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Obama says GOP plan would ‘end Medicare as we know it’

By Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau –

DUBUQUE, Iowa — President Barack Obama defended his Medicare reforms Wednesday as improvements that didn’t affect benefits for seniors “by a dime.”

Countering a new critique from Republican Mitt Romney, Obama told a crowd here that his reforms have strengthened Medicare by cutting costs and saving money in prescription drugs for seniors.

“My plan has already extended Medicare by more than a decade,” Obama said. “Their plan would end Medicare as we know it.”

Thus, with that noontime speech at a local amphitheater, Obama joined Romney in the current game of shorthanding and oversimplifying each other’s positions on Medicare, in an intense race to define the terms of this most critical election issue.

Romney is now running television ads that criticize Obama for making $716 billion in Medicare spending cuts. The ads don’t mention that his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, recently suggested the same cuts as part of a plan for reducing the deficit.

For his part, Obama fails to mention that Romney doesn’t actually embrace the Ryan plan on Medicare. Romney may not have laid out his vision in sharp detail, but on Tuesday he did say that he would restore the $716 billion in cuts to Medicare — the Ryan plan notwithstanding.

But Medicare is a complicated matter and doesn’t lend itself to a long treatise in a campaign stump speech.

Obama kept it pithy as he spoke to a crowd here on this, his final day of a three-day bus tour from western to eastern Iowa.

Republicans are “just throwing everything against the wall to see if it sticks,” he said. “I have strengthened Medicare. … They want to turn Medicare into a voucher program.”

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