Chuck Schumer denied tonight that President Obama had endorsed means-testing Medicare in his State of the Union speech.
“I didn’t hear him say that,” Schumer, the number-three Democrat in the Senate, says in response to my question about Obama means-testing Medicare. When I asked him what Obama had meant by saying the wealthy should pay more, Schumer again deflects. “I don’t know. I didn’t hear what he said.”
Here are the relevant lines from the speech, as prepared for delivery (emphasis mine):
On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission. Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs. The reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.
Schumer’s attitude may explain why Republicans, although supportive of means-testing Medicare, were skeptical that Obama really intended to follow through on it.
“I’ll wait and see if he follows through on it,” says John Thune (R., S.D.). “We’ve heard a lot of this before.”
Ron Johnson (R., Wisc.) was similarly doubtful. “We’ll see if any members of his party actually are willing to tackle reforming Medicare and Social Security to make sure those things are on for future generations,” he said, adding he would believe it when he saw it. “I hope he’s sincere about that.”
Arkansas congressman Tom Cotton said Obama didn’t have “credibility” on being serious about means-testing Medicare. “This is something reportedly he’s proposed time and again in private,” Cotton remarks. “He’s never publicly actually come forward with a real plan, so I’m skeptical until I see details.”
UPDATE: According to the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, the White House is denying Obama was endorsing means-testing Medicare:
If that’s indeed the case, seems like a bizarre way to reference it in the speech.