By Senator Tom Harkin
Medicare is one of the real cornerstones of our middle class way of life in Iowa. Thanks to Medicare, people of all walks of life have the peace of mind of knowing that, in their senior years, they will have guaranteed access to quality medical care. We have always assumed that Medicare was something rock solid and permanent. Unfortunately, there are some who want to end Medicare as we know it.
Last month, the Republican controlled House of Representatives passed a budget that has profound implications for every American – but especially for seniors. It calls for deep funding cuts to education and Medicaid, and it effectively ends the Medicare program. In its place, Republicans would give future seniors a voucher that they can use to purchase a private health insurance plan. Our nation must find ways to address our nation’s financial situation, but this proposal is absolutely unacceptable.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that, under this proposal, future seniors will have to pay two-thirds of the cost of their health insurance by 2030. Those out-of-pocket costs will average more than $12,000 per person per year – more than double the current cost to seniors. How is an elderly widow or widower struggling to live on a fixed income going to come up with $12,000 for health insurance? Even worse, many seniors – especially those with serious health conditions – simply won’t be able to find a health insurer that will offer an affordable plan. This is simply not right – especially when people have paid into Medicare their entire life and count on it to deliver comprehensive health benefits.
Many will say that those currently on Medicare will not be affected and that Americans 55 and older will be able to keep their current Medicare coverage. That’s a woefully short-sighted argument. What will happen to the children and grandchildren of those currently on Medicare? This cynical argument assumes that seniors don’t care about the next generation, and in talking to Iowans about this issue, this is not true. Frankly, in my opinion, the proposal to dismantle Medicare is not just unworkable and unfair; it is unconscionable.
This is not meant to be a scare tactic, but a call to action. I know Iowans will not stand for this unwise, unbalanced, unfair assault on their economic security and middle-class way of life. The Republicans’ proposed Medicare cut hasn’t come before the Senate yet, and I will do everything I can to stop it. I will do everything I can to protect the security and health of today’s seniors, and all Americans who will one day turn to Medicare. And I encourage all Iowans to voice their opposition to eliminating Medicare.
For more information, please feel free to visit my website at harkin.senate.gov or contact any of my offices in Washington, D.C. or Iowa.