In what is shaping up as one of the presidential race's most fractious disputes, President Obama's campaign said on Sunday it will highlight a recent study showing that, under its Republican rivals' plan, someone who retires in 2030 can expect to pay an extra $125,000 over their lifetime for Medicare -- a finding that Mitt Romney's campaign immediately argued was inaccurate.
Obama is campaigning in Florida, a state where Medicare is an especially volatile political issue. The study that the president's campaign plans to spotlight -- according to an official in a media pool report -- is co-authored by Harvard economist David Cutler, an advisor to Obama during the last presidential campaign, and written for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal think tank.
Cutler's analysis -- based on Rep. Paul Ryan's latest budget -- found that people who turn 65 now would end up paying, in today's dollars, about $11,000 in extra retirement costs, while people who are still 54 now would pay an extra $59,500. Seniors who qualify for Medicare in 2030 would see an increase of $124,600.
"Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan claim that no one over 55 will be affected by their health care plan," Cutler and his coauthors wrote. "This claim is false. Their plan would harm all seniors."
The study's other authors are Topher Spiro, a former Democratic Senate aide who worked on the health care law, and Maura Calsyn, a former attorney at the Department of Health and Human Services who advised HHS on the law's implementation.
Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams immediately disputed the analysis, calling it "a sign of desperation."
Obama "has done nothing to reform Medicare for the long haul and prevent it from going bankrupt, and on his watch family health care premiums have increased by nearly $2,500. The president’s decision to use discredited studies and outright falsehoods to attack Mitt Romney is an admission that he can’t talk about his record of crushing the middle class and failing to turn the economy around,” Williams said.
Williams repeated the Romney campaign's argument that Obama "robbed today’s Medicare of $716 billion to pay for Obamacare," an assertion that the fact-checking website PolitiFact found to be "mostly false" when Ryan recently leveled a similar charge. It noted the Affordable Care Act found $716 billion in spending reductions but that they were mainly aimed at insurance companies and hospitals, not beneficiaries.
The Romney campaign also highlighted recent statements on Medicare by Democrats that independent fact-checkers have called into question, such as a statement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that The Associated Press said omitted some crucial details.
Meanwhile, the main super PAC supporting Obama, Priorities USA Action, has released an ad criticizing Romney that relies on another study that the Republican's campaign has sharply criticized.
The ad cites a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in arguing that Romney’s plan would raise taxes on the middle class. Romney has said the analysis is based on "garbage assumptions," but the report's authors have stood by their work.