PLATTSBURGH — The selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate on the Republican presidential ticket is having an impact on the North Country congressional race.
Democrats were quick to attack Ryan's selection as bad for seniors, and they claim that Matt Doheny, the Republican candidate for the 21st District seat, is in lockstep with the vice presidential candidate.
"The Ryan plan guts Medicare, plain and simple," said James Hannaway, campaign manager for 21st District incumbent Democrat Bill Owens.
"It means higher prescription-drug costs for seniors, higher retirement ages and a re-opened prescription-drug donut hole."
Hannaway said Doheny has consistently argued that the Ryan plan "doesn't go far enough," in terms of revamping Medicare.
"With Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee, Doheny is going to have to answer the question: Does he stand with Paul Ryan or does he want to gut Medicare even more?" Hannaway said.
Doheny supporters claimed Owens was using scare tactics when they say Ryan's plan would gut Medicare.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," said Mark L. Barie, chairman of the Upstate New York Tea Party, a strong supporter of Doheny.
"Ryan's plan specifically exempts seniors born before 1958. Owens knows this, but he's so desperate for votes he's willing to scare the hell out of seniors in an effort to get their support."
Barie said that under Ryan's plan, nothing will change for seniors who are now on Medicare, and that beginning in 2023, 65-year-olds would have their choice of insurance plans, private and traditional, on a new Medicare exchange. All plans on the Medicare exchange would offer a base level of benefits and would be regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Barie also said Ryan's plan calls for the Medicare eligibility age to slowly be raised to 67 by 2034.
"Medicare, like Social Security, will soon go bankrupt," Barie said. "We must do something about it now. Bill Owens, like Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, has no plan of his own except to deceive our seniors."
Owens said Barie has a "clear lack of understanding of what the Ryan plan would do."
He said Ryan's plan is actually a cost-shifting plan and not a cost-cutting plan and that it will affect virtually every part of Medicare, including limiting benefits for veterans.
Owens said that more preventive care will result in fewer costly visits to the hospital for patients and that allowing the Medicare program to negotiate for better prescription-drug prices is key to improving the system.
"Ryan's plan does nothing for any of that," Owens said.
Doheny's camp said Owens voted in favor of cutting Medicare by $741 billion by virtue of supporting President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act two years ago.
"Jobs remain the top priority for people of this district. Democrats know they cannot defend Bill Owens's lousy job-creation record, in which this district has lost 5,200 jobs under his watch. So they've decided to scare seniors about what Matt Doheny will or will not do," said Jude Seymour, Doheny's deputy campaign manager and spokesman.
"Matt believes in keeping our promise to current beneficiaries and soon-to-be recipients while working toward a strong, secure future for Medicare."
Email Joe LoTemplio: