Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama stood on a shuffleboard court at a Des Moines senior citizen center Friday and turned his focus to health care issues.
Staffers said the meeting with about 100 invited senior citizens marks a renewed effort to turn the campaign to smaller, more intimate gatherings where Obama can get up close and answer questions from voters.
Although he pushed health care as his focus, he took questions on veterans care, overflowing prisons, Middle East violence and how he'd choose a Cabinet.
He said as president he would end government subsidies to insurance companies that sell private Medicare plans to seniors by using deceptive or illegal means.
Obama said Medicare's private plan alternative, Medicare Advantage, was designed to increase competition and reduce costs. However, he said that the Medicare Payment Admission Commission, an independent group that advises Congress, recently reported that the government pays an average of 12 percent more to private Medicare plans than it costs to treat comparable beneficiaries through traditional Medicare.
The subsidies cost as much as $15 billion a year, he said. Cutting that would provide $150 billion over 10 years to strengthen Medicare and lower prescription drug prices.