Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Recent Columns from Carol Shea-Porter: No. 3 of 3 - "Medicare Works, Leave It Alone"

Medicare works, leave it alone

Beware, anyone who is old or disabled or might ever get old or disabled. If the Republicans in theUnited States House of Representative have their way, Medicare is going to be destroyed. The Paul Ryan plan, the so-called Path to Prosperity, privatizes Medicare and turns it into a voucher program that would hurt the old, the future old, and the disabled.

As USA Today reporter Catalina Camia wrote on April 12, “Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors and people with disabilities, would be turned over to private insurers under Ryan’s budget plan and would end up costing beneficiaries more money or give them less in services.”

Why would our Republican members of Congress do this to the old and the vulnerable?

They claim that it will save seniors money and allow them to choose. However, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says it will actually cost seniors more. How much more? The CBO says it would double the cost of insurance for seniors. And that is just for starters.

My mother is 87 and very ill. How in the world is she supposed to “shop around” for a good insurance deal, and what for-profit company would ever choose to insure her? Under Medicare, my mom already gets to choose. She has chosen her doctors, her hospital and her hospice. The Republicans are deliberately misleading people about this.

Republicans also claim that this will somehow drive down costs because they claim that Medicare issues blank checks and does not try to control costs. That also is false. Medicare operating costs run between 3 percent to 7 percent for overhead, while private insurance companies have been passing their overhead costs of up to 37 percent to their customers.

As the April 18, USA Today Editorial stated about Medicare: “In fact, it delivers coverage for lower costs. Doing away with the most efficient system hardly seems the best way… ”

Medicare also has set reimbursement rates for hospitals and providers, which helps save money.

Still, they must do better with our money, so I am pleased that the new health care law gets tougher on waste, fraud, and inefficiency.

Improving a great system is better than destroying it, but our members of Congress voted to destroy Medicare.

Paul Ryan and our members claim this does not hurt seniors or those who are 55 and older. This, too, is false. Their plan slashed Medicaid, and the elderly who cannot afford to pay for nursing home care use Medicaid. As a matter of fact, 25 percent of Medicaid dollars are spent on seniors, and 42 percent is spent on the disabled. That equals 67 percent of the Medicaid budget! This opens up another problem for middle-class Americans. If the Federal Government is not going to help pay for the nursing home, where will the money come from? Most hardworking middle class families will not be able to pay for their parents and pay for their children’s educations. The squeeze will just be too much, so this Medicare and Medicaid slashing will hurt all ages.

Here is the ugliest part of all. This budget plan that both of our New Hampshire congressmen voted for hurts the old and the disabled and the middle class, and our representatives admit it by saying there has to be “shared sacrifice.”

However, the money that they save will not be used to pay down the deficit. No, it will be used to cut taxes for the very rich. That’s right – the very rich will see their taxes reduced while you or your loved one see essential services reduced.

Is this what Americans really want? Apparently, it is not. Across the country, good people of all parties – Republicans, Democrats and Independents – are showing up at town halls and telling their members to leave Medicare and other essential programs alone, that they want to support programs that help their neighbors and communities, that they care about each other. House Republicans miscalculated when they figured that most people only care about themselves, so seniors would not speak up for others. Turns out they were wrong.

Just as I have always believed, we are a great nation full of great people who help each other. It is the American way. So is Medicare. Leave it alone, House Republicans.

Find the money to pay down the debt by voting against tax loopholes, taxpayer subsidies for oil companies and other huge conglomerates, by cutting waste, and by campaign finance reform, which will clean up abuse. But leave Medicare alone.

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