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Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential nominee has vaulted Medicare to the top tier of election issues, thanks to Ryan’s proposal that the entitlement program be converted to a system of “premium support” that would provide subsidies for elderly beneficiaries to buy insurance on the private market. Judging by the fiery rhetoric from both campaigns, Medicare seems certain to remain a high-profile topic for the remainder of the contest.

But Medicare is a complex topic, and the charges and counter-charges seem likely to yield more heat than light for a confused electorate. A recent story by provides a helpful reality check on the finger-pointing, but there’s been little of substance illuminating Medicare’s increasingly precarious finances and its often-confusing spending choices.

The Center’s Manipulating Medicare series has attempted to fill that void. In the next month, we’ll be adding to this reservoir of reporting with new investigative pieces on billing procedures by doctors and hospitals that have added tens of billions of dollars to our Medicare tab.

In the meantime, catch up with these examinations of the Medicare system:

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Gordon Witkin joined the Center in September 2008 following a long career at U.S. News & World Report and...