Democrats accuse Paul Ryan of ending Medicare "as we know it," while Republicans accuse President Obama of robbing the program to the tune of $716 billion in order to finance the Affordable Care Act. But of course Ryan would cut Medicare by that same amount. The back-and-forth only makes sense to the wonkiest of health care wonks - and even they would admit that the numbers being thrown around will be meaningless if and when the two sides try to reach an actual deal. Nevertheless, Brookings' senior fellow William Galston has a good rundown on the debate. As for why we should care:
Government health care programs are by far the fastest-growing portion of the federal budget and lie at the heart of the long-term fiscal challenge. It is too early to tell how successful the ACA will be in slowing the rate of increase in health care costs. But even if it meets optimistic expectations, the growth of public health care programs will continue to outstrip the revenues available to fund them. At some point the American people will have to decide whether to close this gap with programmatic changes, tax increases, or some combination of the two.