Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is facing backlash after comments he made suggesting Medicare's current system should be "phase[d] out" to ensure the program's viability.
During a speech at an Americans for Prosperity event on Wednesday, Bush said the current Medicare system could be "phase[d] out" to "move to a new system" that will ensure coverage will be available for future beneficiaries.
While Bush applauded a Medicare reform proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)—which would turn the program into a voucher-like system for future beneficiaries—he criticized "the left" for using the proposal to frighten seniors.
"Many people are afraid to act [on Medicare] because they're fearful of just getting beat up politically," Bush said.
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Critics say Bush wants to end Medicare
Some have jumped on Bush's comments as evidence Bush wants to end the program.
For example, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, called the remarks "an indication of how far right-wing the Republican party has become when its 'moderate' candidate, Jeb Bush, at a forum ... is now talking about phasing out Medicare."
In addition, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who chairs the Democratic National Committee, said although Bush might be able to "afford to get by without Medicare," there are millions of seniors who "count on it for access to quality, affordable health care."
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Bush defends comments
Bush defended his comments during a town hall meeting on Thursday.
He noted that his plan would not affect individuals currently receiving Medicare or those about to receive it. "But your children and grandchildren are not going to get the benefits that they believe they're going to get ... because the amount of money put in compared to the amount of money that the system costs is wrong," Bush said. "It's an actuarially unsound health care system."
To address the issue, Bush stressed Medicare needs to be changed in a way that "protect[s] it for people that have it" and "reform[s] it for people that are expecting it." He added, "We can't just say everything is great and wait until the very end when we end up with a catastrophe" that cannot be addressed (Delaney/Young, Huffington Post, 7/23; Carney, "Ballot Box," The Hill, 7/23; Jackson, "On Politics," USA Today, 7/23; Stokols, Politico, 7/23; Leary, "Naked Politics," Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald, 7/23).
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