Biden focuses on defending Social Security, Medicare in Florida speech

President Joe Biden talks about his plans to protect Social Security and Medicare during a speech at the University of Tampa in Florida on Thursday. Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI
1 of 6 | President Joe Biden talks about his plans to protect Social Security and Medicare during a speech at the University of Tampa in Florida on Thursday. Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 9 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden is in Florida Thursday as part of a national tour to promote his economic plan and put pressure on the GOP by continuing to warn voters that Republicans were planning to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Biden cited Florida as the state with the highest rate of seniors in its population. He touted capping the costs of medications and insulin for seniors on Medicare.


"Let's finish the job and cap the price of insulin for everybody who needs it," Biden said. "The United States pays more for prescription drugs than any country in the world."

The president spoke at the University of Tampa, two days after a rousing address before Congress in which he accused Republicans of wanting to "sunset" two of the country's most popular government programs.

"Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans -- some Republicans -- want Social Security and Medicare to sunset. I'm not saying it's the majority," Biden said in his State of the Union speech.


That sparked boos from Republicans in the chamber and an angry rebuke from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, who stood up and called Biden a "liar" during the speech.

On Thursday, Biden referred to the confrontation, saying Republicans did not like being "called out" by him.

He continued to push for Democrats and Republicans to work together, remarking that if they could do so during the 117th Congress they could do so again. He touted some of the legislation that was passed on a bipartisan basis, including the Respect for Marriage Act, American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act.

"Fighting for the sake of fighting gets us nowhere," he said. "We've got to get things done."

The president sought to reassure seniors that they will continue to pay no more than $35 per month for insulin prescriptions and they will have prescription drug costs capped at $2,000 per year.

As the healthcare system experiences strains from worker shortages to the ripple effects of the pandemic, rural healthcare systems are among the worst hit. Biden said about one-third of rural hospitals in Florida have either closed or are at risk of closing.


"The further the distance of a hospital from your home if you have an accident the higher the percentage is you'll die," he said. "The only reason Medicare expansion hasn't happened here is politics. It's time to get this done."

The White House claims that Republican policies would stand to raise health insurance premiums for older Americans and increase drug prices for Medicare recipients, translating into enormous profits for Big Pharma.

Biden warned that much of the progress made on Medicare and prescription drug costs will "go away" if Republicans have their way in Congress. Many of those who receive healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act -- about 20% or 3.2 million -- live in Florida, according to the White House.

Biden called out a proposal by U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., that would potentially put Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits "on the chopping block every five years," the White House said. He said any attempts to cut these key federal programs would not succeed because of his veto power.

But Scott on Wednesday denied that he ever made such a specific proposal, writing on Twitter that the president "twisted my words" and "forgot to share the facts."


"In my plan, I suggested the following: All federal legislation sunsets in 5 yrs. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again," Scott wrote. "I've never advocated cutting Social Security or Medicare and never would."

Ahead of Biden's Florida trip, the White House doubled down on Biden's messaging, saying: "For years, Republican Members of Congress have repeatedly tried to cut Medicare and Social Security, move toward privatizing one or both programs, and raise the Social Security retirement age and Medicare eligibility age," according to Thursday's statement from Washington.

"And just last week, House Republicans introduced legislation to repeal President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, which would give tens of billions of dollars in subsidies back to Big Pharma, raise seniors' prescription drug prices, and raise taxes on an estimated 14.5 million people -- all while increasing the deficit."

The issue also emerged on the campaign trail before last year's midterm election, when Biden called out Republicans for targeting the foundational benefits of tens of millions of Americans, while also casting "MAGA Republicans" as becoming too radical for mainstream voters.

Underscoring a commitment to lowering health care costs, Biden has vowed to keep in place an 8.7% cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits that kicked in earlier this year.


"The checks are going to go up and the Medicare fees are going to go down at the same time. And I promise you: I'll protect Social Security. I'll protect Medicare. I'll protect you," Biden told Miami voters in November.

As part of his post-State of the Union tour, Biden was in Wisconsin Wednesday to sell his economic message from the State of the Union address, while touting multiple federal initiatives that have benefited Wisconsin and other states during his first 24 months in office. Particularly initiatives that focus on the middle class and people on fixed incomes.

"I'm so tired of trickle-down economics. Not a lot trickled down on my dad's table when we were growing up," he said.

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