SARASOTA - While President Obama makes his way criss-crossing the country, there is no doubt that he is keeping a close eye on the all-important swing state of Florida.
This past weekend, he was campaigning across the state and ABC 7’s Lauren Dorsett had the opportunity to catch up with the president for a few minutes in Kissimmee.
One of the issues they talked about is one important to Florida: Medicare.
“Senior citizens haven't seen their Medicare benefits reduced at all, and the reason is because Obamacare strengthened Medicare, for another 8 years. If it was repealed, Medicare would go bankrupt in 2016, by the end of Mr. Romney's first term. The second thing is the $716 billion that they always talk about was spending that was going to insurance companies and providers. That wasn't making seniors healthier, so what we said was, let's stop overpaying, because when the whole system overpays, it also means seniors’ premiums are higher. And instead, let’s use that money to close the donut hole that was affecting a bunch of seniors. Let’s make sure that seniors are getting free preventive care so that they're less sick and not using up care that could've been prevented if they had gotten better treatment in the first place. So this has strengthened Medicare, and seniors in Florida don't have to take my word for it, they can ask AARP that supported Obamacare because they knew that it was actually going to strengthen the system. I'm very confident that any senior out there who looks at the facts is gonna feel confident that our approach is going to strengthen Medicare, and theirs would basically end Medicare as we know it," said Obama.
But the Romney/Ryan camp says they don't want to change Medicare for anyone 55 and older. And for those younger, they'll have a choice between the same Medicare we have today, or a voucher system that allows you to find your own coverage.
The president says if that's the case, he believes if health care costs are higher, the patient will pay for it out of pocket.
So in essence, the president says the $716 billion was forced savings via reduced reimbursement rates to health care providers.
The Romney/Ryan plan has the same cuts to future spending, and it should reduce government spending, but the choice and cost burden will be on the senior. Ryan's health plan savings are returned to taxpayers.
The Romney/Ryan approach is a market-based health care system, which they believe will keep costs down.
With Florida's unemployment at 8.8%, job creation is another issue that hits home for Floridians. We asked the president about the slow growth and why more jobs have not been created faster.
"If you look at what we've done, when I was sworn into office, we were losing 80,000 jobs a month. And we've now had 30 consecutive months of positive job growth; 4.6 million jobs created now, and not good enough. And we lost 9 million jobs during the Great Recession. The question is, what's gonna be most effective in putting people back to work? My opponent’s suggesting tax cuts, particularly skewed toward the wealthy and less regulation, but that's what got us into the Great Recession. What I've said is, if we are focusing on manufacturing here in America, giving tax breaks to companies that are investing here, as opposed to shipping jobs overseas. If we make sure that college is accessible to everybody, and are continuing to improve our education system. If we reduce our deficit in a balanced way, so that we're cutting out programs that we don’t need, but we're also making sure that folks like me who can afford it are doing a little bit more. And if we are developing our natural energy resources in a way that doesn't cut anything out…invest in wind, solar, natural gas…that's the recipe for long term sustainable growth.”
Nancy Pelosi said Republicans blocked plans by Obama and Democrats that create jobs faster. We asked the president how can he be sure that won't happen again?
"Wherever I can cooperate with Republicans, I have. So we cut a trillion dollars out of spending that has helped reduce our deficit, that has been signed into law, uh...we helped to open up new markets for American products, so our trade deals, including those here in Florida, working to make sure that tourism was a bigger attraction so that other countries that wanted to come here had easier time getting visas. We've seen a significant boost in the Florida tourism industry, so there are a whole range of areas where we should be able to cooperate.”
Meanwhile, Republicans have said that President Obama promised to keep unemployment below 8%, but instead we have had 43 months of unemployment over 8%. Republicans have said Mitt Romney is the only candidate with a 5-part plan to create 12 million jobs.
We have tried to reach out to the Romney campaign for an interview, but have not heard back yet. He is scheduled to be in Sarasota next week for a fundraiser.