Transcript: First 2012 presidential debate, part 2

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left, listens to President Barack Obama during the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. AP

Transcript, part 2 (Part 1 HERE)

LEHRER: We'll talk about -- specifically about health care in a moment. But what -- do you support the voucher system, Governor?

ROMNEY: What I support is no change for current retirees and near-retirees to Medicare. And the president supports taking $716 billion out of that program.

LEHRER: And what about the vouchers?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: So that's -- that's number one.

Number two is for people coming along that are young, what I do to make sure that we can keep Medicare in place for them is to allow them either to choose the current Medicare program or a private plan. Their choice.

They get to choose -- and they'll have at least two plans that will be entirely at no cost to them. So they don't have to pay additional money, no additional $6,000. That's not going to happen. They'll have at least two plans.

ROMNEY: And by the way, if the government can be as efficient as the private sector and offer premiums that are as low as the private sector, people will be happy to get traditional Medicare or they'll be able to get a private plan.

I know my own view is I'd rather have a private plan. I'd just assume not have the government telling me what kind of health care I get. I'd rather be able to have an insurance company. If I don't like them, I can get rid of them and find a different insurance company. But people make their own choice.

The other thing we have to do to save Medicare? We have to have the benefits high for those that are low income, but for higher income people, we're going to have to lower some of the benefits. We have to make sure this program is there for the long term. That's the plan that I've put forward.

And, by the way the idea came not even from Paul Ryan or -- or Senator Wyden, who's the co-author of the bill with -- with Paul Ryan in the Senate, but also it came from Bill -- Bill Clinton's chief of staff. This is an idea that's been around a long time, which is saying, hey, let's see if we can't get competition into the Medicare world so that people can get the choice of different plans at lower cost, better quality. I believe in competition.

OBAMA: Jim, if I -- if I can just respond very quickly, first of all, every study has shown that Medicare has lower administrative costs than private insurance does, which is why seniors are generally pretty happy with it.

And private insurers have to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that. That's what they do. And so you've got higher administrative costs, plus profit on top of that. And if you are going to save any money through what Governor Romney's proposing, what has to happen is, is that the money has to come from somewhere.

And when you move to a voucher system, you are putting seniors at the mercy of those insurance companies. And over time, if traditional Medicare has decayed or fallen apart, then they're stuck.

And this is the reason why AARP has said that your plan would weaken Medicare substantially. And that's why they were supportive of the approach that we took.

One last point I want to make. We do have to lower the cost of health care, not just in Medicare and Medicaid... LEHRER: Talk about that in a minute.

OBAMA: ... but -- but -- but overall.

LEHRER: OK.

OBAMA: And so...

ROMNEY: That's -- that's a big topic. Can we -- can we stay on Medicare?

OBAMA: Is that a -- is that a separate topic?

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Yeah, we're going to -- yeah, I want to get to it.

OBAMA: I'm sorry.

LEHRER: But all I want to do is go very quickly...

ROMNEY: Let's get back to Medicare.

LEHRER: ... before we leave the economy...

ROMNEY: Let's get back to Medicare.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: The president said that the government can provide the service at lower cost and without a profit.

LEHRER: All right.

ROMNEY: If that's the case, then it will always be the best product that people can purchase.

LEHRER: Wait a minute, Governor.

ROMNEY: But my experience -- my experience the private sector typically is able to provide a better product at a lower cost.

LEHRER: All right. Can we -- can the two of you agree that the voters have a choice -- a clear choice between the two...

ROMNEY: Absolutely.

LEHRER: ... of you on Medicare?

ROMNEY: Absolutely.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

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