President Obama promoted his Medicare policies today while denouncing Republican voucher plans as a threat to the essential program.
In his weekly radio address, Obama said he has proposed "reforms that will save Medicare money by getting rid of wasteful spending in the health care system and reining in insurance companies -- reforms that won't touch your guaranteed Medicare benefits."
Medicare is likely to be a major issue in the fall election between Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
The new health care law has improved Medicare services by reducing the costs of prescription drugs, Obama said. It also provides preventive care benefits that include mammograms and cancer screenings.
While not mentioning Romney or running mate Paul Ryan by name, Obama criticized Republican proposals to change Medicare with vouchers that seniors can use to buy insurance on the private market. "One plan would force seniors to pay an extra $6,400 a year for the same benefits they get now," Obama said.
Romney, Ryan, and other Republicans said Medicare must be changed or the system will go bankrupt; they also said their proposals would not affect current recipients, or Americas 55 years and older.
Obama's radio address:
Hi, everybody. Over the last few weeks, there's been a lot of talk about Medicare, with a lot of accusations and misinformation flying around. So today I want to step back for a minute and share with you some actual facts and news about the program.
This week, we found out that, thanks to the health care law we passed, nearly 5.4 million seniors with Medicare have saved over $4.1 billion on prescription drugs. That's an average of more than $700 per person. And this year alone, 18 million seniors with Medicare have taken advantage of preventive care benefits like mammograms or other cancer screenings that now come at no extra cost.
That's progress. It means that seniors everywhere are getting the care they need for less. And if you have questions about what benefits you're entitled to, you can go to www.medicare.gov to find out.
This news is also a reminder of what's really at stake when we talk about the future of Medicare. It's not about overheated rhetoric at election time. It's about a promise this country made to our seniors that says if you put in a lifetime of hard work, you shouldn't lose your home or your life savings just because you get sick.
Over the last 47 years, millions of Americans have worked for that promise. They've earned it. And for many seniors, the care they've gotten through Medicare has made all the difference in the world.
Growing up as the son of a single mother, I was raised with the help of my grandparents. I saw how important things like Medicare and Social Security were in their lives. And I saw the peace of mind it gave them.
That's why, as President, my goal has been to strengthen these programs now, and preserve them for future generations. Because today's seniors deserve that same peace of mind. And the millions of Americans who are working hard right now deserve to know that the care they need will be available when they need it.
That's why, as part of the Affordable Care Act, we gave seniors deeper discounts on prescription drugs, and made sure preventive care like mammograms are free without a co-pay. We've extended the life of Medicare by almost a decade. And I've proposed reforms that will save Medicare money by getting rid of wasteful spending in the health care system and reining in insurance companies -- reforms that won't touch your guaranteed Medicare benefits. Not by a single dime.
Republicans in Congress have put forward a very different plan. They want to turn Medicare into a voucher program. That means that instead of being guaranteed Medicare, seniors would get a voucher to buy insurance, but it wouldn't keep up with costs. As a result, one plan would force seniors to pay an extra $6,400 a year for the same benefits they get now. And it would effectively end Medicare as we know it.
I think our seniors deserve better. I'm willing to work with anyone to keep improving the current system, but I refuse to do anything that undermines the basic idea of Medicare as a guarantee for seniors who get sick.
Here in America, we believe in keeping our promises -- especially to our seniors who have put in a lifetime of hard work and deserve to enjoy their golden years. That's what Medicare is all about. That's why we need to strengthen and preserve it for future generations. And as long as I have the honor of serving as your President, that's exactly what I'll do.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.