Better hold on tight to your Medicare
Retirement is something we all look forward to because we have a senior safety net and good earned benefits, such as: Social Security; Medicare; affordable, quality health insurance; and a defined-benefit pension.
Medicare works wonders for millions of Americans, providing affordable access to today’s most advanced health care. Poll after poll invariably confirms its popularity. But will Medicare continue to work for all of us and future generations? That’s a question we need to ask our congressmen and women.
According to the Alliance for Retired Americans, House Speaker Paul Ryan and the leadership in congress want to make massive changes to our health care. They worked with president Trump to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and at the same time they promised to reform (cut) Medicare and Medicaid. Their plans include massive cuts and rationed care, but they are using deceptive tactics with misleading language to make their proposals sound more acceptable.
Don’t be fooled by such tactics and words such as “premium support,” “vouchers” and “coupons.”
Instead of guaranteed benefits, seniors would get a voucher or coupon of limited value to use toward buying insurance. The coupons would be insufficient to cover the level of benefits in traditional Medicare, and retirees would be required to pay more to get sufficient coverage.
Access to health care is not real if that care is not affordable. Speaker Ryan and our new U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price talk a lot about ensuring access to health care, but they say little about keeping health care affordable. That’s because their plans would remove some of the current provisions designed to keep costs in check.
They say the way to protect Medicare for future generations is to raise the eligibility age for Medicare to age 67 or older. They actually want to take care away from millions of Americans by raising the eligibility age starting in 2020.
When they talk about “means testing,” it means the middle class would pay more. Speaker Ryan wants to increase the number of seniors subject to means testing from 5 percent to 25 percent. This would mean a middle-class senior with an income $47,000 would pay a higher premium than someone with a lower income.
Under the failed House GOP American Health Care Act (AHCA), the debate involved the terms “block grant” and “per capita caps” and the effect of these changes on how the Medicaid program is administered that would amount to rationing care. Medicaid block grants and per capita caps refer to the federal Medicaid support would be calculated for each state and how that funding would be given to each state. It would fundamentally change Medicaid and cut federal health care payments to states by more than $1 trillion over 10 years. Additionally, the failed AHCA was estimated to cost New York State $2.3 billion and jeopardize the health care of 24 million state residents.
States would be forced to choose between: raising state taxes; or limiting the number of people eligible to receive Medicaid coverage; or limiting the amount of care each person would get. Millions of seniors would lose basic health care, mental health care and nursing home coverage. And many younger adults and children who also depend on Medicaid could lose their health care as well.
Only a concerted effort by voters of all political parties and persuasions can push back against this assault on a program as popular, financially sound and which has ensured a dignified old age for all Americans for generations.
Stand up for Medicare and Medicaid. Visit, call or write to your member of Congress and tell him or her not to privatize Medicare or cut it or Medicaid. Attend a town hall meeting with your congressional representative and demand that he or she not vote to cut your Medicaid or Medicare!
This makes me think of a line from Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi Cab:” “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got, ’till it’s gone?”
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