President Obama eats breakfast with, from left, Jan Clark, her husband, Jerry, and John Hill at the Ossorio Bakery and Cafe in Cocoa, Fla., on Sunday during the second day of a two-day bus tour across Florida. John's wife, Shirley, is not pictured.
By Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
By Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
MELBOURNE, Fla. - President Obama continued his push for older voters in the important battleground state of Florida on Sunday by charging that Mitt Romney's Medicare reform plan would increase health care costs by tens of thousands of dollars for Americans nearing retirement age.
Obama made the charge after his campaign cited a new study to reporters by the liberal group Center for American Progress Action Fund, an organization with close ties to his campaign. The study concludes that the average person retiring at age 65 in 2023 would pay $59,500 more over the length of their retirement. A person qualifying for Medicare in 2030 would pay $124,600 more, according to the study.
"One report just said that by the end of the next decade, our opponent's plan would mean $16 billion and $26 billion for insurance companies," Obama said at a rally at the Florida Institute of Technology. "So basically your costs would rise by thousands, so their profits can rise by billions."
The study was conducted by David Cutler, a Harvard professor and health policy expert who served as an adviser to Obama's 2008 campaign. While Cutler is no doubt a partisan figure, Obama advisers are intent on spotlighting differences between the president's approach and Romney's on overhauling Medicare.
The Romney campaign blasted Obama for citing the study, which they say offers an inaccurate picture of the Romney ticket's plan to overhaul Medicare. The plan, put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee, in 2011, calls for the federal government providing each senior with a set payment that began at $8,000 in 2022 to purchase health care on the open market, and the voucher payment would grow with inflation.
A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Ryan proposal suggested that because health care costs would grow faster than inflation, the plan would lead to seniors having to pay more of their health care costs. But the Romney campaign argues that the CBO analysis of the Romney-Ryan proposal ignores the potential benefits of competition between insurance providers that they contend will be spurred by the voucher proposal.
"President Obama's latest false attacks are a sign of desperation," said Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams. "The president's decision to use discredited studies and outright falsehoods to attack Mitt Romney is an admission that he can't talk about his record of crushing the middle class and failing to turn the economy around."
Ryan has proposed to overhaul the government health program for older Americans, with a voucher-like system that could cost beneficiaries more out of their pockets. Even before today's attack on the plan by Obama, Democrats had charged that the Ryan plan would increase the average cost for seniors by thousands of dollars.
Obama's advisers are betting that reminding voters about the issue could increase doubt about the GOP ticket with older voters. Meanwhile, the Romney ticket has consistently pushed back that the Obama is cutting $700 billion from Medicare to pay for his signature health care reform law.
"If they want to have a discussion about who do you trust on Medicare for the next 60 days as their central argument, you know we ought to send them an in-kind contribution," White House senior adviser David Plouffe told reporters on Friday. "We're happy to have that discussion. We think people trust the president more on Medicare."
Before speaking in Melbourne, Obama stopped by Ossorio Bakery & Café in nearby Cocoa, Fla., to meet with supporters and chat about Medicare.
One couple the president spoke with, John and Shirley Hill, expressed concerns that if Medicare were converted into a voucher program that they wouldn't be able to take care of Shirley's 102-year-old mother who has dementia and requires round-the-clock care that is paid for in part by Medicare.