YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Joe Rossi understands the need to reduce the federal deficit and that some sacrifices need to be made. But those sacrifices "cannot be done on the backs of older adults," he argued.

The CEO of the Area Agency on Aging, Rossi was among the advocates for senior citizens who joined U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown at the Senior Independence Center Wednesday afternoon for a press event to discuss the Republican Party's proposal to convert Medicare to a voucher system. The Democrat came to town for a noon fundraiser at the Youngstown Country Club.

Medicare has "helped a whole lot of people lead longer and healthier lives,"

Brown, D-Ohio, said. He acknowledged the current program costs a lot of money and won't last unless it is fixed. But the plan contained in the budget put forth by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-1 Wis., in the U.S. House of Representatives, would provide future Medicare beneficiaries -- those now under age 55 -- with a voucher worth approximately $8,000 to purchase insurance on the open market. The Senate rejected the plan last week.

"It dramatically changes Medicare," the Oho Democrat said. "It really does give Medicare over to the insurance companies instead of government running it."

Changing Medicare so dramatically "in a way we've never really tried" doesn't make sense, Brown continued. "At the same time, this budget cuts taxes for the wealthiest Americans and the money to pay for that really comes form Medicare savings."

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