what we're saying: give younger people, when they become Medicare eligible, guaranteed coverage options that you can't be denied, including traditional Medicare,” Ryan said. Ryan added that Medicare would subsidize premiums with coverage tiered such that wealthy people receive less, middle-income people get more coverage and the government would provide “total out-of-pocket” coverage for the poor.

“Choice and competition,” Ryan continued. “We would rather have 50 million future seniors determine how their Medicare is delivered to them instead of 15 bureaucrats deciding what, if, when, where they get it.”

Those 15 bureaucrats, of course, comprise the notoriously mis-identified “death panel” that politicians on both sides ostensibly refuse to explain as what it is: The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), of which explained “the law specifically forbids rationing or restriction of benefits, and the board is quite limited in the scope of the binding, cost-saving recommendations it is allowed to make.”