(CNN) – Republicans used a "campaign of fear" based on false information to get senior citizens to oppose health care reform, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday.
In response to questions at a news conference in her home district in San Francisco, California, Pelosi accused Republicans of spreading misinformation against Democratic health care legislation backed by President Barack Obama, who made the issue his top domestic priority.
"There was a campaign of fear that was launched (at senior citizens) as soon as the president was elected," Pelosi said.
The reform plan includes cutting the costs of Medicare, the government-run health plan for seniors, by about $500 billion.
During months of debate on the health care bill signed into law last week by Obama, Republicans repeatedly said it was impossible to cut Medicare costs by such a large amount without reducing benefits.
Obama and Democrats say the Medicare cuts involve eliminating wasteful spending and fraud.
On Monday, Pelosi called the Medicare cost reductions "essential" to health care reform, and said Republican claims the bill would cut benefits for the elderly are "truly false."
Polls show the American public remains sharply divided over the health care issue. Pelosi said she believes polls in coming months will show more support for the bill as the public learns more about it.