En Español\ Presidential nominees Barack Obama and Mitt Romney discussed the future of Medicare and Social Security, the health of the economy and Washington gridlock — all major concerns for older Americans. (As a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, AARP neither endorses nor contributes to political candidates.)
Barack Obama, talking about what's important to older Americans, circles back to the grandparents who helped raise him in their Honolulu apartment. "It's important to recognize that Medicare, along with Social Security, are the linchpins of our system to ensure seniors security in their golden years," Obama said in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office. "This is personal for me because I was raised with the help of my grandparents, and I saw how important both Social Security and Medicare were to my grandparents and the peace of mind it gave them."
As the campaign focuses on issues important to older voters, such as Medicare, health care costs and jobs, his late grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham, likely will be on his mind. So will a 50-year-old Ohio woman who struggled to find a job until trying a training program that Obama said could be key for older workers.
On Medicare, Obama sees some of the sharpest distinctions between his approach and that of Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Romney's vice presidential choice, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, is a leading proponent of giving older people subsidies to buy private health insurance. Obama said that this Republican plan undermines Medicare's traditional guarantee of coverage for sick older people and said he wants to continue reforms begun under the sweeping Affordable Care Act. That law added new preventive care coverage, discounts on prescription drugs and help for those whose prescription costs landed them in the so-called doughnut hole.
"My goal is to continue these types of reforms that will produce a better bang for our health care dollar and will make sure beneficiaries aren't seeing higher out-of-pocket costs, but at the same time are able to control Medicare costs over the long term," he said. "What I reject is those who are interested in undermining the very concept of Medicare as a guarantee for seniors who get sick."
Obama defended the elimination of $716 billion in Medicare costs through his health care reform law, saying those savings did not affect beneficiaries. The reduction in costs came from providers and insurance company payments.