(Associated Press) Monthly premiums for popular private insurance plans through Medicare are only inching up next year, the Obama administration said Wednesday, trumpeting good news for skeptical older voters on a closely watched election-year issue.

Republican Mitt Romney has warned that cuts in President Barack Obama’s health care law would hobble programs such as Medicare Advantage, the private insurance option that’s a thriving part of Medicare. But deputy Medicare administrator Jonathan Blum said such dire predictions have not proved to be true.

The program “is stronger than ever,” Blum told reporters. “Beneficiaries should expect the overall quality of care is improving. … Also, cost growth remains controlled.”

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