On Friday, the 45th anniversary of Medicare, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree praised how it has helped improve the lives of millions of seniors and criticized current proposals to end the program as we know it.
“You just need to look at the before and after to see what a difference Medicare has made. In 1966, half of our seniors had no health coverage, and a third of them lived below the poverty line,” said Pingree. “Today, nearly all our elderly have affordable coverage with only 7 percent living in poverty. We should be strengthening the program, not weakening it and forcing more seniors back into poverty.”
Republican budget proposals, which Pingree voted against, would end Medicare as we know it. Those who are now 55 or younger would not receive a guarantee of care when they reach retirement age. Instead, they would receive a voucher to pay for private insurance programs that are more expensive and more limiting than Medicare. The proposals also increase the retirement age from 65 to 67.
“I don’t know where they expect seniors to come up with this money,” said Pingree. “These last two years when seniors didn’t receive COLA increases for Social Security were bad enough. Imagine if they didn’t get a raise for health costs either? How much more can we squeeze from our most vulnerable to pay for tax cuts for millionaires who don’t need them?”
“Medicare is very popular for good reason. After working hard their entire lives, supporting their families, and paying into the system, people deserve some peace of mind that they will get the care they need in retirement. They’ve certainly earned that right,” said Pingree. “They want to spend time with their families. They don’t want to fight with insurance companies, take bus trips to Canada for affordable medications, or go without heat to buy insurance. They shouldn’t have to, and I am committed to fighting to keep this program sound and strong for the next 45 years.
Private insurance plans cost significantly more to administer than Medicare and have more limits on where people can go for care and what is covered. While federal contributions to Medicare rise with premiums, vouchers under the proposal would be pegged to inflation—which rises much slower than health-care costs. The Congressional Budget Office found that in 20 years, seniors would be paying over $20,000 a year for their health care under the Ryan proposal, an increase of over 100% from what they would pay under the current Medicare system.
The proposal would also undo several improvements of the Affordable Care Act, including reopening the prescription drug doughnut hole.