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Keller @ Large: Using Medicare As A Political Weapon

By Jon Keller WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – The federal Medicare program that pays for health care for senior citizens has become a major campaign issue.

Both Democrats and Republicans are trying to use Medicare as a political weapon.

There are two things that both parties seem to agree on.

First, Medicare costs are a huge budget-buster and growing way too fast to put off systemic reform for much longer.

Second, if they can gain political advantage by scaring the daylight out of seniors about the other side’s plans, they will.

Recently, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone has been spreading disinformation to local seniors well past the cutoff age for Medicare changes under the Ryan plan.

“It puts you on a capped voucher program so you wouldn’t be protected as you are now from those rising costs,” said Curtatone.

“It confused me because I know I’m under Medicare here and if they take it away, I’m going to be put in a pit of fire and have no chance,” said military veteran Bernard Panek.

Mitt Romney is doing his part to add to the fog of this political war.

“This president has taken $716 billion out of the Medicare trust fund to pay for Obamacare,” said Romney.

Here’s the truth behind the claim Obama spent a lot of Medicare funds: As the Pulitzer-Prize winning web site Politifact notes, the federal health-care reform moves Medicare funds around for various reasons, but doesn’t “cut” anything out of the program.

Senator Scott Brown has also weighed in on the Medicare discussions.

“I think the seniors who are listening need to pay attention. They need to see who’s in fact looking to cut their Medicare, not me,” said Sen. Brown.

No wonder pols like Senator Scott Brown, who twice voted against Ryan’s Medicare proposals, are anxious to deflect scare tactics, like those ones employed by the mayor.

“The Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan budget plan guts Medicare as we know it,” claims Mayor Curtatone.

Politifact named that one their “lie of the year” but that hasn’t slowed its spread, or the use of extreme distortions like a TV ad from a liberal activist group depicting a Paul Ryan look-a-like literally throwing grandma off a cliff.

“You don’t know what to believe, you know?” said 97-year-old Alice Pearson.

Pearson worries about whether or not Medicare will be there for her children and grandchildren.

Mayor Curtatone agreed, the system needs reform and every option, except the options Ryan proposed, should be on the table.

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