Protecting Medicare is an issue near and dear to my heart. My mother is a Florida resident, and after she paid into the program for years, Medicare is there for her. My grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer's and for whom I helped care in my teenage years, got help from Medicare when she needed it most.
I understand the importance of Medicare to our retirees, and that's why I want to protect Medicare for current seniors and strengthen it for future generations. Unfortunately, President Obama has launched a scare campaign directed at seniors, charging that Mitt Romney and I want to "end Medicare as we know it."
These attacks are false and disappointing. They represent a new low for the man who once promised us hope and change. Let us review the facts.
As the baby boom generation heads toward retirement, Medicare costs have been rising steadily. Experts on all sides of the political spectrum have long recognized that, without reform, the program would become unsustainable, and future generations would not be able to rely on its benefits. Even President Obama said last year, "If you look at the numbers, Medicare in particular will run out of money, and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up."
However, rather than strengthen Medicare, he raided it by $716 billion to pay for part of Obamacare. He says this raid will somehow improve Medicare's solvency. But it's not true.
Last year, Medicare's chief actuary testified before Congress. He was asked: If the President's Medicare cuts were used to pay for new spending in Obamacare, how could they also improve Medicare's solvency?
The chief actuary's answer? They can't. It's simple: You can't spend the same dollar twice. His exact words were, "It takes two sets of money to make it happen." The president spent one set on Obamacare, and he never provided the other to strengthen Medicare.
If that's not bad enough, President Obama's new health care law also established a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, whose function is to cut Medicare spending in ways that will inevitably result in seniors being denied the care they deserve. Seniors waited a long time for their benefits; we can't let them wind up on a waiting list for their care.
Obamacare will reduce payments to our doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, meaning they will be offered less money for the same amount of work. Because of these cuts, the federal government is projecting that by 2019, 15 percent of hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and home health agencies will begin to lose money. As Obamacare comes into effect, they could be forced to close.
By 2018, four million seniors are projected to lose the Medicare Advantage plans they enjoy. A recent survey of doctors suggests that half will meet the projected Medicare reductions by closing or significantly restricting their practices for Medicare patients. This is not saving Medicare; it is savaging it.
Mitt Romney and I will end the Obama administration's raid on Medicare. The program was established as a promise to America's seniors. We will ensure that the promise is kept. We are not going to allow a board of bureaucrats to decide who gets what kind of care and when. Rationing health care is not the American way.
Instead, by embracing common-sense reforms, we can guarantee Medicare's promise for generations. If we reform Medicare for my generation, we can protect the program -- with no changes -- for those in or near retirement.
The plan we have put forward is based on bipartisan ideas, and it has bipartisan support. It begins by undoing the damage from Obamacare. With no changes for Americans 55 and older, our plan will save and strengthen Medicare for future generations by bringing runaway medical costs under control. This can be accomplished not through government-imposed rationing, as President Obama would have it, but by fostering greater choice and competition among insurance companies and medical providers.
Rather than empower 15 unelected bureaucrats, our plan will empower 50 million seniors to choose the coverage that works best for them, from a list of plans that are required to offer at least the same benefits as traditional Medicare. It sets up a financial support system designed to guarantee that every senior can always afford coverage, with more help for the poor and the sick and less help for the wealthy. And it says that if a senior wants to choose the traditional Medicare plan, he or she should have that right.
Having slashed Medicare to pay for Obamacare, President Obama is now trying to divert attention from his own record by painting our approach in frightening terms. We welcome this debate. While President Obama is running away from his own record, we have a strong set of proposals to stand on. This is a debate in which the truth will win.