By Iowa Congressman Tom Latham
Iowa, a state known for its growing senior population, has a unique stake in the unfolding debate regarding the future of Medicare. The percentage of Iowans 65 and older will have grown from 14.8 percent in 2009 to 22.4 percent by 2030, according to the Iowa Department on Aging. As seniors make up an increasingly large part of Iowa’s total population, retirement security issues – with Medicare at the top – will loom larger than ever on Iowa’s political landscape. As always, I’m working to preserve, strengthen and improve Medicare while many of the policies supported by President Obama and his supporters in Congress – most notably his health care reform law – put the future of Medicare in doubt.
The non-partisan Medicare Trustees reported recently that the Medicare trust fund will go bankrupt by 2024, five years earlier than previously thought. That means we need to act quickly to save the program for current recipients and future generations of Americans. Unfortunately, President Obama’s new health care law takes us in the wrong direction by further jeopardizing the program’s solvency. The new health care law slashes a half-trillion dollars from Medicare to pay for other entitlements. Rather than try to strengthen Medicare, supporters of the new law are proposing to use the program as a piggy bank to pay for massive new programs.
The federal budget proposed by President Obama for the upcoming fiscal year is even worse for Medicare. To extend Medicare’s solvency, the president’s budget proposal calls for an independent advisory board created in the new health care reform law to make further cuts in order to create savings for Medicare. The proposal hinges on the decisions of an unelected board of bureaucrats who will cut payments to medical providers and for specific services. There’s no doubt this is of deep concern to many Iowa seniors. A cancer survivor who participated in my telephone town hall meeting with Iowa seniors this past week correctly stated that she did not like the idea of her future health care decisions that should be between her and her doctors being decided by an unelected faceless Washington bureaucrat. And, because of the new law, as Medicare reimbursement rates are cut, many providers may stop treating Medicare patients, and many seniors may find themselves without access to the providers and treatments they expect.
Some in Congress refuse to acknowledge the necessity of saving Medicare from bankruptcy, but the Trustees report from this spring speaks for itself. If the trust fund goes into the red, every Medicare recipient would immediately see dramatic cuts to their benefits, and that is simply unacceptable. Inaction will doom Medicare to insolvency.
In that spirit, I’ve voted in favor of solutions in Congress that protect, preserve and strengthen Medicare. These solutions guarantee Medicare’s future without making any changes for Americans 55 and older. That means we can guarantee the program’s solvency and improve its structure for future generations without cutting a single penny from the benefits of current recipients and those nearing retirement.
Seniors throughout Iowa depend on Medicare for their health coverage, and we have to do everything we can to safeguard those benefits. Iowa seniors deserve the truth: Medicare, as it currently exists, is on the path to insolvency. Without action soon, we’ll be condemning the program to bankruptcy, but the White House’s plan will put Medicare in even greater peril. We simply can’t afford to take such a risk with a program so many Iowans depend on.
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