The Medicaid program was not a major focus of Wednesday night’s debate between President Barack Obama and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, but it was a topic of discussion as the two candidates laid out their domestic policy priorities.
A transcript follows.
BARACK OBAMA: You know, when Gov. Romney stood on a stage with other Republican candidates for the nomination and he was asked, would you take $10 of spending cuts for just $1 of revenue? And he said no.
Now, if you take such an unbalanced approach, then that means you are going to be gutting our investments in schools and education. It means that Gov. Romney talked about Medicaid and how we could send it back to the states, but effectively this means a 30 percent cut in the primary program we help for seniors who are in nursing homes, for kids who are with disabilities.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, I’m sorry.
OBAMA: And that is not a right strategy for us to move forward.
OBAMA: As I indicated before, when you talk about shifting Medicaid to states, we’re talking about potentially a 30 percent cut in Medicaid over time.
Now that may not seem like a big deal when it just is numbers on a sheet of paper, but if we’re talking about a family who’s got an autistic kid and is depending on that Medicaid, that’s a big problem.
And governors are creative. There’s no doubt about it. But they’re not creative enough to make up for 30 percent of revenue on something like Medicaid. What ends up happening is some people end up not getting help.
MITT ROMNEY: Jim, we’ve gone on a lot of topics there, and so it’s going to take a minute to go from Medicaid to schools. Come back to to oil, to tax breaks, then companies going overseas. So let’s go through them one by one.
ROMNEY: And, finally, Medicaid to states? I’m not quite sure where that came in, except this, which is, I would like to take the Medicaid dollars that go to states and say to a state, you’re going to get what you got last year, plus inflation, plus 1 percent, and then you’re going to manage your care for your poor in the way you think best.
And I remember, as a governor, when this idea was floated by Tommy Thompson, the governors — Republican and Democrats — said, please let us do that. We can care for our own poor in so much better and more effective a way than having the federal government tell us how to care for our poor.
So let’s state, one of the magnificent things about this country is the whole idea that states are the laboratories of democracy. Don’t have the federal government tell everybody what kind of training programs they have to have and what kind of Medicaid they have to have. Let states do this.
And, by the way, if a state gets in trouble, well, we can step in and see if we can find a way to help them.