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Decision 2012: Candidates Take Pulse On Medicare Debate

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As former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney vows to repeal the federal health care law, President Obama is promising voters that his plan will -- in the long run -- change the nation's healthcare system for the better. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Seven hundred and sixteen billion -- a number GOP Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney repeats often and has many older Americans concerned about their healthcare coverage. The president's controversial healthcare law once derogatively referred to as "Obamacare".

"I wanna take that $716 billion you've cut and put it back into Medicare," Romney said during the debate last Wednesday.

It does cut $716 billion from Medicare over several years.

"We were able to save from the Medicare program by no longer overpaying insurance companies," Obama said during the debate last Wednesday

University of Maryland Public Policy Health Professor Robert Sprinkle says Obamacare will bring down the cost of healthcare a little bit: Not cutting, but slowing down how fast Medicare spending grows year to year.

"It will not change Medicare in drastic ways and in some ways won't change it at all," Sprinkle said.

Professor Sprinkle says because of the massive bargaining that happened before the law was even written, it does little to fix the system's fundamental problem -- that the price of goods and services are simply too high.

"There's too much money not too little. Money in excess is toxic," Sprinkle said.

Romney's alternative to Obamacare would give seniors a voucher they would use in the private sector or through Medicare.

"I’d just as soon not have the government telling me what kind of health care I get. I’d rather be able to have an insurance company. If I don't like them, I can get rid of them and find a different insurance company," Romney said.

"That would be more disruptive, it's not clear that it would be worthwhile," noted Sprinkle. "The private insurance market has had many opportunities to demonstrate it's superior efficiency and has perennially failed."

Sprinkle says what is surprisingly strange about the president's approach in defending Obamacare is that he hardly recognizes that it is the rule of law, reinforcing public perception that it's not doing what it was intended to.

"In their point of view it hasn't changed much," Sprinkle said.

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