Forty-five years ago on July 1, 1966, the implementation of Medicare was launched. Seniors were finally provided a pathway to plan and save for their retirement, and for the first time in U.S. history, it gave them a guarantee of health coverage, and with it the peace of mind that medical bills would no longer drive them into poverty. Prior to 1966, only one in eight seniors had health insurance - the rest exhausted their savings, sold their homes, or went bankrupt trying to cover medical costs.
Earlier this year, House Republicans, led by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, released their proposal to cut government spending by dismantling Medicare. They voted out that guarantee and passed their plan to give seniors a limited voucher to buy private insurance, effective in 2022. Those 65 and over would not be affected, but the plan breaks the promise our country made to its seniors more than forty years ago, jeopardizing their access to healthcare and their financial security.
It's difficult to fathom the magnitude of this change for the people in our community and our country. If the Republicans have their way, each resident in my District between the ages of 44 and 54 will have to save an average of $182,000 to $287,000 to pay for the increased cost for health insurance. Young people under thirty would have to save even more -- an average of $644,000 over the course of their lifetimes -- to pay for the increased costs associated with the Ryan plan.
In the 14th District alone, the Republican plan would:
- Increase prescription drug costs by more than80 million for 8,100 current Medicare beneficiaries entering the Part D 'donut hole';
- Eliminate new preventive care benefits for 83,000 current Medicare recipients;
- Deny 500,000 individuals 54 and younger,access to Medicare's guaranteed benefits, and;
- Increase the out-of-pocket costs of health coverage for Medicare beneficiaries by over6,000 per year in 2022, and12,000 in 2032. These costs would be borne by more than 100,000 people between the ages of 44 and 54 in our District.
Privatizing Medicare will revive the same broken system that prevailed half a century ago, exposing a new generation of seniors to an insecure retirement.
There is no question that we must control the costs of Medicare. We began to bend the curve in costs with the new healthcare reform law, which saves $430 billion in Medicare over the next ten years. The new law focuses on preventive health, which experts agree is a critical way to reduce costs and improve public health. And Congress should allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, just as the VA does today, saving billions every year. All of these changes will add decades to the Trust Fund, strengthening, not weakening it.
I pledge to do everything I can to end this misbegotten privatization effort, which will throw seniors into the arms of private insurers. My 80,000 senior constituents deserve Medicare with a guarantee to be able to access doctors, hospitals and medicines when they need them most.
Honor thy Mother and Father. Medicare has.
On this anniversary, it's up to our generation to strengthen our people and the promise made so wisely 45 years ago.