Charlotte is a nurse from Southwest Ohio who also advocates for seniors. Like other Ohio seniors, she has paid into Medicare and Social Security all her working life. And, like many Ohio seniors, Charlotte recently wrote to me that she “value[s] traditional Medicare and doesn’t want to let it whither on a vine.”
Yet the big insurance companies – and their allies in Washington – want to strip Medicare to help fund extra tax cuts to millionaires.
The House of Representatives just passed a budget that would give tax breaks to millionaires and oil companies while ending Medicare as we know it. The bill would fundamentally change the way older Americans pay for health care and jeopardize the stability of long-term care funding.
The House-passed budget would turn Medicare into a voucher system, which means that seniors would get a fixed amount no matter how high or how quickly health costs climb. Not only would the House proposal strip away Medicare’s guaranteed benefits, it would require seniors to pay thousands of dollars in additional out-of-pocket healthcare expenses each year. If seniors wanted to keep their traditional Medicare, they would be forced to pay more.
Fortunately, this wrong-headed proposal will not go any further. A clear majority of Senators agree with me that we need to stop this radical attempt to undermine Medicare.
Congress should stand up for Medicare and make it stronger. Cutting costs by cutting service helps no one. Instead, we should focus on innovative ways to reduce Medicare spending while ensuring that it can continue to meet the needs of Ohio seniors. Right now, the Department of Veterans Affairs can negotiate bulk discounts on prescription drugs for veterans, but Medicare can’t do the same for seniors. By giving the Secretary of Health and Human Services negotiating authority, we could save millions reducing Medicare cost by an estimated $20 Billon over the next ten years.
Ohio’s seniors have worked hard, paid into Medicare, and deserve a program that truly meets their health care needs. Our seniors deserve better than an under-funded voucher that would put them at the mercy of the private insurance industry. Before the passage of Medicare, 30 percent of our nation’s seniors lived below the poverty line, only half had health insurance, and insurance usually only covered visits to the hospital. Now, thanks to Medicare, nearly 98 percent of seniors have health coverage and more than 90 percent live above the poverty line.
Congress must take concrete steps to ensure the solvency of this important program for all Americans. We can make Medicare better, but we should not destroy a program that works for millions of Americans. To think that some would slash Medicare so that they could give tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans disrespects hard-working Ohioans, Ohioans like Charlotte who have played by the rules and rely upon Medicare to be there for them when they retire.
That’s why I will continue to stand up for Ohio seniors who deserve better than this plan. And I will fight back against attempts to turn back the clock on the advancements America has made to protect our seniors.