U.S. President Barack Obama is reaching out to America's senior citizens as he seeks support for his plan to reform the nation's health care system.
The president took his campaign for health care reform to the headquarters of the American Association of Retired Persons, a powerful organization representing the interests of Americans over the age of 50.
Health care is a big issue for AARP members. Some are still in the workforce and receive health insurance through their employers. But most get benefits though Medicare, a government program that subsidizes health care for Americans over 65.
They were given the opportunity to question the president in a format similar to a radio talk show, with association members calling or e-mailing with comments and queries.
A woman named Carolyn phoned from the state of Illinois and said many seniors are worried that their Medicare benefits will be cut as part of health care reform. "The question is does this translate into dictation of what can and can not be given to a senior?," she said.
The president assured her that seniors under Medicare will still be able to see their doctors and get the care they need. But he said steps must be taken to stop waste and abuse in the system. "We just want to provide some guidelines to Medicare, and by extension to the private sector, about what works and what doesn't," he said.
President Obama warned the price of inaction is high. He agreed a lot of attention is being paid to the cost of health care reform. But he said people should think about the cost to the nation if nothing is done. He said the price of care will rise, the government tax fund that supports Medicare will dry up, and the number of people without health insurance will skyrocket.
"The costs of doing nothing are trillions of dollars in costs over the next couple of decades, not billions, but trillions in costs without anybody getting better care," he said.
The president spoke against a backdrop of negotiations on Capitol Hill on proposed health care legislation. Lawmakers are working against the clock, with a month-long recess scheduled to begin in a matter of days.