Florida Seniors Split on Medicare Debate

Brian Padden
In the southern U.S. state of Florida, senior citizens who make up 25 percent of the electorate are greatly concerned with the expanding costs of Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly.  Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have been competing for the support of those over 65.  But solutions proposed by the candidates are reinforcing the existing ideological divide between the parties - and not winning more votes.
The Republican Party's 2008 presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, has been campaigning for Mitt Romney in southern Florida.  He says new leadership is needed to reduce the more than one-trillion-dollar federal deficit.
“We have mortgaged our children, our grand-children's futures and there is now a debt of $51,000 per every man, woman and child in America.  We cannot stand that," he said. 
Republican deficit reduction plans rely heavily on cutting government spending. Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan once proposed cutting $716 billion from Medicare, but the Republican candidates say they will protect benefits for today's seniors and strengthen the plan for the next generation. 
Many Republican seniors in Florida, like Larry Stoltenberg, support reducing benefits for current recipients.  
“We have got to do something as a nation.  I have got three sons and two grandchildren.  I do not expect to see them $100,000 or $200,000 in debt because we decided that we want to give free medical care to everybody in the world.  I do not think that is right," he said. 
Robert Schaab says health care for seniors should not bankrupt the next generation.  "There has to be some changes made.  The seniors are going to have to give in.  I mean we can not absolutely destroy the younger class.  I mean, they have been awful generous to us.  And I think we got to give something back," he said. 
Republicans would like to eventually make Medicare a voucher program,  guaranteeing a limited amount of money for health care. 
But critics, like 88-year-old Democrat Eufaula Fraizer, fear the vouchers would not cover costs and would hurt the poor. 
“I do not like the voucher plan.  I prefer letting it stay just like it is.  I do not like the voucher plan.  Not even for nothing," she said. 
Republicans say President Obama is cutting $700 billion from Medicare to pay for what they call 'Obamacare'  - to give more citizens access to health insurance.  The president says he has been working to decrease medical costs, not coverage for seniors. 
Many Democrats, like 82-year-old Helen Portner, support the president's efforts. And Portner says she would be willing to pay more taxes to do it.
“I am willing right now, willing to give an additional amount of money to Medicare if I thought it was going to help those people that did not have enough money to bear the cost of what medical expenses are today, and as you know they are extremely high," she said. 
Analysts say Florida seniors' opinions on the Medicare debate reflect their individual political ideologies and are not likely to give either presidential candidate an advantage.   

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs