Obama Pledges 'Modest Reforms' to Medicare in State of the Union

Medicare dominated healthcare components of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address and was one of the largest targets in the Republican response delivered by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.


President Obama said looming healthcare spending for the nation's aging population will fuel the government's long-term debt unless lawmakers "embrace the need for modest reforms."

"On Medicare, I'm prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of healthcare savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission," the president said. He also pledged reduced subsidies to pharmaceutical companies and increased Medicare contributions from wealthy beneficiaries.

Sen. Rubio's rebuttal simultaneously defended Medicare and called for larger reforms to it. "I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it," he said.

"Republicans have offered a detailed and credible plan that helps save Medicare without hurting today's retirees. Instead of playing politics with Medicare, when is the president going to offer his plan to save it? Tonight would have been a good time for him to do it," Sen. Rubio added.

Healthcare reform
The president's signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act received a fraction of the airtime compared with Medicare and other topics. President Obama said the PPACA "is helping to slow the growth of healthcare costs," though fact-checkers say the evidence to support that is unclear.

Sen. Rubio kept with his party's mantra and challenged the legislation.

"Obamacare was supposed to help middle-class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with," he said.

He added the policy has constricted businesses' ability to hire more employees or keep them full-time, and it has caused workers to lose their pay raises due to expensive health benefits and administrative overhead.

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