As the election creeps closer and closer (only 40 days left!), the candidates have begun to address one of the biggest issues: Medicare.
Older Americans care most about what the candidates plan to do about the program and depending on what they hear from President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, it could sway their votes.
The Associated Press sent questions to both camp and reported back that while Romney’s key details are still a little hazy, Obama may push for greater savings by “cutting payments to service providers and squeezing more from recipients.”
Economist Marilyn Moon, a former trustee overseeing Medicare finances, spoke to the AP about both campaigns.
"One of the things that concerns me about both campaigns is that they tend to use jargon terms like 'competition' or 'protection for benefits' without spelling out how they would deal with the challenges that come up. Their answer is to attack the other side, or simply reinforce the same jargon, rather than explaining how things would work."
The hazy details of Romney’s Medicare plan are to shift people ages 54 and younger into a different Medicare where a fixed payment from the government would allow them to pay for either private insurance or a government plan. The payment would be adjusted for inflation and Romney’s campaign told the AP that competition among insurers will keep costs in check.
Under Obama’s plan, Medicare won’t be as generous, according to the AP. “A higher deductible here, a new co-payment there, and the tweaks add up.”
Most of the president’s plans for Medicare are incorporated in the Affordable Care Act and will start within the next few years until Romney wins and repeals the health care law.
Among the president’s changes are higher monthly premiums for retirees making $85,000 or more ($170,000 for married couples). Over time the premiums paid by higher-income beneficiaries will increase and newly joining baby boomers will face a series of fees. Plus, he’s interested in raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67.
AARP is pushing for the candidates to discuss Social Security and Medicare more and expressed disappointment that the Oct. 3 debate between Obama and Romney seems to omit these two programs.
“Our research shows that voters age 50-plus are driven by economic anxieties that extend well beyond the single issue of jobs,” AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said in a statement. “For these voters, ‘retirement security’ and ‘financial security’ are largely the same thing. They overwhelmingly think the candidates have not done a good job of explaining their plans on Social Security and Medicare, and say that learning the candidates’ plans to strengthen these programs will help their presidential voting decision.”