POSTED: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 11:00pm
UPDATED: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 11:47pm
Melbourne, FL-- In the senior-heavy coastal city of Melbourne on Sunday, President Barack Obama, armed with a new study, continued to hammer the Republican plan to reform Medicare.
He highlighted a Harvard analysis, conducted by a former Obama adviser, that found seniors would pay more under the "Romney-Ryan plan," compared to his plan, which he said will strengthen the entitlement program.
Obama said GOP nominee Mitt Romney wants to "give money back to insurance companies and put them in charge of Medicare."
"Their voucher plan for Medicare would bankrupt Medicare. Our plan strengthens Medicare," Obama told a crowd of 3,050 gathered at a sports and recreation center. "No American should have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies."
The focus on Medicare on Sunday was the latest effort by the president and his campaign to turn up the noise around the program and throw Romney off his message on jobs and the economy, especially important as the president continues to make a play for the senior vote ahead of the November election.
The findings from David Cutler, a policy expert in the Clinton administration, showed health care costs for current and future seniors would dramatically increase should Rep. Paul Ryan's most recent budget plan become law.
Romney, who has made repealing Obamacare a central campaign promise, on Sunday said he would keep the more popular measures in the law, including allowing those under 26 years of age to remain on their parents' health care plans and guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
"There are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I'm going to put in place," Romney said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The Republican standard-bearers argue their plan would save Medicare in the long run by adding private sector competition. They often slam the president for failing to detail the changes he would make to the program.
Yet on Saturday, Obama senior adviser David Plouffe said the campaign will happily engage in a back and forth about Medicare.
"If they want to have a discussion about 'Who do you trust on Medicare?' for the next 60 days as their central argument, you know we ought to send them an in-kind contribution," Plouffe told reporters.
Obama's comments Sunday came on the second day of a bus tour through battleground Florida. Before arriving at the speech in Melbourne, Obama ate breakfast with two retired couples in Cocoa, Florida, including a former nurse, a retired minister, a businessman and a stay-at-home mom.
Medicare has occupied a larger role in the national campaign since Mitt Romney chose Ryan - the architect of the House Republican budget that included proposed changes to the program - as his vice-presidential running mate.
Team Obama has criticized the Republican ticket for supporting plans to turn part of Medicare into a voucher program, proposals the Democrats say would drive up costs for seniors. Team Romney has consistently hit Obamacare for its cuts to the program, which the GOP campaign claims will lead to its ruin for future generations.
Sunday's speech, particularly aimed at seniors, was just one of the appeals to special interest groups the president has made in the region. For Space Coast workers, he penned an op-ed in a local paper about plans to invest in space exploration. For students, he has played up his efforts to help bring down the cost of student loans.
Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams fired off a retort, accusing the president of "false attacks" and attempting to discredit the study cited by the Obama campaign.
"He (Obama) has done nothing to reform Medicare for the long haul and prevent it from going bankrupt," Williams said. "The President's decision to use discredited studies and outright falsehoods to attack Mitt Romney is an admission that he can't talk about his record of crushing the middle class and failing to turn the economy around."