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Politics

Obama Heads to Florida as GOP Pounds him for Sending Medicare Funds to Obamacare

March 5, 2014 - 6:00pm

With President Barack Obama headed to South Florida on Friday, Republicans at the state and national levels are ramping up their attacks on the White House and its allies for cutting Medicare to fund the federal health-care law.

After a Florida Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott also hit at Obamas proposal to cut almost 6 percent of Medicare Advantage, a private Medicare insurance option, to fund the health-care law. Scott rose to political prominence in 2009 by leading Conservatives for Patients' Rights which opposed Obamas health-care law.

President Obamas administration recently announced cuts to the Medicare Advantage program as part of his larger reductions to Medicare, Scott said. He has decided to push forward with the cuts even though more families are using it, and it has increased to nearly 16 million people. Medicare Advantage accounts for 30 percent of total Medicare enrollees, so these cuts are a big deal and impact families in Florida. For many Florida seniors, their primary-care doctors and specialists have already been terminated from Medicare Advantage plans.

In Florida, these cuts will be devastating, Scott added. More than 1 million Floridians could face higher costs and less access as a result of these cuts. Patients are losing their doctors, their quality of care is decreasing, and their premiums are skyrocketing. The president should stop these cuts that are negatively impacting so many seniors who depend on Medicare Advantage.

Scotts close ally Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), piled on and looked to draw fire toward former Gov. Charlie Crist who, despite spending most of his political career as a Republican, is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott in November. The RPOF featured Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., on a call with the media on Thursday, hitting Obama for gutting Medicare Advantage to pay for the health-care law.

President Obama wants to talk about expanding opportunity for the middle class tomorrow in Miami, but the fact remains that Obamacare only causes misery for the middle class, Curry said. Charlie Crist is Floridas Obamacare cheerleader in chief, supporting a policy that has caused 300,000 Floridians to lose their health care plans and could affect another 1.3 million Florida seniors as a result of Medicare Advantage cuts. If President Obama were serious, he would follow Gov.Scotts leadership on tax cuts, debt reduction, and strong job creation.

In Washington, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., took to the House floor on Thursday and attacked Obamas decision to shift funds from Medicare to pay for the health-care law.

Nearly 30 percent of all seniors 15 million Americans choose Medicare Advantage, Bilirakis said. Individuals have testified before the Energy and Commerce [Committee] that Medicare Advantage provides better results than traditional Medicare by embracing free-market principles.

Obamacare cuts Medicare by over $700 billion, Bilirakis added. These cuts will reduce the access seniors have to Medicare Advantage. This is unacceptable.

Conservative groups will be looking to make the shift of funds an issue come November. On Thursday, Politico reported that the conservative American Action Network will target three Democratic incumbents in the U.S. Senate and a host of congressmen, including U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., on the issue.

The White House continues to defend and promote the federal health-care law. First lady Michelle Obama spoke at the Jessie Trice Community Health Center in Miami on Wednesday afternoon to encourage navigators who are signing Floridians up for the health-care program.

One of the reasons why Im here is that I want to thank all of you, all these assisters, because I think its so important for people to understand at this point in signing up for the Affordable Care Act -- because sign-up ends at the end of this month, Mrs. Obama said. Thats important for people to know. But what you guys are doing here is making sure that people who need help signing up, working their way through the website -- through the process so that folks dont have to go it alone. Because some folks might be a little intimidated to come -- get online and make the phone call. This is all new to so many people. But because of places like this community health center -- and there are thousands of them across the country that are providing the same type of assistance that you all are doing here -- because of your work, weve got 4 million people who have signed up for health care. And that is a milestone. Thats a very good thing.

The first lady pointed out that many minorities did not have health care and were falling behind in preventive care. You all know, because you work in the community health world, how important it is for folks in our communities to have primary preventative care, she said. It is at the core of keeping us whole as people. And in the African-American community, unfortunately, one in five of us is not insured, and the numbers are no better in the Hispanic community.

And you all know what that means, she continued. Its that people are going without treatment for diabetes, they arent getting the medicine they need, they arent getting regular checkups, theyre not getting proper guidance with regard to nutrition. The Affordable Care Act is a life-changer for so many Americans who otherwise wouldnt be able to afford insurance. And what people should understand is that the average adult will be able to get insurance for less than $100 a month. Thats a pair of gym shoes. Thats less than a cellphone bill. And for young people who are around 26 or so, those young folks can probably find a plan for as little as $50 a month.

Mrs. Obama praised her audience for doing great work and assured them you are doing Gods work.

The president also continued to defend the law. Reviewing the accomplishments of his presidency at a fundraising event in Boston for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Wednesday night, Obama trumpeted the law. We have made sure that every American is able to get access to health insurance, something that presidents from both parties have fought for, for almost 100 years, Obama said.

Obama is expected to showcase his opportunity agenda on Friday in Miami. Speaking at Central Connecticut University on Wednesday, Obama inissted his agenda is designed to help us restore that idea of opportunity for everybody for this generation, the generation of young people who are studying here and are about to enter the workforce. Obamas agenda includes raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, more good jobs that pay good wages, preparing Americas students to enter the changing workforce, ensuring women have equal pay and capping student loan rates.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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