YOUNGSTOWN, OH— Following the House passage of a Republican budget that would end Medicare as we know it, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined a group of Mahoning Valley seniors at the Senior Independence Senior Center in Youngstown today to stand against threats to the health coverage of nearly 2 million Ohio seniors.
Brown was joined by Joe Rossi, CEO of the Area Agency on Aging, and Melissa Long, former mayor of Cortland and board member of the Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans. Rossi and Long discussed how attempts to privatize Medicare would seriously impact Youngstown seniors and would increase their out-of-pocket costs for healthcare. Brown was also joined by Virginia Wepfer, a senior citizen from Lake Milton, who talked about how she would be personally impacted by any changes to Medicare.
“If House Republicans had their way, nearly 2 million Ohio seniors would soon be facing higher costs for prescription drugs, annual wellness visits, and preventive care,” Brown said. “Thankfully, last week the Senate stood up and said ‘no’ to this dangerous attempt to saddle seniors with higher health care costs in order to finance extra tax cuts for millionaires. We must keep up the fight to protect America’s seniors who have worked their entire lives to live out their autumn years with dignity and access to affordable healthcare and vigorously reject any attempt to privatize Medicare or Social Security.”
At the senior center, Brown outlined a new report detailing the number of Ohio seniors that would be thrown back into the prescription drug donut hole, the additional costs seniors would pay for prescription drugs, and the number of Medicare enrollees who would pay more for their annual wellness visit under the Republican-authored budget. The report noted that an estimated 159,403 Ohio seniors would be impacted by the “donut hole” by 2012, meaning these seniors would pay an additional $89 million per year in prescription drug costs. That means Ohio seniors would be forced to pay an additional estimated $1.8 billion for their medications by 2020. The report also noted that 42,649 Ohio seniors would be forced to pay for annual wellness visits under the Republican plan, at a cost of nearly $4.5 million annually. The budget would also require seniors to pay deductibles, co-insurance, and copayments for many preventive services currently covered by Medicare, including mammograms; colorectal, cervical and prostate cancer screening; cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings; diabetes screening and flu shots.
Earlier this month, Brown led a group of 50 senators in signing a letter to President Obama expressing their opposition to the House-passed proposal. In the letter, Brown wrote, “While deficit reduction is essential, balancing the budget by dismantling Medicare is both unfair to hard-working Americans and counterproductive. Seniors who are unable to afford Medicare or its equivalent will skip preventative services, not take necessary medication, and delay treatment leading to potentially undetected illnesses and more expense care. If Medicare is turned into a voucher system and the health reform law is dismantled, millions of seniors will be left under-or uninsured. This will add to the burden on our nation’s already overwhelmed emergency rooms and result in increased demands on Medicaid as seniors exhaust their life savings.”