Bush clarifies claim to ‘phase out’ Medicare

Jeb Bush (Charles Krupa, AP)

Jeb Bush (Charles Krupa, AP)

Jeb Bush, under fire from Democrats for saying he would “phase out” Medicare, said Thursday the program has to be reformed because  of unsustainable costs in the long run.

“It’s an actuarially unsound health care system,” Bush told the crowd at a town hall in New Hampshire, adding that “$50 trillion dollars of debt has been accrued and if we do nothing, that’s the burden that we’re going to place on your children and grandchildren.”

Bush spoke a day after making Medicare comments at another town hall: “We need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something — because they’re not going to have anything.”

Democrats pounced on the “phase out” comment, saying Bush wants to gut the old age health insurance program that has been around for half a century.

Maybe Bush “can afford to get by without Medicare,” but millions of future retirees “count on it for access to quality, affordable health care,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. “I am sick and tired of Republicans who say that the only way to save Medicare is to destroy it.”

A critical questioner confronted Bush on Thursday, asking him at one point, “Why are you always attacking the seniors?”

In his reply, Bush said current and immediate Medicare recipients should not affected by reform plans.

“The people that are receiving these benefits, I don’t think that we should touch that,” Bush said. “But your children and grandchildren are not going to get the benefits that they believe they’re going to get … because the amount of money put in compared to the amount of money that the system costs is wrong.”

Reports Politico:

“As he was pressed, Bush sought to divert attention away from his comments, focusing on the media’s fixation on them, alleging that MSNBC and the media presented ‘words taken out of context — exactly what I predicted would happen.’

Bush tried to steer the conversation back toward consensus, explaining that reforms, or whatever he meant by ‘phasing out,’ are essential to making Medicare solvent for future generations.

‘We need to protect it for people that have it and we need to make sure we reform it for people that are expecting it,’ Bush said. ‘There are solutions to this.’”

Bush also said that “whenever you get into a conversation about reforming entitlement, the first thing you can be guaranteed of is that the left will attack you and demonize you. It took about six hours for that to happen.”