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By CNN's Wolf Blitzer
(CNN) – Medicare is an especially touchy subject for any politician, Democrat or Republican. America’s older Americans overwhelmingly love this public health care program. They have come to rely on it and, if you look at the polls, aren’t all that open to major changes.
That helps to explain why President Obama took a direct swipe at the Republicans’ proposals for Medicare changes when he spoke at two separate Democratic National Committee fundraising events in Washington last night.
He was clearly alluding to some of the proposed changes in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s legislation which passed the House but not the Senate.
Speaking of Republicans, he said: “Their basic attitude is, you know what, Medicare, we can voucherize, even if it means $6,000 more in expenses for our seniors.”
At the other Washington event, the president said: “I think the American people are not persuaded that an agenda of simply slashing commitments to things like student loan programs or privatizing or voucherizing Medicare are somehow going to be the solutions - they are not buying that bill of goods.”
Those were two political events, and going after the Republicans on Medicare is obviously understandable. It is widely seen by Democrats as a winning political issue in the upcoming elections.
But earlier in the day, when the president spoke at the White House about the economic distress in the country, he had a very different line about Medicare.
“Last week,” he said, “we reached an agreement that will make historic cuts to defense and domestic spending. But there’s not much further we can cut in either of those categories. What we need to do now is combine those spending cuts with two additional steps: tax reform that will ask those who can afford it to pay their fair share and modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare.”
There was no swipe at the Republicans for “voucherizing” or “privatizing” Medicare.
So what does the president mean by “modest adjustments” to Medicare? In recent weeks, he hasn’t gone into too much detail other than to suggest perhaps changing the annual cost of living index or some sort of “means testing” for seniors – the richer ones would pay more out-of-pocket health care costs.
I can tell you this: Even talking about these vague Medicare changes upsets many Democrats who fear that Mr. Obama is undermining a very significant political weapon they have in the upcoming elections.