Transcript: Debate excerpts – Mitt Romney on Medicare & Social Security reforms

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Excerpts from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s remarks on Medicare & Social Security reforms at the first presidential debate held at the University of Denver, Colorado on Oct. 3, 2012:

“Our seniors depend on these programs, and I know anytime we talk about entitlements, people become concerned that something’s going to happen that’s going to change their life for the worse.

“And the answer is neither the president nor I are proposing any changes for any current retirees or near retirees, either to Social Security or Medicare. So if you’re 60 or around 60 or older, you don’t need to listen any further.

“But for younger people, we need to talk about what changes are going to be occurring. Oh, I just thought about one. And that is, in fact, I was wrong when I said the president isn’t proposing any changes for current retirees. In fact he is on Medicare. On Social Security he’s not.

“But on Medicare, for current retirees, he’s cutting $716 billion from the program. Now, he says by not overpaying hospitals and providers. Actually just going to them and saying, ‘We’re going to reduce the rates you get paid across the board, everybody’s going to get a lower rate.’ That’s not just going after places where there’s abuse. That’s saying we’re cutting the rates. Some 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes say they won’t take anymore Medicare patients under that scenario.

“We also have 50 percent of doctors who say they won’t take more Medicare patients.

“This — we have 4 million people on Medicare Advantage that will lose Medicare Advantage because of those $716 billion in cuts. I can’t understand how you can cut Medicare $716 billion for current recipients of Medicare.

“Now, you point out, well, we’re putting some back. We’re going to give a better prescription program. That’s $1 — that’s $1 for every $15 you’ve cut. They’re smart enough to know that’s not a good trade.

“I want to take that $716 billion you’ve cut and put it back into Medicare. By the way, we can include a prescription program if we need to improve it.

“But the idea of cutting $716 billion from Medicare to be able to balance the additional cost of Obamacare is, in my opinion, a mistake.

“And with regards to young people coming along, I’ve got proposals to make sure Medicare and Social Security are there for them without any question…

“…For people coming along that are young, what I do to make sure that we can keep Medicare in place for them is to allow them either to choose the current Medicare program or a private plan. Their choice.

“They get to choose — and they’ll have at least two plans that will be entirely at no cost to them. So they don’t have to pay additional money, no additional $6,000. That’s not going to happen. They’ll have at least two plans.”

“And by the way, if the government can be as efficient as the private sector and offer premiums that are as low as the private sector, people will be happy to get traditional Medicare or they’ll be able to get a private plan.

“I know my own view is I’d rather have a private plan. I’d just assume not have the government telling me what kind of health care I get. I’d rather be able to have an insurance company. If I don’t like them, I can get rid of them and find a different insurance company. But people make their own choice.

“The other thing we have to do to save Medicare? We have to have the benefits high for those that are low income, but for higher income people, we’re going to have to lower some of the benefits. We have to make sure this program is there for the long term. That’s the plan that I’ve put forward.

“And, by the way the idea came not even from Paul Ryan or — or Senator Wyden, who’s the co-author of the bill with — with Paul Ryan in the Senate, but also it came from Bill — Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. This is an idea that’s been around a long time, which is saying, hey, let’s see if we can’t get competition into the Medicare world so that people can get the choice of different plans at lower cost, better quality. I believe in competition…

“My experience the private sector typically is able to provide a better product at a lower cost.”

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