Bill Clinton On Medicare: ‘There Were No Cuts To Benefits At All’

Former President Bill Clinton, reminding voters that “I’ve been there,” gave a 50-minute defense of the Obama administration’s record Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., In the video excerpt above, Clinton praised Obama’s health policies and drew contrasts to Republican proposals.

A transcript follows.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: That brings me to health care.

The Republicans call it, derisively, “Obamacare.” They say it’s a government takeover, a disaster, and that if we’ll just elect them, they’ll repeal it. Well, are they right?

Let’s take a look at what’s actually happened so far.

First, individuals and businesses have already gotten more than $1 billion in refunds from insurance companies, because the new law requires 80 percent to 85 percent of your premium to go to your health care, not profits or promotion.

And the gains are even greater than that, because a bunch of insurance companies have applied to lower their rates to comply with the requirement.

Second, more than 3 million young people between 19 and 25 are insured for the first time, because their parents’ policies can cover them.

Third, millions of seniors are receiving preventive care, all the way from breast cancer screenings to tests for heart problems and scores of other things, and younger people are getting them, too.

Fourth, soon the insurance companies — not the government, the insurance companies — will have millions of new customers, many of them middle-class people with pre-existing conditions who never could get insurance before.

Now, finally, listen to this. For the last two years — after going up at three times the rate of inflation for a decade — for the last two years, health care costs have been under 4 percent in both years for the first time in 50 years.

So let me ask you something. Are we better off because President Obama fought for health care reform? You bet we are.

Now, there were two other attacks on the president in Tampa I think deserve an answer. First, both Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the president for allegedly “robbing Medicare” of $716 billion. That’s the same attack they leveled against the Congress in 2010, and they got a lot of votes on it. But it’s not true.

Look, here’s what really happened. You be the judge. Here’s what really happened. There were no cuts to benefits at all, none.

What the president did was to save money by taking the recommendations of a commission of professionals to cut unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that were not making people healthier and were not necessary to get the providers to provide the service.

And instead of raiding Medicare, he used the savings to close the doughnut hole in the Medicare drug program.

And — you all got to listen carefully to this; this is really important — and to add eight years to the life of the Medicare trust fund so it is solvent until 2024. 

So, President Obama and the Democrats didn’t weaken Medicare. They strengthened Medicare.

Now, when Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, “the biggest, coldest power play,” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, because that $716 billion is exactly, to the dollar, the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget.

You’ve got to give one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.

Now you’re having a good time, but this is getting serious. I want you to listen. It’s important, because a lot of people believe this stuff.

Now, at least on this issue, on this one issue, Gov. Romney has been consistent. He attacked President Obama, too, but he actually wants to repeal those savings and give the money back to the insurance companies.

He wants to go back to the old system, which means we’ll reopen the donut hole and force seniors to pay more for drugs, and we’ll reduce the life of the Medicare trust fund by eight full years.

So if he’s elected, and if he does what he promised to do, Medicare will now go broke in 2016. Think about that. That means after all we won’t have to wait until their voucher program kicks in, in 2023, to see the end of Medicare as we know it. They’re going to do it to us sooner than we thought.

Now, folks, this is serious, because it gets worse. And you won’t be laughing when I finish telling you this. They also want to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming 10 years. Of course, that’s going to really hurt a lot of poor kids.

But that’s not all. A lot of folks don’t know it, but nearly two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for Medicare seniors who are eligible for Medicaid.

It’s going to end Medicare as we know it. And a lot of that money is also spent to help people with disabilities, including a lot of middle-class families whose kids have Down syndrome or autism or other severe conditions.

And, honestly, just think about it. If that happens, I don’t know what those families are going to do. So I know what I’m going to do: I’m going to do everything I can to see that it doesn’t happen.

We can’t let it happen. We can’t.