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December 12th, 2012
10:31 AM ET

Rep. Cummings: Raising Medicare eligibility age and taxes on top 2% is 'not a fair exchange'

In an interview with ABC yesterday, President Obama acknowledged that raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 has been "floated" as a way to cut spending as a part of a fiscal cliff deal. While he did not dismiss the idea, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke out against the idea in an op-ed for USA Today.

Ranking Member of the Oversight Committee Rep. Elijah Cummings agrees with Pelosi and explains his opposition to raising the eligibility age on Starting Point today.

"Some people have very difficult jobs...many of them are not in a position to wait until 67. They may be dead by then," Cummings says. "A lot of people, all they have is Medicare and Social Security, that's it."

When pressed to explain how raising taxes on upper earners without addressing entitlements would raise enough money to address the deficit, Cummings argues that a deal that includes tax increases and raises the eligibility age is "not a fair exchange."

"It's hard to give up something when you don't have anything, and that's the point," Cummings explains. "On the one end, people are trying to survive. On the other hand, people making millions up to this point have not been asked to pay one penny more... I think our country is better than that."

August 20th, 2012
10:22 AM ET

Rep. Burgess: ACA & stimulus 'wet blanket' on job creation, says we're rapidly approaching the day when big Medicare cuts will be made

With one week until the Republican National Convention, we're learning more about the tone the Romney Campaign is hoping to set there. At the same time, the cover of "Newsweek" now saying "Hit the road, Barack" and author Niall Ferguson argues why it's time for the US to have a new president.

Rep. Mike Burgess, MD (R-Texas), chairman of the Congressional Health Care Caucus, talks with Soledad this morning on "Starting Point" about what this Newsweek cover could mean for the presidential race, and weighs in on the ongoing Medicare cut discussion.

The big argument in the "Newsweek" piece is that despite a dream team of advisers, President Obama has been unable to fulfill many promises.

"You had things like "cash for clunkers" and putting caulk in people's windows that had nothing to do with rebuilding the economy," Burgess says. "These things almost seemed to be payoff for people who supported the president during his 2008 campaign. There were much better ways to go about this doing this."

He adds, "You look at some of the projects that were started during that time and they really did not seem to be designed to improve the economy. The other aspect that was unfortunate during those first two years, they spent so much time, the administration spent so much time trying to link health care to the economy and in order to get the president's health care law passed. But honestly when you look back at it, this has been one of the things that has inhibited the recovery....The Affordable Care Act was a wet blanket on job creation, the cap and trade bill and financial reg bill, all pushed by the president in the first year and a half of his administration."

Rep. Burgess also weighs in on the Medicare cuts discussion, and whether it's possible

"We're rapidly approaching the day where there will have to be some significant cuts made," Burgess says. "The president acknowledges this by setting up a board that's going to make cuts in Medicare where Congress will have little impact after the board has decided. This is a change people aren't aware of in the president's health care law, this independent payment advisory board, the brain child of Tom Daschle. He wanted to set up the Federal Reserve for health care. Does that sound like a good idea right now? Not really."

Watch more from the interview in the clip below.

Filed under: 2012 Race • Medicare • Politics
August 17th, 2012
11:14 AM ET

Rep. Chaffetz on voting for Ryan's budget cuts for Medicare: 'It's a totally different approach' to Obama's cuts, says Republican plan doesn't call for vouchers

This morning, Soledad and the "Starting Point" team looked at the Rep. Paul Ryan factor, and what he means for the Republican ticket. A new CNN poll shows the addition of Congressman Ryan to the ticket has turned his home state of Wisconsin into a battleground state, while the overall numbers aren't changing very much, 49% of registered voters say they back President Obama, 45% say they support Mitt Romney. That's within the margin of error. It's the very positive polling of Ryan in the state, though, that's really making it up for grabs in our CNN analysis. It's a state that hasn't gone to a Republican since Ronald Reagan.

But the questions about which candidate would destroy Medicare with their plans rages on, with both sides claiming the other would cause immense harm to the program.

This morning on "Starting Point," Romney supporter Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) talks about the back and forth on Medicare, awhile also addressing the question of whether Mitt Romney will release more tax returns and what Rep. Ryan's role in the election could mean for the future of the country.

The conversation got heated when Soledad asks Chaffetz about Medicare cuts, and whether the GOP plan calls for the same cuts as the Obama administration while also advocating for a voucher program.

When asked if he voted for similar cuts as called in Rep. Ryan's budget plan as in the Obama plan, he says he did vote for the Ryan budgets but the approach is what matters.

"It's a totally different approach," Chaffetz says. "It's not - we didn't just copy what President Obama said. That's not true. That's a misrepresentation."

Chaffetz adds, "How to actually do it and execute it is very important. And there are two fundamentally different approaches on how to do this."

When pressed about whether the GOP plan calls for a voucher-like program for seniors, Chaffetz says it's 'false, misleading, derogatory and inaccurate' to call it a voucher program. "It is premium support. And that is different than a voucher program," he says.

See more from the interview in the clip below. Transcript available after the jump.


Filed under: 2012 Race • Medicare • Politics
August 17th, 2012
09:07 AM ET

Rep. Kathy Castor: Romney's policies are a 'threat to the middle class'

A new CNN poll shows that Paul Ryan's addition to Romney's ticket has turned his home state of Wisconsin into a battleground state.

With 49% of registered voters saying they back President Obama and 45% supporting Romney, the overall numbers haven't changed much, but it's the very positive polling of Ryan that has spurred CNN to change the state from "lean Obama" to true "toss up" on its electoral map.

Democratic Florida Congresswoman Kathy Castor responds to the new polling and weighs in on the debate about the candidates' Medicare plans on Starting Point today.

Filed under: 2012 Race • Medicare
August 15th, 2012
05:48 AM ET

Fact Check: Cutting through the Medicare rhetoric

Editor's note: This morning on "Starting Point," anchor Soledad O'Brien fact checks Medicare cuts claims after her interview with Romney surrogate John Sununu. The video is posted above. What follows is a transcript of the script from the package.

Yesterday on “Starting Point”, former New Hampshire Governor and senior Romney Campaign advisor John Sununu said this: “When Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it…It's a reduction in services a reduction in support for Medicare Advantage. That is taking money from the program.”

He added his voice to a growing chorus of Romney supporters, and the candidate himself, making similar claims against President Obama on Medicare.

* RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on “Meet the Press” last Sunday says President Obama "stole $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare. If any person in this entire debate has blood on their hands in regard to Medicare, it's Barack Obama. He is the one that's destroying Medicare."

* On AC36, Senior Romney adviser Barbara Comstock says “We are not stealing the $719 billion that Barack Obama took away from Medicare, from current seniors, from my parents who are retired.”

* And yesterday, Governor Romney says "He cuts the payments that go to Medicare by $700 billion and he uses that to pay for Obamacare."

But where is this idea that the president’s health care plan guts billions of dollars from Medicare coming from?

A Congressional Budget Office report says “If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, "[s]pending for Medicare would increase by an estimated $716 billion over that 2013-2022 period."

But that same CBO report says keeping “Obamacare” would not mean a $716 billion decrease in Medicare funding. The cost of Medicare would continue to rise, just not as rapidly. The CBO says this money – Democrats call it savings, Republicans call it cuts – would be achieved mostly through cutbacks in payments to providers and by changes to payment rates in private Medicare plans.

The Romney campaign argues all of this will ultimately lead to reduced access to health care.

"The fact is that he reduces services to Medicare beneficiaries currently on the package," Gov. Sununu claims in my interview with him yesterday on “Starting Point.”

Independent fact checker says that’s not true. The site says:

"The law stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits won't be reduced, and it adds some new benefits, such as improved coverage for pharmaceuticals."

Senior citizen advocacy group AARP, which generally opposes any policies that would negatively affect seniors, tells its members this:

"The health care law strengthens Medicare by protecting and improving your guaranteed benefits and cracking down on waste, fraud and inefficiency. “

And we have the health care law itself, which clearly states this:

“Nothing in the provisions of, or amendments made by, this Act shall result in a reduction of guaranteed benefits under title XVIII of the Social Security Act.”

So while we here at “Starting Point” enjoy healthy, even if at times heated debate, when it comes to the facts we like to hold all of our guests accountable – including Gov. Sununu.


Senior citizen advocacy group AARP on Medicare on Medicare

Congressional Budget Office report on Medicare

Affordable Care Act

Filed under: Fact check • Medicare