President Barack Obama Friday sought to highlight his pledge to protect Medicare and Social Security in remarks to the annual convention of the nation's largest seniors' advocacy group.
In an address by satellite to the AARP national convention, Obama said that he considers the two programs, "bedrock commitments" from the country.
"Medicare and Social Security are not handouts," Obama said. "You've paid into these programs your whole lives. You've earned them."
He added, "As President, it's my job to make sure that Medicare and Social Security remain strong for today's seniors and for future generations."
Obama stressed that his policies have strengthened Medicare, the national health insurance program for the elderly, despite attacks from Republicans claiming the President has cut the program, particularly through the health reform law commonly known as Obamacare.
"The health reform law we passed has already saved more than 5.5 million seniors and people with disabilities nearly $4.5 billion on their prescription drugs," Obama said. "Seniors who received a discount have saved an average of more than $600 this year alone. And over the next 10 years, we expect the average Medicare beneficiary to save nearly $5,000 as a result of this law."
He added, "My opponents have pledged to repeal these savings and benefits in their first day on the job, which means billions in new profits for insurance companies, but also would mean immediately increased costs for seniors and would bankrupt the Medicare trust fund in just four years."
Obama also took aim at the plan conceived by Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., which has been endorsed by Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"Their plan replaces guaranteed Medicare benefits with a voucher that wouldn't keep up with costs," Obama said. "A new study says that under their plan, if just 5 percent of seniors switch to private plans, 40 percent of doctors who currently take Medicare would stop accepting it. … Millions of seniors would be forced to change doctors."
Obama added, "I don't consider this approach bold or particularly courageous, I just think it's a bad idea. No American should ever spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and the dignity that they have earned."
If it is to endure over the long haul, Obama said that Medicare would need to be reformed but said he would do so by reducing the costs of care rather than by raising costs.
On Social Security, Obama rejected GOP plans to introduce private accounts that would allow Americans not yet receiving benefits to invest some of their contributions in the stock market.
"The last time the other side was in charge, my opponent's running mate wrote a bill that would have privatized Social Security," Obama said. "After what happened on Wall Street just four years ago, does anybody actually think that's a good idea?"
He added, "Most seniors rely on Social Security for most of their income. It keeps 20 million Americans out of poverty each and every year. And while it's not the cause of today's deficits, we do need to strengthen the program for the coming decades."
In response to questions asked at the forum, Obama said that Washington needs to adopt a balanced approach of tax increases and spending cuts to address the Federal budget deficit and said he would look at plans that propose lifting the cap on income taxed for Social Security as a way to improve the fiscal health of that program.
"I'm willing to work with Republicans and examine all their ideas, but what I'm not going to do as a matter of principle is to slash benefits or privatize Social Security and suddenly turn it over to Wall Street," he said.
by RTT Staff Writer
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