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Gibbs: Ryan should ‘thank’ Obama for strengthening Medicare

Senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs defended the administration’s record on Medicare from GOP attacks on Sunday, saying that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) should “thank President Obama” for strengthening the program.

During a campaign stop in The Villages, Florida Saturday, Ryan appeared with his mother, who is on Medicare, and continued hammering the administration for a $716 billion reduction in the program’s spending, claiming Obama “raided” Medicare to pay for his own healthcare reform bills.

Gibbs pushed back on those claims during an interview on Fox News Sunday. “If he wants to protect Medicare for his mother he should first of all thank President Obama for what he’s done over the past few years to extend the life of the Medicare trust fund, to help seniors with their prescription drug costs  to help seniors get free preventive care. ” said Gibbs.

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He said Obama had extended the life of the program “by over eight years.”

Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate has put Medicare in the election spotlight, with Democrats moving quickly to hit the House Budget Committee chairman on his proposals to shift the program to a subsidized private-insurance model. 

Democrats say the move would raise healthcare costs for seniors. But Republicans have in turn hit Obama over the $716 reduction to Medicare. The White House, though, says those savings came from cutting waste and fraud and eliminating insurance subsidies and that seniors’ benefits have not been affected.

“We found $716 billion in efficiency and savings primarily by reducing the subsidies that the government was paying to Medicare Advantage through private insurance companies, something that was costing Medicare, not saving Medicare money as it was originally designed to do,” said Gibbs.

During his campaign address Saturday, Ryan also said Obama had established “a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of Medicare who are required to cut Medicare in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors.”

Gibbs Sunday defended the Medicare board, which he said is seeking ways to improve services for seniors. “They are medical professionals. They are people we trust to make medical decisions,” he said.

“We’re trying to get efficiencies out of the Medicare program, we’re trying to provide some much needed enhancements to the benefits that Medicare beneficiaries have,” said Gibbs.

“If all of what you described was so amazingly egregious,” he added, “why in not one but two Paul Ryan budgets does he never seek to roll back the so-called cuts from the unelected bureaucrats?”

“Why did Paul Ryan never seek to undo these cuts?” asked Gibbs.