By Scott Wilson
The Washington Post
Saturday, August 7, 2010; 1:13 PM
President Obama on Saturday took credit for placing Medicare on a more certain fiscal path and pledged to American seniors that they would see more help soon paying for drug costs in a direct appeal to an important segment of the midterm electorate.
Citing a report issued this week by the Medicare trustees, Obama said the health-care overhaul he pushed through Congress this year has added at least a dozen years to Medicare's solvency. Obama also reminded seniors in his weekly radio and Internet address that they are now eligible for a $250 prescription drug rebate under the health-care law.
Next year, seniors who fall within the so-called doughnut hole - a gap in Medicare drug coverage - will qualify for a 50 percent discount on all prescription drugs. He said the hole will be closed entirely once the health-care measure kicks in fully over the next several years.
"Medicare is stronger and more secure," he said in the address. "That's important because Medicare isn't just a program. It's a commitment to America's seniors - that after working your whole life, you've earned the security of quality health care you can afford."
Seniors traditionally make up a large percentage of midterm election voters, and polls have shown them to be among the most uncertain about the consequences of Obama's health-care overhaul. His message to them Saturday was a clear one - that they have nothing to fear, and much to gain, from what he and the Democratic-controlled Congress have achieved.
Republicans plan to hold up the health-care measure as a symbol of what they say is Obama's fixation with government solutions to problems they believe could be better solved by the private sector.
As disappointing job numbers were released this week, many Republicans cited the health-care overhaul - often referred to by critics as Obama's "takeover" of nearly a fifth of the U.S, economy - as a reason the recovery has remained sluggish.
Obama listed a number of other benefits seniors will soon see as a result of the reform, including free preventative care. He said he expected seniors to save an average of $200 a year in premiums and $200 a year in out of pocket costs under the health care measure.
"So we are no longer accepting business as usual," Obama said. "We're making tough decisions to meet the challenges of our time."