HHS touts health law ahead of Paul Ryan speech to AARP

The Obama administration touted the healthcare law's benefits for seniors ahead of Paul Ryan's speech to the AARP convention, where he will pan "ObamaCare" and say it threatens Medicare.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a report Friday finding that Medicare beneficiaries will save $5,000 out-of-pocket between 2010 and 2022 as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

Sebelius said that people on Medicare who rely on expensive prescription drugs could save $18,000 or more because of the health law.

"I am pleased that the healthcare law is helping so many seniors save money on their prescription drug costs," Sebelius said in a statement. "A $5,000 savings will go a long way for many beneficiaries on fixed incomes and tight budgets." 

HHS has been quick to highlight popular benefits of the healthcare law, especially for seniors, since the overhaul passed in 2010.

Nineteen million Medicare beneficiaries have received a free preventive health service so far in 2012, HHS said Friday.

Prescription drug savings have totaled nearly $4.5 billion in the last two years for seniors and people with disabilities, the department added. 

Ryan, meanwhile, has based his vice-presidential candidacy on opposing the Affordable Care Act and saying it weakens Medicare — views he will hammer with the AARP audience on Friday.

Ryan plans to tell seniors that repealing what he calls "ObamaCare" is the "first step to a stronger Medicare," according to excerpts from his remarks released by the campaign.

"It weakens Medicare for today’s seniors and puts it at risk for the next generation," he will say of the president's signature accomplishment.

Ryan will also use the familiar attack that the healthcare overhaul cut $716 billion from Medicare — a reduction Ryan preserved in his own House budget proposals for the last two years. 

He will defend his plan, which Democrats have used against Republicans on the campaign trail, to the powerful seniors group.

"Our plan keeps the protections that have made Medicare a guaranteed promise for seniors throughout the years. It makes no changes for those in or near retirement," he will say.

"Now, in order to save Medicare for future generations, we propose putting 50 million seniors, not 15 unaccountable bureaucrats, in charge of their own healthcare decisions. Our plan empowers future seniors to choose the coverage that works best for them from a list of plans that are required to offer at least the same level of benefits as traditional Medicare.  This financial support system is designed to guarantee that seniors can always afford Medicare coverage — no exceptions.  And if a senior wants to choose the traditional Medicare plan, then she will have that right.

"Our idea is to force insurance companies to compete against each other to better serve seniors, with more help for the poor and the sick — and less help for the wealthy."

President Obama will also speak to AARP members Friday via satellite.

Obama's speech will begin around 10:30 CST, with Ryan's following around 11:15 or 11:30, according to AARP.