05/16/2011 11:21 am ET Updated Jul 16, 2011

Save Medicare

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to dismantle Medicare by turning it into a voucher system.

Instead of addressing our nation's fiscal issues, the so-called "Ryan Plan" simply shifts costs to our seniors living on fixed incomes to help protect tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

It's wrong.

That's why I joined 49 other U.S. senators in signing a letter to President Obama, urging him "to protect America's seniors and oppose any attempts to dismantle Medicare."

You can tell President Obama that you oppose any effort to dismantle Medicare by clicking here to sign our petition.

In our letter, my fellow senators and I wrote to President Obama:

We are writing to commend you for your opposition to turning Medicare into a voucher system as proposed in the House Republican's FY2012 budget. Since the enactment of Medicare in 1965, America's seniors have no longer lived in fear of losing affordable, comprehensive health insurance when they retire. Unfortunately, some in Congress want to dismantle Medicare in order to help offset the costs of tax cuts for the very wealthiest in our country.

The House Republican budget for Fiscal Year 2012 would end Medicare as we know it and throw seniors into the private market with no more than an insufficient voucher to offset the rising cost of private health insurance. So-called "premium support" - giving seniors a voucher of approximately $8,000 as proposed by the Republican budget - is a reckless and irresponsible way to address the health care needs of older Americans. And it is an unacceptable means by which to finance tax cuts for those who are earning ten times or more than the retirement income of the average Medicare recipient.

Seniors, who have paid into the system their entire working lives, deserve affordable, secure health coverage upon retirement. While deficit reduction is essential, balancing the budget by dismantling Medicare is both unfair to hard-working Americans and counterproductive.

Before the passage of Medicare in 1965, only half of America's seniors had health insurance.

The House Republican plan would take us backwards. Starting in 2022, Medicare will be eliminated for new beneficiaries and converted to a voucher program. That means 20 million people would not have Medicare when they retire in 2022.

Instead, under this voucher system, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates out-of-pocket expenses for seniors would double to more than $12,500 annually. Further, this new system would reopen the prescription drug "donut hole" that creates a gap in coverage, requiring that seniors pay full price for prescription drugs.

We must stop the effort to dismantle Medicare. America's seniors should not live in fear of losing affordable, comprehensive health insurance when they retire.

Kay Hagan is the junior Senator from North Carolina. Click here to sign her petition to oppose any effort to dismantle Medicare.