President Obama and GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) discussed Medicare reform on Friday during back-to-back appearances at an AARP convention in New Orleans, the Washington Post reports.
Both Obama and Ryan touted their plans to reform Medicare and criticized the other party for advancing ideas that would undermine and destroy the Medicare program.
Ryan's Proposal Receives Mixed Response
Reaction to Ryan's speech was mixed, according to the Washington Post. The crowd applauded when Ryan came to and left the stage, and remained silent for much of his speech (Sonmez/Nakamura, Washington Post, 9/21). However, many in the crowd booed and heckled Ryan when he said, "The first step toward a stronger Medicare is to repeal 'ObamaCare' because it represents the worst of both worlds" (Landler/Oppel, New York Times, 9/21).
During the speech, Ryan reiterated his argument that the federal health reform law would "funnel $716 billion out of Medicare to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for" (New York Times, 9/21). He added that the plan adopted by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to transition Medicare into a premium support program "empowers future seniors to choose the coverage that works best for them" and is "designed to guarantee that seniors can always afford Medicare coverage" (Kaplan/Quinton, National Journal, 9/21).
Ryan also drew a negative response and was called a "liar" when he said, "You know President Obama's slogan, right?" He added, "'Forward' -- forward into a future where seniors are denied the care they earned because a bureaucrat decided it wasn't worth the money" (Washington Post, 9/21).
Obama Defends Health Reform Law, Criticizes GOP Proposal
Meanwhile, Obama -- who addressed the convention via satellite before Ryan took the stage -- defended the federal health reform law and told the crowd that the GOP plan would leave them "at the mercy of insurance companies," The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/21).
Obama said he believes the Republican plan to reform Medicare is "just a bad idea," adding, "[n]o American should spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies."
During his speech, Obama also pre-emptively addressed Ryan's criticism that the administration cut $716 billion from Medicare to help fund the health reform law, saying that claim is "simply not true" (Nakamura, "Election 2012 Blog," Washington Post, 9/21). "Those savings are part of what allows us to close the doughnut hole, provide the preventive care, and is actually going to extend the life of Medicare over the long term," Obama said ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/21).
Obama also emphasized to the crowd that "Medicare and Social Security are not handouts," in reference to comments by Romney that portrayed nearly half of U.S. residents as dependent on the government and "victims." Obama added, "You've paid into these programs your whole lives. You've earned them" (Hennessey, Los Angeles Times, 9/21).
Medicare Proposals Offer Few Details
Although Medicare has taken center stage in this presidential election, both Obama and Romney have provided few specific details on how their plans will affect future beneficiaries, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Overall, Romney's plan would transform traditional Medicare into a premium support system for individuals ages 54 and younger. Once eligible, these individuals would receive a federal subsidy, adjusted for inflation, to either purchase private coverage or traditional Medicare.
Critics of the proposal say it would shift thousands of dollars in costs to beneficiaries. However, the Romney campaign says competition among insurers will keep costs down and that the goal is to avoid making beneficiaries pay more for coverage.
However, the Romney campaign has been vague in detailing whether beneficiaries will have guaranteed benefits that the private plans must cover. Romney's website states, "All insurance plans must offer coverage at least comparable to what Medicare provides today." Some experts say the term "comparable" could mean dollar value, not actual benefits (Alonso-Zaldivar , AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/24).
Meanwhile, under Obama's plan, future Medicare beneficiaries would pay higher premiums, according to the AP/San Francisco Chronicle.
In 2017, a single retiree with an annual income of $86,000 would pay $447 more in premiums for Medicare's outpatient and prescription drug coverage, and a married couple with an annual income of $175,000 would pay about $894 more, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Obama's campaign also has suggested that the president might be open to increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, according to the AP/Chronicle (Alonso-Zaldivar , AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/24).