By Sam Baker - 10/04/12 02:17 AM EDT
President Obama hit Mitt Romney's Medicare plan hard during Wednesday night's debate, arguing that seniors would be "stuck" with private insurance.
Romney, as he has throughout the campaign, sought to set the initial terms of the Medicare debate by attacking Obama for cuts included in his healthcare law.
Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, have used that attack to insulate themselves from criticism of their proposal to partially privatize Medicare. Obama went after that plan Wednesday night.
"When you move to a voucher system, you're putting seniors at the mercy of those insurance companies and over time, if traditional Medicare has decayed or fallen apart, then they're stuck," Obama said.
Under Romney's plan, seniors would choose between traditional Medicare or a subsidy to help pay for private insurance.
"It's called premium support, but it's understood to be a voucher program," Obama said.
Romney also reiterated his strong support for repealing Obama's healthcare law, derisively labeled by Republicans as "ObamaCare" — a moniker Obama has come to embrace. Romney harshly criticized the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel of healthcare experts that will make targeted cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.
"The right answer is not to have the federal government take over healthcare and start mandating to the providers across America, telling a patient and a doctor what kind of treatment they can have," Romney said.
Obama, though, pointed to the similarities between "ObamaCare" and the provisions Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. The two are nearly identical and both include the unpopular individual mandate.
"We've seen this model work really well — in Massachusetts," Obama said.
Obama said repealing the law would mean the immediate end of new benefits to seniors.
"If you repeal ObamaCare — and I have become fond of this term, "ObamaCare," if you repeal it, what happens is those seniors right away are going to be paying $600 more [for] prescriptions. They're now going to have to be paying copays for basic checkups that can keep them healthier. And the primary beneficiary of that repeal are insurance companies, that are estimated to gain billions of dollars back when they aren't making seniors any healthier," Obama said.