(Photo: Reuters/Scott Audette)
Rep. Paul Ryan brought his 78-year-old mother on stage and addressed a crowd of seniors in Florida, pledging to protect the health insurance program for the elderly, and charging that President Barack Obama would take billions from Medicare to pay for his health care reform.
"Like a lot of Americans, when I think of Medicare, it's not just a program, it's not just a bunch of numbers, it's what my mom relies on, it's what my grandma had," Reuters quoted Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate, as telling a group of several thousand seniors at The Village, a retirement community located around Sumter County, Fla., on Saturday.
The Wisconsin representative stood in front of a banner reading, "Protect And Strengthen Medicare," and said, "I want to introduce you to my mom, Betty. She's why I'm here." His mother Betty Douglas lives for six months in Ft. Lauderdale in southern Florida, and half the year in their hometown of Janesville, Wis.
By saying Obama's 2010 health care reform law would take billions from Medicare, the 42-year-old Republican vice presidential candidate sought to come closer to Romney's plan that would spend $716 billion more than either Obamacare or his own plan over the next decade. "Medicare should not be used as a piggy bank for Obamacare," he said.
Obama also focused on Medicare at a campaign event attended by over 2,000 people on Saturday in Windham, N.H. "Their plan would put Medicare on track to be ended as we know it," he was quoted as telling the crowd.
"You'd think they'd avoid talking about Medicare given the fact that both of them have proposed to voucherize the Medicare system. I guess they figure the best defense is to try to go on offense," Obama added.
Republicans say Obama would cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for the healthcare overhaul law signed in 2010. And Democrats say Ryan's proposal would fundamentally change the plan, making it a voucher program with an increase in cost for senior citizens.
Ryan also spoke on Saturday about his grandmother who had Alzheimer's disease. "My grandma moved in with us – with my mom and me – when I was in high school," he said. "She had advanced Alzheimer's. My mom and I were her two primary caregivers. You learn a lot about life; you learn a lot about your elderly seniors in your family; you learn a lot about Alzheimer's."
The congressman said Medicare was there for his family and for his grandma when they needed it then. "And Medicare is there for my mom, when she needs it now. And we have to keep that guarantee." But for that, he added, "we must reform it for my generation."
Medicare has become a key issue in the presidential campaign after the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Romney, announced Ryan as his running mate a little over a week ago.