WASHINGTON - Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) heard from elderly voters angry about his vote to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher program at the Bismarck Public Library Tuesday evening.
Berg voted in favor of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget, the centerpiece of which cuts spending on elderly health care costs by replacing the current benefit with a voucher system that would provide premium support for private health insurance.
“I would like to know: Did you vote to eliminate Medicare as it is today?” a man asks Berg during his library appearance in an exchange caught on video by PlainsDaily.com (scroll down to watch).
“No,” Berg says, before the audience contradicts him.
“You voted for every Republican issue and that was part of the issues that went out there,” the man says.
A woman interrupts to ask how much the elderly will be asked to pay out of pocket for health care costs under the new system.
“I want you to tell me how much it’s going to cost us when we’re 65 years old after you give us a voucher,” she says.
“Fifty-five or over, absolutely no change, absolutely no change, in this Medicare program,” Berg promises.
“As long as you are over 55,” the woman responds. “If you’re 54, to hell with those people.”
Berg responds by arguing that there isn't sufficient tax revenue to support the current Medicare system. “This is an issue we have to be honest about. If we do nothing…it’s not going to have the money for people who are 55. In my opinion we have to do something now,” he says.
Alee Locknan, a spokeswoman for Berg, said that the Bismarck town hall had followed one last week in Minot. “From our perspective they’ve been going really well,” she said. “That was, as far as outbursts go, probably the worst of it.” Locknan said that free-wheeling town halls haven’t been held in North Dakota “for decades” and that the congressman was glad to hear from those who disagreed with him.
Republican lawmakers have been taking heat since the beginning of the congressional recess, when the Buffalo Grove Patch reported that constituents battered Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) for his Medicare vote. Since then, anger has roiled town halls across the country.