Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler | Representing Southwest Washington's 3rd District

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Keeping Medicare Safe and Secure

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After decades of overspending, Congress is finally taking sensible and responsible steps to strengthen and protect Medicare.

Why are any changes needed? Without any revisions, costs are rising so fast that Medicare will be bankrupt in just 9 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. I will fight to ensure the money you paid into Medicare is protected for your retirement, and not spent by some politician.  In the past, both political parties have preferred to ignore the growing problems in our nation’s finances – yet neither party proposed serious ideas to fix the problem.

Different Budget Proposals

Earlier this year, I voted for a proposal that would address the problem and take action to save Medicare. Various proposals are likely to be debated for months to come, and it is too soon to tell what will finally be adopted and signed into law. The rhetoric has already become filled with distortions and overstatements. You deserve to know the truth: I say enough. Enough empty promises. Enough budget gimmicks. Enough accounting tricks.

We must have a fact-based discussion and a budget that focuses on the next generation. We cannot bury our heads in the sand while the government racks up trillions of dollars in debt.  But  rest assured, Medicare will be preserved and strengthened by the proposal I supported.

Questions and Answers

Since Medicare first became law in 1965, it has continually expanded, adding new benefits and beneficiaries. From 20 million covered in 1970, it has grown to provide coverage to 46 million people today. The average couple who are Medicare retirees pay about $114,000 into Medicare over their working lifetimes. They will receive about $355,000 in Medicare health benefits during their retirement (Associated Press, December 2010). Here are questions and answers about the federal budget and the recent proposals to put Medicare on a firm financial footing for generations to come.

Budget and Medicare Q&A 

Republicans and Democrats agree we cannot continue to spend more money than we bring in. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are the biggest parts of the federal government. We must protect these vital programs.

Q. What was in the House Budget Jaime supported?

The budget cut spending in next year’s budget and laid out a plan to reduce the federal deficit over ten years. Here are some of the changes:

• Reduce the number of federal employees by ten percent over time and freeze the wages of federal employees for five years.
• Ban wasteful D.C. spending earmarks by Congress.
• Reduce federal subsidies for agriculture and energy that have been a form of “corporate welfare” for large companies and banks.
• Give states more flexibility with Medicaid (health care for the poor), allowing each state to innovate and shape the program to local conditions.
• Strengthen and stabilize Medicare for the next generation by offering future retirees the choice between the traditional Medicare option and Medicare Premium Support. This Medicare Premium Support plan, similar to “Medicare Advantage” and the plan members of Congress receive, will allow seniors to shop and compare, reduce costs through competition. Low-income or more ill seniors will receive a greater benefit to ensure they can get the care they need.

Q. Will it “end Medicare?”

No. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, Medicare will go bankrupt unless we do something to save it. This budget saves Medicare. Under the budget I supported seniors would not need to change their Medicare coverage.  Medicare would offer a wider choice of plans, but all seniors would be free to keep their traditional Medicare coverage.

Q. Will seniors be required to use a new coverage plan?

No.  Seniors will not need to change their coverage.  They will be empowered to choose between a traditional Medicare plan or among Medicare-approved private plans on a newly created Medicare Exchange.

Q. How would it allow Medicare to stay solvent?

There are a number of cost-saving strategies in the law. It stops the $500 billion raid on Medicare from the President’s health care law. Under the new budget, any Medicare savings must go to saving Medicare, not financing the creation of new open-ended health-care entitlements.

The law also stops frivolous lawsuits that drive up the cost of medical care and fixes the Medicare physician payment formula for the next ten years so that Medicare beneficiaries continue to have access to quality health care.  

Also, the private plans will compete with each other to provide seniors with the best choice in health care, which will also curb the unsustainable rise in health care costs.

Q. Does it give “tax breaks to the rich?”

No. It targets small businesses with tax incentives to create new jobs. Small businesses create most of the new jobs in America and should not be penalized with higher taxes. It also closes tax loopholes for big corporations. Everyone should pay their fair share.

Q. Does this proposal ration health care?

No. In fact, it repeals the proposal to ration health care for seniors that was built into the 2010 health care law. Under the massive health care law, an unelected board of “experts” have been told to squeeze savings out of Medicare through formulaic rationing, restricting certain treatments, with no regard to measures of quality or patient satisfaction. The bill I supported would eliminate the rationing board.

Q. Will this budget proposal become the law of the land?

To become law, the budget must be agreed upon by the Senate and the President, as well as the House. No doubt there will be changes made. But at last we have a chance to make Medicare safe and secure for another generation. Overspending is a huge drain on our nation’s economic health and tremendously difficult for officials to resist, since the consequences don’t show up for decades. But now Congress must act responsibly. The federal government promised the American people that we would provide seniors with health care and retirement income and we’re going to keep those promises with fiscal discipline and integrity.

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