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Obama fights back on Medicare

Republicans have claimed President Obama's health care reforms slashed more than $700 billion from Medicare, but the president said he has strengthened the health insurance program. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.


DUBUQUE, IA -- President Obama today pushed back on Republican claims that he’s cutting Medicare and turned the criticism back on his challengers Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, accusing them of wanting to overhaul Medicare to the detriment of seniors.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 3,000 on the banks of the Mississippi River here, the president first countered charges from Romney and his surrogates that his administration is cutting more than $700 billion in Medicare spending to transfer it to the new health care law.

“They are just throwing everything at the wall to see if it sticks,” he said. “Here’s what you need to know: I have strengthened Medicare. I have made reforms that have saved millions of seniors with Medicare hundreds of dollars on their prescriptions,” he continued, as the crowd cheered.

As First Read has written before, Obama’s plan would slow the growth of Medicare spending, but the cuts would mostly affect insurance and health-care providers, not seniors. Plus, Paul Ryan’s budget plan contains the same cuts.
After defending his own plan, the president shifted to offense, tying Romney to Ryan’s Medicare plan, which would give future seniors a voucher or premium support -- to purchase private insurance or purchase it through Medicare.

Larry Downing / Reuters

President Obama speaks at a campaign event at the Alliant Energy Amphitheater in Dubuque, Iowa, August 15.

“Mr. Romney and his running mate have a very different plan. They want to turn Medicare into a voucher program.,” he said. “That means seniors would no longer have the guarantee of Medicare; they’d get a voucher to buy private insurance.”

He wrapped up his riff on Medicare with a sharply worded contrast between his plan and that of his Republican opponents.

“Their plan ends Medicare as we know it. My plan reduces the cost of Medicare by cracking down on fraud and waste and subsidies to insurance companies. Their plan makes seniors pay more so they can give another tax cut to millionaires and billionaires.”

In response to Obama's volleys, the Romney campaign doubled down on its claims, releasing a statement from spokesman Ryan Williams that the president "has a long history of launching shameful political attacks on Medicare -- but he's the only person in the race who has actually cut Medicare. President Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare and our nation's seniors will pay the price with higher costs and fewer benefits." 

Steve McMahon, Anne Kornblut and Michael Steele join The Daily Rundown to discuss the latest happenings on the campaign trail.

Williams added that Romney "will always protect this vital program for seniors and strengthen it for future generations." 

The president was introduced here by his wife Michelle, who joins him for a full day of campaigning in Iowa. She took a softer tone, reminiscing about their 2008 days in the nation’s first caucus state that jump-started Obama’s campaign.

“Thank you for the kindness and generosity and love that you have shown us throughout the state,” the first lady said to cheers.

She seemed to make a call for a more issues-based discourse in contrast with the name-calling and hot rhetoric that has marked the last few weeks on the trail.

“Because of you,” Michelle said of Iowa voters, “Barack and I will always remember what this process can be about at its very best. Every election, you remind us what democracy is all about. It is about people getting into the issues, discussing them with their neighbors,” she said.

The Obamas have one more campaign stop in Iowa -- further east in Davenport.