Medicare and the Affordable Care Act were among the prominent issues discussed during the first presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday, giving President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney opportunities to outline their policies and goals, while criticizing each other's plans, Reuters reports.
Outlining Stances on ACA
Obama and Romney frequently used personal anecdotes and stories of individuals they have met on the campaign trail to strengthen their stances on the ACA.
Romney offered few new details about his health care plans but reiterated his pledge to repeal the federal health reform law, which he called a misplaced priority, according to Reuters (Morgan, Reuters, 10/4).
Romney said, "I just don't know how [Obama] could have come into office, facing 23 million people out of work, rising unemployment, an economic crisis at the kitchen table, and spend his energy and passion for two years fighting for ObamaCare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people." He also described the health reform law as a "government takeover," noting that costs have increased by $2,500 per family and that "[m]iddle-income families are being crushed" (Lightman/Kumar, McClatchy/Sacramento Bee, 10/4).
Romney said, "The right answer is not to have the federal government take over health care and start mandating to the providers across America telling a patient and a doctor what treatment they can have," adding, "The private market and individual responsibility always work best" (Pittman, MedPage Today, 10/3).
Obama acknowledged that although insurance premiums have increased since the reform law was enacted in 2010, they have "gone up slower than anytime in the last 50 years," which some analysts attribute to the weak economy (Reuters, 10/4).
Obama also used the debate to emphasize the similarities between the ACA and the 2006 Massachusetts health reform law that Romney signed as governor. Obama said, "There's a reason why Gov. Romney set up the plan that he did," adding, "It wasn't a government takeover of health care. It was the largest expansion of private insurance" (McClatchy/Sacramento Bee, 10/4).
Sparring Over Medicare
During the debate, Romney repeated his claim that the ACA includes $716 billion in cuts to Medicare that would affect beneficiaries' access to care and treatments, the New York Times reports (Zeleny/Rutenberg, New York Times, 10/3).
Those cuts -- which Democrats have described as savings that would be gleaned from payment reductions for certain Medicare providers -- are included in the House-approved fiscal year 2013 budget blueprint that was developed by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Romney's running mate (Reuters, 10/4).
Romney cited research that found that the cuts would cause some health care providers to drop out of Medicare. "Some 15% of hospitals and nursing homes say they won't take anymore Medicare patients under that scenario," he said, adding, "We also have 50% of doctors who say they won't take any more Medicare patients" (MedPage Today, 10/3).
Romney noted that his plan for Medicare would not affect current beneficiaries or those close to the eligibility age (New York Times, 10/3).
Romney has endorsed a proposal in the Ryan budget blueprint that would transform Medicare from a fee-for-service program to one in which beneficiaries could either purchase coverage on the private market or maintain traditional Medicare coverage (California Healthline, 9/17).
Obama responded that if "you're 54 or 55, you might want to listen because this will affect you," adding that a plan to offer "vouchers" or subsidies to purchase private insurance would mean "the traditional Medicare system will collapse" (New York Times, 10/3). He added that "because the voucher wouldn't necessarily keep up with health care inflation," analysts have "estimated that this would cost seniors about $6,000 a year" (MedPage Today, 10/3).
Obama said, "When you move to a voucher system, you're putting seniors at the mercy of those insurance companies and over time, if traditional Medicare has decayed or fallen apart, then they're stuck" (Baker, "HillTube," The Hill, 10/3).