Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is shifting his stance on Medicare as he rises in the polls.
The retired neurosurgeon has previously suggested he wants to dismantle the national social insurance program for the elderly and replace it with a private voucher system. But he now says he's changed his mind.
“The answer is of course NO,” Carson wrote in a recent Facebook post, responding to a questioner in Ohio who wanted to know if he wanted to abolish Medicare. He insisted the notion that he wants to do away with the program is simply the result of “press attacks” and that he’ll soon offer a plan to “save money and deliver better service to our nation’s seniors.”
But just last week Politico reported that Carson, who has surged to second place in the Republican presidential race, wanted to replace Medicare with a “system of cradle-to-grave savings accounts” which would be funded with an annual $2,000 in government contributions. He floated a similar plan to CNBC back in May. On the health savings account, Carson said, "when people are able to see how much more freedom they will have, and how much more flexibility they will have, and how much more choice they would have, I think it's going to be a no-brainer."
Carson, however, said on Fox News Sunday that the $2,000 a year plan was “the old plan,” adding “that’s been gone for several months now.” He insisted the savings account would be an “alternative” to Medicare, but seemed to struggle in explaining the relationship between the two.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace admitted, “I’m a little confused” and wondered why a person who isn’t indigent wouldn’t stay with Medicare rather than enrolling in a health savings account.
“I’m not a politician,” Carson said. “So don’t say that because I thought this a while ago before I had an opportunity to talk to a lot of economists and various people and cost it out that I can’t change my mind.”
Carson seems to be softening his tone—or at least muddying the waters – on his previous, hardline stance on the issue. That makes political sense. After all, Carson's poll numbers are rising, and Medicare is popular, especially with seniors who make up a large share of Republican primary voters, especially in Iowa. Carson leads in most recent polls of the Hawkeye State, where he's garnering 25% of the senior vote.