Mar 11, 2013
Will Republicans Break Their Promise To Protect Seniors 55+?
Last week, Republican Members of Congress started kicking and screaming about the forthcoming Ryan budget, saying they couldn’t support it because it would violate their campaign pledge to protect people over 55.
“‘A lot of people had made commitments at 55. In other words, in the campaign [Republican vulnerable members] said it wouldn’t affect your Medicare for retirees or near retirees for those 55 and up ... and [if] this budget forces them to renege on that, that would be problematic for many,’ said the GOP lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.” [The Hill, 3/5/13]
“Idaho Republican Rep Mike Simpson, a former member of the Budget Committee […] said he's heard some members express concerns about doing an about face on their pledge to voters that they would not make any changes in benefits for those 55 years and older.” [CNN, 3/4/13]
Big problem for House Republicans: The budget Ryan will announce on Tuesday DOES hurt people over 55. As a matter of fact, it hurts current seniors.
The Ryan budget would reopen the prescription drug donut hole for existing seniors, which would have cost the 4 million seniors who fell into the coverage gap $2.2 billion in 2012. Ryan's budget would also cut funding for the nearly 1 million long-term care patients who rely on Medicaid.
Republican Plan Would Affect Current Seniors. “Republicans say their Medicare plan wouldn’t affect anybody near retirement age. But it would. Republicans are convinced that burnishing the public’s view of their unpopular proposal to overhaul Medicare depends on assuring today’s seniors that they won’t be affected […] There’s only one problem with the strategy: It’s not true. The policies in the House GOP budget, if enacted, would begin affecting millions of seniors almost immediately by increasing their costs for prescription drugs and probably long-term care. Further, Medicare costs could rise over time if healthier seniors choose to abandon the traditional benefit program.” [National Journal, 6/2/11]
The Republican Budget Would Have Forced Nearly Four Million Seniors To Pay An Additional $2.2 Billion For Prescription Drugs in 2012. “The Republican-passed budget will force nearly four million seniors to pay an additional $2.2 BILLION for prescription drugs next year alone.” According to the Associated Press, “The coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug benefit would be brought back.” [DPCC, 4/21/11; Associated Plan, 4/6/11]
Ryan budget criticized for potential cuts to nursing-home care. “While House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is pitching his Medicaid overhaul as welfare reform, healthcare providers and liberal groups are warning that its greatest impact may be on seniors. Because Medicare does not cover long-term care such as lengthy nursing home stays, some 14 million seniors and people with disabilities instead rely on Medicaid. […] ‘One million patients require long term care through Medicaid every day,’ Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, said in a statement.” [The Hill, 4/5/11]
FactCheck.Org: Ryan Plan Would Reinstate “Doughnut Hole.” According to FactCheck.org, in May 2011, “Ryan’s budget plan does indeed reinstate the so-called ‘doughnut hole,’ a gap in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said: ‘The proposal would repeal the provisions that created the Independent Payment Advisory Board and that expanded subsidies for the “coverage gap” in Part D (a range of spending in which many enrollees have to pay all of their drug costs, sometimes called the doughnut hole).’” [Factcheck.org, 5/6/11]
What will House Republicans do? They ran on a pledge to protect benefits for those over 55 and threatened to oppose the Ryan budget if it violated that pledge. Will those same House Republicans stand with Ryan and the Tea Party or keep their word to their constituents?
Speaker John Boehner: “ ‘The changes being proposed would not affect one senior citizen in America, not one, because Paul's made it clear than anyone 55 and over would not see changes,’ Boehner said.” [Fox News, 4/11/11]
Congressman Greg Walden: “We’ll Keep that Pledge” to Those 55+. “No, actually we’re on offense because we have a plan to save Medicare, protect those who are 55 and over. This isn’t about them… we’ll keep that pledge to them. Look we all had parents, mine have passed now but I saw how important Medicare was for them in the end years of their life, the senior years of their life. I am fully committed to making sure seniors are taken care of.” [MSNBC, 9/21/12]
Republican Leader Eric Cantor: “We’re Going to Protect Today’s Seniors And Those Nearing Retirement.” On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked the Majority Leader about the political ramifications of the Republican budget, a plan that would cuts the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade and includes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. In response, Cantor said “what we've said is this: we're going to protect today's seniors and those nearing retirement. But for the rest of us, all of us who are 54 and younger, I know those programs are not going to be there for me when I retire, just like everyone else 54 and younger. They can't. We cannot sustain that kind of trajectory.” [Fox News Sunday, 4/10/11]
Congressman Scott Rigell Introduced a Resolution Stating that Medicare Should Not be Changed for Those 55 and Older. In 2012, Rigell introduced a House Resolution “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that, as part of any agreement on Medicare reform, Medicare should not be changed for any citizens of the United States over the age of 55 and any agreement should provide a detailed plan to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in the program.” [H.Res. 680, 6/07/12]
Congressman Daniel Webster: “Not One Senior is Harmed By This Budget.” At a town hall meeting held in April 2011, Rep. Daniel Webster claimed the Republican budget proposal would not hurt senior citizens. “Not one senior citizen is harmed by this budget,” said Webster. [Think Progress, 4/26/11]
Congressman Pat Meehan Said Ryan Budget “Keeps the Commitment We Have Made to America’s Seniors.” At an April 2011 town hall meeting, Pat Meehan said, “It's very important to make this point. The Ryan budget — first and foremost — keeps the commitment we have made to America's seniors. Those that are 55 and older — if you like the plans that you are in … if you like the Medicare that you are in — it doesn’t change. It’s important to bring that out because there has been a lot of demagoguery since (Ryan) has brought it out. [Daily Times, 4/21/11]
Congressman Chris Gibson: No Change To Current Senior Citizens. “‘There's no change to current senior citizens,’ Gibson said, emphasizing that the budget resolution is a ‘proposal to stabilize the program -- it's not law’ and that without action, it will soon be bankrupt. ‘What our proposal does is it gives our future seniors the same choices that members of Congress have now.’” [Albany Times Union, 4/20/11]
Congressman Lou Barletta Told Town Hall Attendees Any Claim About Seniors Losing Medicare Benefits Under Ryan Plan Was An “Outright Lie.” At an April 2011 town hall Lou Barletta, when speaking of the Ryan budget, told attendees that “Whenever you hear that seniors are going to lose their benefits, I'm telling you now, it's an outright lie.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/22/11]
Congressman Michael Grimm: If You’re About To Become A Senior Or You Are A Senior – This Will Not Affect You. After voting for the Ryan budget, Grimm said, “What I like about Ryan's plan is that if you're 55 and over -- so if you're about to become a senior or you are a senior -- this will not affect you.” [Fox Business News, 4/18/11]
Congressman Mike Kelly: “No Change To The Current Program For Those 55 And Older.” After voting for the budget Kelly issued a statement saying, “Under our proposal, seniors are safe, with no changes to the current program for those 55 and older.” [Office of Congressman Mike Kelly, 4/18/11]
Congressman Jeff Denham: Ryan Budget Would Not Affect Those Over 55. In 2012, on Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, Denham said: “If you’re 55 or older, there would be absolutely no change whatsoever to Medicare. But if you’re under 55, then by 2024, you’re going to have an opportunity to choose a health care plan or stay with the current plan.” [Modesto Bee, 8/15/12]
Congressman Joe Heck: “The Goal is to Keep It as It Is for People 55 and Older.” In 2012, when Joe Heck was asked about Medicare becoming a voucher system, Heck said “The goal is we’re going to keep it as it is for people at least 55 or older. Folks that are on it or close to being on it because we can’t make changes to a program that somebody is going to be relying on at that point in their life.” [KDWN, 10/18/12]
Congressman Steve Southerland Said He Fought to Protect Medicare for Americans Near Retirement Age.“I have fought to protect Medicare and Social Security benefits without change for Americans who are at or near retirement age, while implementing responsible reforms to ensure the long-term viability of these vital programs for younger generations.” [Southerland.House.gov, accessed 3/05/13]
Congressman Dan Webster Pledged the Ryan Budget Would Not Change Benefits for Those Over 54. “I have listened to seniors in Central Florida and heave heard your concerns about Medicare. I supported a budget plan that would ease those concerns by protecting and preserving Medicare, while transforming the culture of spending in Washington. This responsible, long-term plan will save Medicare while keeping your taxes low and reducing government spending. The simple truth is this: if you are over the age of 54, your Medicare benefits will remain the same under this plan- they will not change in any way.” [Webster.House.gov, accessed 3/05/13]
Congressman Bill Young Pledged to Ensure Those Near Retirement Keep Medicare Promise.“As a Representative of one of the largest number of Social Security recipients and Medicare beneficiaries in Congress, please know that I will always work to ensure that those who rely on these programs, or who are near retirement, have access to the benefits they have been promised.” [Young.House.gov, accessed 3/05/13]
Congressman Vern Buchanan Said His Biggest Issue Was Making Medicare Viable for Seniors and Those 55 and Older. “Under 55, you can either take traditional Medicare, or you can take an option like a federal employee or something else, so it gives you some choices […] My biggest issue here is seniors that are over 65, we have 200,000 55 and older, almost 300,000, is to make sure these programs are viable long-term,” said Buchanan. [Bradenton Herald, 10/19/12]
Congressman Tim Griffin Said Republican Medicare Plan Kept Promise to Those 55 and Older.“Today’s report confirms what we have known for some time: The biggest threat to ‘Medicare as we know it’ is to maintain the status quo and do nothing. If we do nothing, Medicare goes bankrupt and sooner than we thought. Our House Medicare reform plan is needed now more than ever. It keeps our promise to current seniors, 55 and older, and saves Medicare for future generations.” [Congressman Griffin press release, 5/13/11]
Congressman Andy Barr: “If You’re 55 or Older, Nothing Should Change.” “The concern I have, is that the government is about ready to start breaking its promise. In 12 years, if we do nothing, the government is going to start breaking its promise. Now that’s not right, because the government has made a promise…If you’re 55 years or older, nothing should change. But if you’re 54 or younger, then we have to make some reforms to Medicare so it is there when you retire. There is one major difference between me and Congressman Chandler on this issue, I support a plan that makes no changes for people that are 55 years or older.” [Richmond Register, 10/09/12]
Congressman Scott DesJarlais Said He Supported a Plant to Keep Medicare for Those 55 and Older.“Recently, the House passed a budget, entitled the ‘Path to Prosperity,’ that will protect and preserve Medicare for both current seniors and future generations. I supported this plan that will allow us to keep Medicare as it is for people, ages 55 and older, while making the necessary changes to reform and save the program for individuals who are under 55.” [DesJarlais.House.gov, 6/10/11]
Congressman John Fleming Said He Supported Medicare Reforms That Do Not Change Benefits for Those 55 or Older.“I support real reforms to Medicare that make it sustainable for the future while not changing benefits for participants over 55 years of age.” [Congressman Fleming press release, 5/16/11]
Congressman Stephen Fincher Said He Believed No Changes Should be Made to Medicare for Those 55 or Older. “I believe we should make no changes to current Medicare beneficiaries or for those age 55 or older. We need to have a real discussion about the future of Medicare that gives seniors the same types of options members of Congress enjoy. Cutting Medicare, like President Obama has, is off the table in my book.” [Daily News Journal, 8/17/12]