Ryan heckled, booed at retiree event (Reuters) - Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan received a chilly reception from a seniors' group on Friday as he argued that popular health and pension programs for U.S. retirees need to be overhauled to ensure their stability. Members of the retiree group AARP booed and heckled Ryan as he laid out the Republican ticket's case for repealing President Barack Obama's healthcare law and partially privatizing the Medicare health plan. "I had a feeling there would be mixed reactions," Ryan told the crowd. The event in New Orleans underscored the gamble that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took on when he picked Ryan as his running mate in August. And, it came during a tough week for the Romney campaign which has struggled to explain comments the presidential candidate made denigrating people who receive government benefits or pay no federal income taxes - a group that includes those who receive Social Security and Medicare. As chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, Ryan has led the Republican charge to gradually change Medicare's guarantee of universal coverage into a subsidy that would allow retirees to buy coverage on the private market if they wish. Ryan and other Republicans argue that private competition is the best way to rein in spiraling health costs, while Obama's Democrats say that approach would force retirees to pay more of their health bills themselves. "I don't consider this approach bold or particularly courageous. I just think it's a bad idea," Obama told the AARP group less than an hour before Ryan spoke. So far, Obama seems to be winning the argument. Voters in the 12 most competitive states say they have more faith in Obama than Romney to address Medicare's challenges by a margin of 50 percent to 44 percent, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll. People over age 65 are more likely to participate in elections than younger groups, and in recent elections they have become one of the most reliably Republican voting blocs. But Romney's 20-point edge among this group has eroded over the past several weeks to the point where the two candidates are effectively tied, according to Reuters/IPSOS polling data.