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Senior Citizens Hear Encouraging Words on Entitlements in President's Second Inaugural

'The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us' - see video

Video of segment of President Barack Obama's inaugural address on the need to reduce health costs, but also defended the importance of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Jan. 22, 2013 – President Barack Obama generally drew praise from senior citizen advocates for the words in his inaugural address yesterday that signaled his commitment to preserve the “entitlement programs” of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Politico’s reporter Carrie Budoff Brown noted that the President did not reiterate the words used in his first inauguration that we must make “hard decisions” to preserve entitlement programs.

The AARP political blog said of the speech, “President Barack Obama made a forceful case for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in his second inaugural address Monday, surrounded by members of Congress who have clashed on what role those programs should play in solving the nation’s budget problems.”

The AARP blog did note that the President used the term “hard choices” in speaking about reducing the cost of healthcare and the size of the deficit. He then noted, “But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.”

Speaking specifically about the entitlement programs, Obama said, “The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us,” he said. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

Following are reports from other media sources as gathered by Kaiser Health News.

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Vows Aggressive Agenda
With specifics not usually offered in inaugural addresses, Mr. Obama promised to preserve government health-care programs, expand rights for women and gay couples, and press for gun controls, overhauls of the tax code and immigration laws, as well as climate-change measures (Lee, 1/21).

The Associated Press: Obama Stands His Ground On Fiscal Debates
But it was the paragraph that followed in his inaugural address that foreshadowed what's to come — more hard bargaining and more last-minute deals driven by Obama's own conviction that he now wields an upper hand. "We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future," he said. "The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great." This was the language of his re-election campaign (Kuhnhenn, 1/22).


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The New York Times: Obama Offers Liberal Vision: 'We Must Act'
On a day that echoed with refrains from the civil rights era and tributes to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Obama dispensed with the post-partisan appeals of four years ago to lay out a forceful vision of advancing gay rights, showing more tolerance toward illegal immigrants, preserving the social welfare safety net and acting to stop climate change (Baker, 1/21).

Los Angeles Times: In Obama's Inaugural Speech, A Sweeping Liberal Vision
But Obama made clear he views government as essential to fix the nation's problems and to guarantee the security of its citizens, reaffirming Democratic ideology stretching from the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. "Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative," he said. "They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great." The remarks were an allusion to one of the fiercest arguments of the presidential campaign — when Republican nominee Mitt Romney described 47% of Americans, Obama supporters, as overly reliant on government — as well as to attacks on entitlement programs during recent budget battles in Congress (West and Parsons, 1/21).

Politico: President Obama's Second Term: Return Of The Liberal
President Barack Obama's second inaugural address was the most liberal speech he has delivered as president — a blunt summons to wage war on poverty, defend entitlements for the middle class, end "perpetual war" overseas and move past the calibrated progressive agenda of his first term. … In a challenge to the GOP, Obama mentioned the country's $16.4 trillion debt load once and then, only to announce his stalwart opposition to slashing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (Thrush, 1/21).

Politico: Obama Dodges 'Hard Choices' On Entitlements
President Barack Obama insisted four years ago that the nation must make "hard decisions" to preserve entitlement programs. But on Monday, the "hard choices" he spoke of on health care and the deficit came with a major caveat: He's not willing to give up much (Budoff Brown, 1/22).

Modern Healthcare: Obama Sees 'Hard Choices' On Health Costs
President Barack Obama used his second inaugural address to underline his promise to reduce federal healthcare costs without cutting benefits. In an address light on healthcare references, he never mentioned his signature healthcare law, which launches its major provisions next year. Obama's speech echoed campaign trail comments that while changes are needed to keep Medicare and Medicaid solvent, they should not impact beneficiaries. … In the run-up to another round of discussions on changes to the federal entitlement programs, Obama framed the federal healthcare programs in the sharp terms of a divisive election that turned in part on Republicans' proposed changes to the federal entitlement programs (Daly, 1/21).

Medpage Today: Obama Highlights Health Issues In Inauguration
Health care received a couple of direct mentions from President Obama in his inauguration speech Monday, but he stood up for entitlement programs amid ongoing calls for changes. ... Obama seemed to reference changes for the programs that some say would only shift costs or add burdens to beneficiaries. For example, Republicans in Congress have called for transforming Medicaid into a block grant program or raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67. Rep. Jim McDermott, MD (D-Wash.), told MedPage Today Monday the president was trying in his speech to inspire hope we can come together to accomplish the nation's goals- including providing healthcare for those who need it (Pittman, 1/21).

From the Republican perspective:

Lexington Herald: Sen. Mitch McConnell Says Medicare, Social Security Must Change To Fix U.S. Debt
The nation's debt is its biggest problem, and the only way to fix it is to make changes in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said Friday. McConnell, speaking to several hundred people during Commerce Lexington's Public Policy Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency, said those changes should include raising eligibility ages over time. "Only one thing can save this country, and that's to get a handle on this deficit and debt issue," said McConnell, the Senate minority leader. "No action means the demise" of entitlement programs, he said. "We have to assure they will be there for future generations" (Brammer, 1/21).

Most media reports are part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here.


Some of this information is reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery. © Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.


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