Fact-checking the Romney-Ryan "60 Minutes" interview

One day after choosing Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Rep. Ryan sit down for an interview with CBS News' Bob Schieffer
Romney & Ryan: The first interview
One day after choosing Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Rep. Ryan sat down for an interview with CBS News' Bob Schieffer.

(CBS News) A day after Mitt Romney's Saturday announcement that he'd tapped Paul Ryan to be his running mate, the duo spoke with CBS News' Bob Schieffer on everything from tax reform to Medicare to bipartisanship. Below, CBS News fact-checks the pair's claims, which aired Sunday night on "60 Minutes."

On "saving" Medicare:

MITT ROMNEY: There's only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare. Think of that. What Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it's there for current seniors. No changes, by the way, for current seniors, or those nearing retirement. But looking for young people down the road and saying, "We're going to give you a bigger choice." In America, the nature of this country has been giving people more freedom, more choices. That's how we make Medicare work down the road.

Did Obama "rob" Medicare?

Did President Obama rob Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act? The Romney campaign points to a CBO report showing that if the health care law was repealed, spending for Medicare would increase by an estimated $716 billion from 2013-2022. The president's health care reform law is indeed paid for in part by reducing Medicare's expected rate of growth between now and 2022. According to data from the Kaiser Foundation, however, the reductions come primarily from cuts to Medicare Advantage plans, as well as in hospital reimbursements and in payments to other providers. It does not limit access to benefits for Medicare recipients, but Republicans say it creates disincentives for hospitals and doctors to accept new Medicare patients. According to proponents of the Affordable Care Act, on the other hand, the reductions streamline the system, reduce waste and fraud, reinforce the Medicare trust fund and extend its lifeline -- all without stripping recipients of coverage. It's also worth noting that Ryan's 2012 budget would have included many of the same Medicare reductions as are outlined in the president's health care plan.

A "bigger choice"?

Ryan and Romney also say they've talked about giving seniors "a bigger choice" in Medicare options going forward. Romney has yet to unveil a specific proposal for Medicare reform, but Ryan's plan would indeed give people the choice of sticking with the current, government-run system or enrolling in private plans. Under the current Medicare system, however, recipients also have that choice -- with the Medicare Advantage program, which allows beneficiaries to choose between the government plan and Medicare-approved private companies.

Romney & Ryan: The first interview
Romney answers critics of Ryan's Medicare position

The Ryan plan, however, limits federal Medicare contributions to a predetermined amount for individual patients, beyond which seniors would have to pay out of pocket. Republicans argue that they would be compelled to spend less money on health care and that the private sector would respond by providing more efficient, effective care and additional choices. Some experts, however, contend that in order to provide those low-cost options, private plans would have to limit the number of physicians they contract out -- which means seniors would actually have less choice with regard to their choice of doctors.

Moreover, critics of the Ryan plan argue it would allow private insurers to cherry-pick healthy seniors, meaning that the sicker seniors would be left with traditional Medicare, which would result in increased costs overall. If that happens, hospitals and doctors will be less likely to participate in Medicare because the reimbursement rates will be less competitive, and sick seniors will ultimately end up paying more out of pocket -- especially given that under the voucher system, increases in spending caps would not necessarily keep up with medical inflation.

"No changes" for current seniors?

In his interview with CBS News' Bob Schieffer Sunday, Romney reassured voters that his plan for Medicare would entail "no changes, by the way, for current seniors, or those nearing retirement." This is mostly true under Ryan's plan, which would not go into effect for current Medicare recipients or those 55 and up. But repealing the Affordable Care Act - which both Romney and Ryan have pledged to do - would re-open the so-called donut hole, a coverage gap in the Medicare drug benefit, which under the president's health-care plan is gradually closing.