The candidates on debt, health care, Medicare & Social Security

November 4, 2012 

DEBT

Obama: The president promises to cut projected deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years, a goal that will require Congress to raise the capital gains tax, boost taxes on households earning over $250,000 a year, impose a minimum 30 percent tax on incomes above $1 million, and more. Fell far short of his first-term pledge to cut in half the deficit.

Romney: The GOP nominee promises to cut $500 billion a year from the federal budget by 2016 to bring spending below 20 percent of the U.S. economy and to balance it by 2020. Specifics are lacking. Romney also says he would increase military spending, and reverse $716 billion in Medicare cuts and cut taxes. He favors a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.

HEALTH CARE

Obama: The Democrat achieved a landmark overhaul putting the United States on a path to universal coverage by, in part, requiring almost everyone to obtain insurance. Under the law, insurers will be banned from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illness, tax credits will subsidize premiums, people without work-based insurance will have access to new markets, small business would get help offering insurance and Medicaid will be expanded.

Romney: The Republican promises to repeal “Obamacare,” a law modeled largely after the universal health-care law that he helped pass as governor of Massachusetts. Romney says states, not Washington, should drive policy. He adds he, too, he would protect people with pre-existing conditions, though his plan only does so for those who maintain continuous coverage, not a major change from protections in effect. Romney also would expand individual medical savings accounts and let savings be used for insurance premiums and personal medical costs.

MEDICARE

Obama: His health-care law improves coverage for beneficiaries with high prescription costs and removes co-pays for some preventive benefits. It also cuts Medicare spending for hospitals and other providers by more than $700 billion over a decade. That money is being used to provide health insurance to more working-age Americans, and the government also counts the cuts as extending the life of the program’s trust fund, which critics say is double counting. He hasn’t ruled out increasing costs for middle-class and upper-income Medicare recipients or raising the eligibility age to 67 from 65.

Romney: He would introduce “generous,” undetermined subsidies to help future retirees buy private insurance or join a government plan modeled on Medicare. He also proposes gradually increasing the eligibility age to 67. Repealing “Obamacare” would roll back improved benefits for seniors unless Congress protects them. It also would reverse cuts to hospitals and other providers, which critics say could hasten the insolvency of Medicare.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Obama: The president has not proposed a comprehensive plan to address Social Security’s financial problems. In 2011, he proposed using a new measure of inflation that would reduce annual increases in benefits. The proposal would reduce Social Security’s long-term shortfall by about 25 percent, according to actuaries.

Romney: The GOP nominee says he will protect the status quo for people 55 and over but, for the next generation, raise the retirement age for full benefits by one or two years. He says he also would reduce inflation increases in benefits for wealthier recipients.

The Associated Press

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