Biden talks Medicare in S. Ohio

Vice president and opponents argue effects of Romney camp’s plan

9/10/2012
BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Vice President Joe Biden's talks to customers during a stop at Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio.
Vice President Joe Biden's talks to customers during a stop at Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio.

MILFORD, Ohio -- While the Mitt Romney campaign accused Vice President Joe Biden of peddling falsehoods about the GOP position on Medicare during a four-city swing through southern Ohio, the Obama campaign provided support for the vice president's claims.

Mr. Biden continued to savage his Republican opponents, Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, for allegedly failing to tell American voters the details of Mr. Romney's plans for Medicare and for reducing the debt.

Mr. Biden at noon addressed a crowd of 700 people in the gym of Portsmouth High School.

PHOTO GALLERY: Biden makes stop in Milford

RELATED ARTICLE: Romney, Obama focus on swing vote

Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters, including a young one, at Milford High School near Cincinnati. He asserted GOP Medicare ideas would cost seniors.
Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters, including a young one, at Milford High School near Cincinnati. He asserted GOP Medicare ideas would cost seniors.

At 4 p.m. the vice president spoke to an audience of 739 at Milford High School, southeast of Cincinnati.

He told them in speeches that weaved folksy asides in between populist policy points that the Republicans would cut benefits for Medicare beneficiaries and require recipients to reach into their own pockets to pay for benefits now covered entirely by Medicare.

Mr. Ryan's proposal for reforming Medicare would convert it into a subsidy to buy private insurance for future beneficiaries. Everyone 55 years old and younger could be put on the new plan when it would take effect. But everyone, including people 55 and older and current beneficiaries, would still have the option of traditional Medicare.

"They don't tell you that their plan would immediately cut benefits for 30 million seniors," Mr. Biden said, and that under the Republican plan the Medicare trust fund will go bust in 2016.

Mr. Biden appeared to be basing his predictions of the impact on Medicare benefits on the fact that Republicans have said they would work to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

To support Mr. Biden's claim, the Obama campaign cited an April report from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which said the Affordable Care Act extends the solvency of the hospital insurance trust fund to 2024, but without it, the fund would be empty in 2016.

Chris Maloney, spokesman for the Romney campaign in Ohio, cited a Washington Post fact-checking article that questioned the accuracy of the 2016 trust-fund bankruptcy.

Mr. Maloney said, "Despite the fact that multiple independent news agencies and fact checkers have taken up Joe Biden's challenge and deemed his statements to be false, it appears as though he is willing to say anything to divert attention away from the Obama Administration's failed policies which have left more than 400,000 Ohioans looking for work."

Vice President Joe Biden gets applause at Milford High School, southeast of Cincinnati. He contended that under the Republican plan the Medicare trust fund would go bankrupt in 2016.  He cited a federal study to back his point.
Vice President Joe Biden gets applause at Milford High School, southeast of Cincinnati. He contended that under the Republican plan the Medicare trust fund would go bankrupt in 2016. He cited a federal study to back his point.

He cited Washington Post writer Glenn Kessler, who wrote that one Medicare trust fund that pays hospitals "always seems to be on the edge of running dry. But even so, the payroll tax could pay most estimated expenditures for decades. And does anyone doubt Congress would not step in and fill any gaps?"

On Saturday, Mr. Biden urged the media covering him, "Fact check me!"

He blasted Republicans as not serious either about saving Medicare or curtailing the national debt, but primarily concerned with extending the George W. Bush tax cuts and enacting additional tax cuts.

Mr. Biden said the Republican tax-cut plan will lavish $500 billion worth of tax savings on 120,000 families, to be paid for with cuts in social programs, such as Medicaid and college Pell grants.

"Seniors would be kicked out of nursing homes. What are we going to do? A lot of those folks are moms and dads. They come from middle-class families. Even worse some have no families, nowhere to go. What's going to happen?" Mr. Biden said.

"They talk so much about the national debt, the great urgency, the need to act now," Mr. Biden said. "Not once did they sign on if it required additional taxes for millionaires, not once."

Mr. Biden told listeners that being in southern Ohio feels like his old home in northeast Pennsylvania.

"I've been here a lot. Planning on coming back a lot," he said.

Indeed, the campaign has already announced Mr. Biden would headline a rally at Wright State University in Dayton on Wednesday.

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who was born in Scioto County, where Portsmouth is located, said neither he nor current Republican Gov. John Kasich are the reason that Ohio's unemployment rate is lower than the national jobless rate.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks Sunday at Milford High School in Milford, Ohio.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks Sunday at Milford High School in Milford, Ohio.

"President Obama and Vice President Biden saved the American auto industry," Mr. Strickland said. He also defended the Obama Administration on its coal record, saying it invested $5 billion in clean coal research, not mentioning it was a recent addition to the administration's energy policies after being accused by the coal industry of waging a "war on coal."

Halfway through the 93-mile trip from Portsmouth to Milford, Mr. Biden and Mr. Strickland made an unannounced stop at Cruisers Diner in Seaman, Ohio, where they ordered peach pie and chatted with customers.

Pool reporters covering the vice president were told they had to leave after about 10 minutes in the diner because it was crowded.

However, an Associated Press photographer was allowed back into the event, where she took a picture of Mr. Biden appearing to snuggle up in a booth with a woman in biker gear while two male diners looked on.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.