When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney named Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential nominee, the status of public health insurance in America—specifically Medicare and Medicaid—was cemented as one of the key debate points in the run-up to the November election.
After all, before becoming Romney’s running mate, Ryan was perhaps best known for his proposals to overhaul Medicare, which called for raising the minimum qualifying age by two years, and privatizing the longstanding government program by giving enrollees a yearly allowance to buy health insurance. Romney has struggled to harmonize Ryan’s suggested overhauls with a more moderate campaign message, but in the meantime the Romney and Obama camps have been trading barbs on Medicare over the past week.
While both Republicans and Democrats agree to some extent that current Medicare spending is unsustainable, they disagree on how to reel in those costs and reconcile very different ideological visions for health insurance in America. With dozens of electoral votes potentially at stake over the future of Medicare, The Daily Beast looks at which states’ voters are most likely to have the Medicare debate on the brain when they cast their ballots this November.
We started with the more than a dozen states defined as battleground territory by Real Clear Politics (accessed Aug. 17). We then took into account spending on personal health care (PDF) for Medicare enrollees for 2009, the most recent year available, with data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid; the total population over 65 that uses Medicare as a percentage of the total population; and the percentage of each state’s population age 55 to 64—both using data from the U.S. Census. States ranked higher that have close poll numbers, relatively high yearly spending for Medicare enrollees, a high percentage of Medicare beneficiaries, and a high percentage of the population poised to enroll in Medicare over the next decade. Each category was weighted equally. Among the top 10? Paul Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin.