(CBS News) On a proclaimed mission to dispel "accusations and misinformation flying around" in a fight that's rapidly accelerated since Rep. Paul Ryan's appointment to the GOP presidential ticket, President Obama in his weekly address vowed to protect the Medicare benefits his Affordable Care Act promises seniors.
Trumpeting news this week from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that under his health care law, 5.4 million seniors on Medicare have saved more than $4.1 billion on prescription drugs, the president laid out other successes of his program, including 18 million seniors who have taken advantage of preventive care benefits like cancer screenings.
"That's progress - it means that seniors everywhere are getting the care they need for less," he said.
"This news is also a reminder of what's really at stake when we talk about the future of Medicare," Mr. Obama continued. "It's not about overheated rhetoric at election time; it's about a promise this country made to our seniors that says if you put in a lifetime of hard work, you shouldn't lose your home or your life savings just because you get sick."
The debate on Medicare
"I'm willing to work with anyone to keep improving the current system," Mr. Obama said, "but I refuse to do anything that undermines the basic idea of Medicare as a guarantee for seniors who get sick."
Delivering the Republicans' weekly address, though, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky made the case that working across the aisle on Medicare is impossible because the president, he said, is "missing in action."
"Together, we could fix entitlements," Paul said. "Even in an election year, I've offered to work with the president. I've called and written. I've ridden with the president on Air Force One and offered to help him build bridges, to repair our nation's infrastructure. But I've received no answer."
But channeling the Constitution-rooted ideology of his father, libertarian standard-bearer Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, the senator suggested the enemy "is not gridlock," nor is it "Barack Obama or the Democrats." The enemy, he said, "is the looting of the Treasury and 20 years of deficit spending... an out-of-control, unaccountable Federal Reserve and its devaluation of our currency... our lack of being bound by the Constitution."
"While America flounders, the President campaigns," Paul concluded. "We deserve better. A country with such a rich heritage deserves a leader who values the work ethic and understands that you did build that. That you did earn that."