WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama used his regular weekly radio address Saturday to continue pounding away at Republican plans to overhaul Medicare, the U.S. healthcare program for the elderly.
The address underscored the new prominence Medicare has assumed as a campaign issue in the past two weeks, since the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, picked Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman and chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee, has championed an alternative to the government-run Medicare program that would provide vouchers to older Americans for the purchase of private health insurance.
"I'm willing to work with anyone to keep improving the current system, but I refuse to do anything that undermines the basic idea of Medicare as a guarantee for seniors who get sick," Obama said.
The son of a single mother, Obama said his family background taught him the value of programs like Medicare to his grandparents. "I saw how important things like Medicare and Social Security were in their lives," he said.
"And I saw the peace of mind it gave them."
Republicans have been running ads in swing states accusing Obama of "gutting" Medicare in order to finance aspects of the healthcare overhaul enacted in March, 2010.
(Reporting By Margaret Chadbourn; editing by Fred Barbash and Todd Eastham)