September 16, 1995
Web posted at: 10:25 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Carl Rochelle
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Medicare reform is shaping up as a major battle between the White House and congressional Republicans.
Medicare was a hot topic at a town meeting in Smyrna, Georgia, Saturday, where Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich criticized Democrats who have challenged the Republican plan to cut $270 billion from Medicare.
"Look, these guys have been consistently misinforming people and trying to frighten 85-year-old people, and I think it has been bizarre. They jump up and say it'll cost a thousand dollars a year more, and that's just plain not true," Gingrich said. (162k AIFF sound)
Gingrich was firing the latest salvo in a battle escalated Friday by President Clinton, who promised to veto the plan if the Republicans don't reduce the amount they propose to cut.
"I can't believe anyone would willingly, willingly damage the seniors of this country, the Americans with disabilities, the children of the country, as much as I believe this proposal will damage them, especially to pay for a tax cut that is too large," Clinton said Friday. (102k AIFF sound)
The Republican Medicare reform proposal would try to encourage senior citizens to move out of traditional Medicare coverage and into cheaper private plans known as "managed care." Payments to doctors and hospitals would be cut if the expected savings don't come about.
A new CNN/Time Magazine poll shows only 14 percent of Americans want to require seniors to move into managed care plans. Another 32 percent would encourage it, but most, 44 percent, prefer no change.
A slim majority, 46 percent of respondents, favor vouchers for Medicare patients, compared to 43 percent who are opposed to vouchers. Vouchers could also be controversial, because if medical costs exceed the amount of the vouchers the patient would be required to pay the difference.
About 33 million older Americans would be affected by any change in Medicare. That's powerful voting bloc, as both Clinton and the seniors are aware. Even though it is not election year yet, political watchers know this is not just a budget battle; it's part of the battle for the presidency in 1996.
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