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Window to Washington

An inside-the-beltway look at the legislative and regulatory process.
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By Jessica Zigmond and Rich Daly

Blog: Modern Healthcare heading to RNC, DNC

By Jessica Zigmond

A week from today, the Republican National Committee will begin its four-day pep rally in Tampa, Fla. to nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as the GOP's candidates for president and vice president.

I'll be there with Gregg Blesch, Modern Healthcare's news editor, to bring you the week's healthcare-related news. Gregg will also join my colleague Rich Daly from Sept. 3-6 in Charlotte, N.C., to cover the Democratic National Convention.

This year, the GOP chose “A Better Future” as its theme, and the party is promoting a “Convention Without Walls” approach for the week, complete with mobile apps where users can receive live updates and video from the convention floor at the Tampa Bay Forum. Today the RNC released its schedule for the convention's first day, which will include remarks that night from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, and former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. And when is the last time you heard anything about the Oak Ridge Boys? They'll be singing the National Anthem next Monday afternoon.

As I mentioned in a blog last week, the addition of Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate added new life to the Romney campaign and solidified healthcare in general, and Medicare in particular, as major domestic policy issues in this campaign. Florida—home to about 3.4 million Medicare beneficiaries, by the Kaiser Family Foundation's estimates–is a contentious spot for the GOP to promote its Medicare-overhaul plan. That's no doubt why Ryan attended a campaign event in The Villages, Fla., this past weekend with his mother, Betty, a Florida resident in the winter months. The Wisconsin Republican told his audience that the Medicare program was there for his grandmother when she suffered from Alzheimer's disease and the program is there now for his mom, who built her retirement around the promise of Medicare. “And that's a promise we have to keep,” he said.

On Sunday's State of the Union television show, Romney's senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom reiterated what Ryan has said before—that any changes to Medicare will not affect current beneficiaries. He also said this is the first campaign he can remember in a long time when the Democrats played defense on Medicare. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign recently released a Medicare ad that cites a figure from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that Ryan's plan could raise retirees' healthcare costs by about $6,400 per year. Expect similar rhetoric from both sides in the coming months.

In the meantime, I'm curious if Modern Healthcare readers think entitlement reform should be the leading healthcare issue for candidates to debate in the coming months. If not, what would you like Romney, Ryan, Obama and Biden to address that will have the greatest effect on your organizations? Please let me know: jzigmond@modernhealthcare.com.

You can follow Jessica on Twitter @MHJZigmond.

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