Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan drew loud boos and shouts of “liar!” at the AARP national convention in New Orleans when he insisted that the Obama-backed health care law harms Medicare.
NBC news reported that booing from the nation's largest senior citizens lobby began when Ryan told the crowd of 4000 that the law would hurt today's seniors. He then proclaimed: “Seniors are threatened by Obamacare.”
“The first step to a stronger Medicare is to repeal Obamacare, because it represents the worst of both worlds,” Ryan said as members continued to shout. “It weakens Medicare for today’s seniors and puts it at risk for the next generation. First, it funnels $716 billion out of Medicare to pay for a new entitlement we didn’t even ask for. Second, it puts 15 unelected bureaucrats in charge of Medicare’s future.”
“You lie!” one woman in the crowd yelled as others booed. “Liar!” yelled another, The Post said.
“You know President Obama’s slogan, right?” Ryan asked the crowd of 4000 seniors gathered in a ballroom of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on Friday, the Washington Post reported. “’Forward’ — forward into a future where seniors are denied the care they earned because a bureaucrat decided it wasn’t worth the money.”
In the Wisconsin Congressman’s nearly 30-minute speech, he also sought to set the record straight on what Medicare would look like under a Romney-Ryan administration.
"Our plan empowers future seniors to choose the coverage that works best for them from a list of plans that are required to offer at least the same level of benefits as traditional Medicare. This financial support system is designed to guarantee that seniors can always afford Medicare coverage - no exceptions," he said. "Our idea is to force insurance companies to compete against each other to better serve seniors, with more help for the poor and the sick - and less help for the wealthy."
Some still weren't buying it. Scattered attendees yelled out, “No vouchers!” and “Tax the 1 percent!”
Asked about his plan during a question-and-answer section, Ryan said that Democrats call his plan a "voucher" because it is "a poll-tested word basically designed to scare today's seniors."
It didn't get any better when the topic changed to Social Security.
According to the Washington Post, at one point, when Ryan told the crowd that “all that we need now is leaders who have the political will to save and strengthen Social Security,” one man quipped: “Got one!”
Ryan's Mom brought applause
The Post said that the crowd was silent for most of Ryan’s speech and applauded him as he took and left the stage. He won applause for pledging to reduce the deficit and cut spending.
Applause also came when he introduced his mother, Betty Douglas, a 78-year-old retiree whom he says turned her life around with Social Security survivors' benefits after his father died when Ryan was 16.
“When I think about Medicare, I don’t just think about charts and graphs and numbers,” Ryan told the crowd. “My thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer’s and moved in with mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved.”
He added, “We had help from Medicare, and it was there, just like it’s there for my mom today.”
Obama appeared before Ryan speech
Earlier in the day, Obama had set the stage for Ryan's remarks when he appeared live via satellite from Woodbridge, Va. -- to the same AARP convention-- before Ryan spoke, knocking the whole Romney-Ryan Medicare plan.
"There has been a lot of talk about Medicare and Social Security that hasn't been on the level," Obama told seniors. The repeal of the 2010 health care law, he said, would mean billions of dollars in new profits for insurance companies and would raise health care costs for seniors.
"Their plan replaces guaranteed medical benefits with a voucher that won't keep up with costs. When they tell you that their plan lets you keep your doctor, they're leaving out one thing, and that's the facts," Obama said of the plan put forward by his GOP rivals.
Obama argued that his health care policies have strengthened Medicare and that his opponents would leave seniors at the mercy of insurance companies.
But even before that, AARP's CEO Barry Rand had told the crowd of more than 4,000 that the organization is nonpartisan, WLS reported. However, he also stressed the AARP's support of the Affordable Care Act., saying it won't harm guaranteed Medicare benefits.
Obama's and Ryan's back-to-back speeches comes as many of the eight or so battleground state polls show the GOP ticket losing ground to Obama.
Polling shows Obama with a slight lead nationally. In particular, CBS reports a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this week found the public prefers Obama's approach to Medicare over Romney's, 47 percent to 37 percent.
But the Sun-Times said an Associated Press-GfK poll that was released this week found Romney was favored by seniors likely to vote, 52 percent to 41 percent for Obama.
The Sun-Times notes that Americans 50 and over — the age that qualifies for American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) membership — are an especially important demographic for the candidates to persuade because they register in greater numbers than those who are younger and are almost twice as likely to cast their ballot.
You can read Ryan's entire speech for the AARP as prepared for delivery located on the National Review Online web site here.