Viewpoints: Public seeks better campaigns but politicians use 'schoolyard rules;' GOP's Medicare 'flip-flops'

USA Today: Obama, Romney Should Disavow Super PAC Ads
Political ads often stretch facts to the breaking point, but the people who create them usually feel constrained to back up their claims by citing sources -; at least enough to keep neutral fact-checkers from exposing their work as fiction. Not so in this year's presidential campaign. There's no nice way to say this: President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are both condoning deliberate falsehoods (8/15).

USA Today: Welfare Rules Need Airing
TV ads that accuse a candidate of causing the death of individuals, based upon unadulterated falsehood, have no place in our political discourse. Allies of President Obama, using a super PAC as a political fig leaf, have been running such an ad. This is shameful. President Obama and his top political advisers refuse to denounce it. Neutral outside observers have not been so reticent (Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell, 8/15).

USA Today: Priorities USA Action: Health Care Threat Is Real
Joe Soptic's story is one of thousands from individuals whose lives were devastated by the decisions Mitt Romney made in his business career. Even though many of those stories are emotional, they are important to tell. Mitt Romney wants his business career to be at the center of this campaign, and we're making sure voters know the facts about how he spent that career focused on creating enormous wealth, not jobs as he claims (Bill Burton, 8/15).

Politico: Give 'Em Hell, Mitt!
The best Romney ad of the campaign is the current spot on President Barack Obama's cuts to Medicare. It points out that the president took $700 billion from Medicare to fund "Obamacare," robbing one unsustainable entitlement to create a new one. The ad is truthful, unadorned and -; for any senior who feels protective of Medicare -; damning. In the Medicare debate, schoolyard rules apply: Punch the bully in the mouth twice as hard. ... It's impossible to have a reasonable discussion with people who insist you are going to "kill people" (Paul Krugman's words) (Rich Lowry, 8/16).

Los Angeles Times: Romney And Ryan Try Out Their Medicare Flip-Flops
On Wednesday, Romney and Ryan went into full trout mode, flip-flopping big time -- in this case on Medicare. And what a tangled net the two are seeking to escape. The easy part? They are attacking President Obama's planned $700 billion in cuts to Medicare. The awkward part? Ryan has proposed $700 billion in cuts to Medicare too. And Romney has backed Ryan's plan (Whitfield, 8/15).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Vs. Romney On Medicare
Significantly, both Obama and Ryan have called for holding Medicare spending to the same rate of growth in future years. The difference -; and it's significant -; is in how they would meet that target.(8/15).

The New York Times: Campaign Stops: The Electoral Art Of War
This essentially shifted the campaign's conversation from Romney's best hope, a focus on the economy, to a worst case scenario -; a didactic discussion of policy, particularly Medicare, in which Romney and Ryan (I like Ry-omney) must tell America to eat its spinach so we can grow up strong. Having a debate about fundamentally changing Medicare during an election in which the two biggest swing states, Florida and Pennsylvania, are also among those with the greatest percentage of the elderly (17.3 and 15.4 percent, respectively)? Sounds like a campaign with a death wish (Charles M. Blow, 8/16).

The Washington Post: How Ryanization Threatens The GOP
What's striking is not just that down-ballot Republican candidates are distancing themselves from Ryan's proposals, particularly on Medicare, but that Romney won't take ownership of them either, except in vague terms. Worse, the Romney apparatus is forcing Ryan to distance himself from his own budget. It was sad to watch Ryan dancing around these issues on Fox News Tuesday night and having to say that Romney is the boss. How long before conservatives start producing "Let Ryan Be Ryan" bumper stickers? (E.J. Dionne Jr., 8/15).

The Washington Post: Ryan's Budget Asks Nothing Of The Elderly – Unfortunately
Judging by the political reaction, you'd think that Paul Ryan's budget takes a meat ax to Medicare and threatens economic havoc for the elderly. Just the opposite is true: The Ryan budget spares older people from almost any change or sacrifice -; and that's the problem. We have (and, to be fair, this is mainly the doing of Democrats and their intellectual apologists) made those 65 and over into a politically protected class, of which nothing is expected and everything is given (Robert J. Samuelson, 8/15).

The New York Times: Middle-Age Blues
Today, let's consider what the selection of Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate will mean to the American health care system. To start, there's good news for senior citizens: You can stop worrying! Neither Ryan nor Romney wants to change Medicare coverage for people over 55. Also, the news media is going to quit calling you senior citizens. You are now Medicare Sensitive Voters (Gail Collins, 8/15).

The Wall Street Journal: The GOP's Medicare Advantage
Predictably, Democrats went after Mitt Romney's new running mate immediately, describing Paul Ryan as a "certifiable right-wing ideologue" whose views are "extreme" and "radical." They focused on Medicare, warning that Republicans "would end Medicare as we know it," making it "a voucher system" that costs seniors "thousands of dollars in health care costs." Some Republican hand-wringers moaned. They failed to consider that Democrats were going to level these charges no matter whom Mr. Romney picked as his running mate. And they ignored the ammunition the party has to turn the issue against Democrats (Karl Rove, 8/15).

Bloomberg: Navigating The Romney-Ryan-Obama Medicare Bedlam
Democrats and Republicans agree on this much: Medicare must be put on a diet. Both Obama and Ryan would cap annual spending growth at gross domestic product plus 0.5 percent. From there, it's easy to see how the Affordable Care Act and premium support might work hand-in-hand. If Obama's law can push doctors to provide more effective care, track patient progress better, use less expensive technology and coordinate with one another more, then consumers could have more control over their own spending, so premium support would have a better chance of working (8/15).

Houston Chronicle: Medicare Plan Makes Ryan A Poor Candidate
All Ryan's plan really does is to change the paymaster from Medicare to private insurance companies. How is that supposed to save the trillions in costs we need to achieve to make Medicare sustainable? ... So while we will undoubtedly hear a great deal about Medicare this election cycle, little of the discussion will be on how to address the changes in our demographics, lifestyle and medical technologies that are the real drivers of our runaway Medicare costs (Bill King, 8/15).

And on other topics --

The Boston Globe: Pay-For-Performance A Faulty Policy In Medicine
Programs that reward doctors and hospitals for hitting certain quality targets are being rolled out in Massachusetts and across the country. A major focus of the health care law signed by Governor Deval Patrick last week is that doctors should be paid for keeping patients healthy, rather than for the volume of tests or treatments they order. Yet, several recent publications question whether pay-for-performance systems actually lead to better care for patients (Conaboy, 8/15).

Politico: ACA Aims For Strong Social Service Support
There is broad agreement among many health policy experts that greater investments in social services "upstream" can improve the population's overall health. Some refer to this as addressing the social determinants of health. In the U.S., however, we do much less than other developed countries to address this and, as a result, millions of people show up at emergency rooms without insurance and often only after illnesses have already reached advanced stages. More often than not, these conditions are more expensive to treat, more disruptive to patients' lives -; and less likely to have ideal outcomes (Kenneth L. Davis, 8/16).

The New York Times: For Healthy Aging, A Late Act In The Footlights
Many of us look forward to spending retirement expanding our world -; traveling, trying what we never had time to do, taking classes that give us new knowledge and skills. These activities are not only desirable in themselves, they help us to live longer and healthier lives. But they are not within everyone's reach. Absent money and a sense of possibilities, retirement can become more time to fill with television. "We see people without money, who had very hard lives, who are not aware of their own potential," said Maureen Kellen-Taylor, the chief operating officer of EngAGE ,a program in the Los Angeles area that provides arts and other classes for some 5,000 people -; the vast majority of them low-income -; living in senior apartment communities (Tina Rosenberg, 8/15).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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