Obama: Medicare crisis is only "political excuse"

As Medicare and Medicaid celebrate their 50th anniversary this week, President Obama is knocking critics who say the programs need drastic cuts to survive, accusing them of making a "political excuse."

"Today, we're often told that Medicare and Medicaid are in crisis," Mr. Obama said Saturday in a video. "But that's usually a political excuse to cut their funding, privatize them, or phase them out entirely -- all of which would undermine their core guarantee."

"The truth is, these programs aren't in crisis," the president added. "Nor have they kept us from cutting our deficits by two-thirds since I took office."

Republicans have recently pushed to reform entitlement programs, and GOP presidential hopefuls have made it a 2016 clarion call in their party.

"We need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something -- because they're not going to have anything," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said at a New Hampshire event in July. He later added that Medicare was "not a sustainable system."

Democrats like establishment favorite Hillary Clinton took a shot at Bush Friday on his home turf, telling the National Urban League in Florida that a candidate can't "credibly say that everyone has a 'right to rise' and then say you are for phasing out Medicare and repealing Obamacare."

The president on Saturday also rejected the notion of gutting Medicare, saying "we all deserve a health care system that delivers efficient, high-quality care." In order to keep such programs viable, "we'll have to make smart changes over time, just like we always have."

One such change already underway: the Affordable Care Act, an achievement which Mr. Obama said includes sustaining Medicare funding. The president touted the ACA for saving the United States more than 15 billion dollars on prescription medicine and expanding Medicaid to help cover nearly 13 million more Americans.

"We're moving our health care system toward models that reward the quality of the care you receive, not the quantity of care you receive," the president said. "That means healthier Americans and a healthier federal budget."

In their own video, Republicans boasted of their legislative record in the latest session of Congress, just as deliberative body takes off on a month-long vacation.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, ticked off Saturday a list of legislative accomplishments, including enacting Medicare reform, expiring bulk collection of phone data, ensuring Congress has some say in approving the recently negotiated Iran nuclear deal, and adding more resources to fight human trafficking.

"Instead of the same old, outdated models in Washington, D.C., we're working on solutions that empower you to achieve a better life," Rodgers said. But, the Washington Republican acknowledged, "we have much more to do."

"Dozens of effective solutions to deliver you real results are in the works," Rodgers promised. She went on to list bills still on the agenda, including legislation to reform education standards, modernize the VA system, and change the federal government's role in biomedical research and funding.

Rodgers' statement comes a day after the president chastised Congress over their habit of procrastinating.

"We should not be leaving all the business of the U.S. government to the last minute," Mr. Obama said Friday, when he signed a temporary extension for the highway bill, passed through Congress in an 11th-hour vote to renew transportation funding before the previous bill expired.

"It's a bad way for the U.S. government to do business," the president said.