Thursday, October 4, 2012

Health Care: First Presidential Debate

In last night’s first of three Presidential Debates, President Obama and Governor Romney met in Denver, Col. to discuss domestic policy and lay out their maps for the future. Not surprisingly, health care reform dominated a good portion of the evening’s talking points. Here’s the breakdown of the presidential nominees’ stances on Medicare and Medicaid:


President Obama

President Obama plainly dismissed a voucher-based Medicare system.

“The voucher wouldn't necessarily keep up with health care inflation, it was estimated that this would cost the average senior about $6,000 a year,” Obama said. “Now, in fairness, what Governor Romney has now said is he'll maintain traditional Medicare alongside it. But there's still a problem, because what happens is, those insurance companies are pretty clever at figuring out who are the younger and healthier seniors. They recruit them, leaving the older, sicker seniors in Medicare. And every health care economist that looks at it says, over time, what'll happen is the traditional Medicare system will collapse.”

Obama claimed that if Romney were elected and repealed Obamacare as he has vowed, seniors would automatically be slapped with an additional $600 in prescription care cost hikes and experience a rise in copay prices.

“The primary beneficiary of that [Obamacare] repeal is insurance companies that are estimated to gain billions of dollars back when they aren’t making seniors any healthier,” Obama concluded.

Governor Romney

Regarding Medicare, Governor Romney began by assuring the audience that neither he nor Obama supported instilling changes that would affect those of retirement age or beyond; after a few moments, he retracted his claim:

“In fact, I was wrong when I said the President isn’t proposing any changes for current retirees. In fact he is on Medicare. On Social Security he’s not. But on Medicare, for current retirees, he’s cutting $716 billion from the program. Now, he says by not overpaying hospitals and providers. Actually just going to them and saying, ‘We’re going to reduce the rates you get paid across the board, everybody’s going to get a lower rate.’ That’s not just going after places where there’s abuse. That’s saying we’re cutting the rates. Some 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes say they won’t take anymore Medicare patients under that scenario. We also have 50 percent of doctors who say they won’t take more Medicare patients. This—we have 4 million people on Medicare Advantage that will lose Medicare Advantage because of those $716 billion in cuts. I can’t understand how you can cut Medicare $716 billion for current recipients of Medicare.”

Governor Romney’s Medicare plan is commonly equated to a voucher system by the Obama camp. When asked directly whether or not he supported vouchers, Romney replied, “What I support is no change for current retirees and near-retirees to Medicare and the President supports taking $716 billion out of that program.” He then stressed the significance of American’s ability to choose between “at least two plans”—traditional Medicare or a private plan.

“This is an idea that's been around a long time, which is saying—hey, let's see if we can't get competition into the Medicare world so that people can get the choice of different plans at lower cost, better quality,” Romney said. “I believe in competition.”

He addressed the imperativeness of bipartisan legislation, and highlighted that his running mate, Vice Presidential Nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Wis.) worked with Senator Ron Wyden (D- Ore.) to co-author the December 2011 “Choices to Strengthen Medicare and Health Security for All: Bipartisan Options for the Future” bill.

Finally, Romney took aim at not only Obamacare’s hefty price tag, but also its structural shortcomings that has some Americans feeling that their insurance choices are being repressed under the bill, and that their personal freedoms may be under attack. 


President Obama

President Obama breached the topic of the Bowles-Simpson proposal penned by co-chairs of Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (NCFRR), Alan Simpson (R- Wyo.) and Erskine Bowles (D-NC). Despite the strong opposing opinions in the bipartisan group of which Rep. Paul Ryan was also a member, the commission crafted and presented a comprehensive Dec. 1 2010 proposal entitled “The Moment of Truth: Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform." Ultimately rejected in the Senate, Bowles-Simpson was strangely voted down by six Republicans who were members of the NCFRR; Ryan was among them.

Regardless of the bill’s failure to pass into law, Obama stated that his administration’s effort to encourage bipartisan communication through the establishment of the NCFRR is good for America.

“This is a major difference that Governor Romney and I have,” he said. “When Governor Romney stood on a stage with other Republican candidates for the nomination, and he was asked, would you take $10 of spending cuts for just $1 of revenue, and he said no. Now, if you take such an unbalanced approach, then that means you are going to be gutting our investments in schools and education. It means that Governor Romney… [crosstalk] … talked about Medicaid and how we could send it back to the states, but effectively this means a 30 percent cut in the primary program we help for seniors who are in nursing homes, for kids who are with disabilities.”

President Obama repeatedly referenced his 30 percent cut in Medicaid claim throughout the rest of the segment.

Governor Romney

“I would like to take the Medicaid dollars that go to states and say to a state, you’re going to get what you got last year plus inflation—inflation—plus 1 percent,” Romney said. “And then you’re going to manage your care for your poor in the way you think best.”

Romney drew on his governorship experience to challenge the President’s stance.

“We can care for our own poor in so much better and more effective a way than having the federal government tell us how to care for our poor.”

States, Romney continued, should act as “laboratories of democracy,” and regain power via transference from the federal government. A state-based reliance will, according to Romney, put the power back into the hands of individuals, and the federal government will continue to act as an overhead monitor. He concluded, “If states get—gets in trouble, why, we could step in and see if we could find a way to help them.”

What's your take?

How do you think President Obama and Governor Romney tackled Medicare and Medicaid in the first debate? Let us know and be sure to check back in with us for full coverage of the first Vice Presidential Debate to be held in Danville, Kentucky on October 11.

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