Trump: Keep your prom­ise on Medi­care

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - Clay­ton K. Hashimoto, Port To­bacco The writer is a mem­ber of the AARP Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil.

Stat­ing “keep Medi­care in­tact” dur­ing the presidential cam­paign, Don­ald Trump made a crys­tal-clear pledge to the Amer­i­can peo­ple he was go­ing to pro­tect Medi­care and So­cial Se­cu­rity.

Now, as his term be­gins, vot­ers who are de­pen­dent on Medi­care and So­cial Se­cu­rity are count­ing on Congress to sup­port Pres­i­dent Trump’s vow. This is­sue is loom­ing be­cause the leadership in Congress is push­ing for a dras­tic change in Medi­care that threat­ens to in­crease costs and gen­er­ate risks for those who de­pend on it. This change is be­ing pro­posed through the cre­ation of a voucher sys­tem, some­times called pre­mium sup­port, that has the po­ten­tial to re­sult in se­niors pay­ing out of pocket costs that will not be cov­ered by this pro­posed pri­va­tized sys­tem. With this voucher or pre­mium pro­posal, Mary­lan­ders will even­tu­ally have to choose be­tween pay­ing the cost of an ever-spi­ral­ing health care sys­tem or pay­ing for day-to-day liv­ing ex­penses.

Re­as­sur­ances have been made in­di­cat­ing cur­rent and soon-to-be Medi­care ben­e­fi­cia­ries will not be af­fected, but un­til the causes for the spi­ral­ing costs of Amer­ica’s health care are re­solved, there will be no as­sur­ances that any new pro­posal will help se­niors with their med­i­cal peace of mind. The 830,265 Mary­land res­i­dents now en­rolled in Medi­care could be spared par­tic­i­pat­ing in this new voucher pro­gram, but, the pain will even­tu­ally spread, as 1,235,245 of our state’s older res­i­dents will not be al­lowed to en­roll in Medi­care but di­verted to the new pre­mium sys­tem over the next 15 years. If this hap­pens, fu­ture Medi­care pre­mium costs are ex­pected to con­tin­u­ally rise as these younger, health­ier, se­niors with less chronic health prob­lems are en­rolled in this new sys­tem.

Un­der this pre­mium sup­port pro­gram, peo­ple with limited fi­nan­cial re­sources may then be forced to en­roll in less ex­pen­sive plans with limited ben­e­fits and re­stric­tive net­work providers. These lower cost priced plans could also have higher de­ductibles and other cost-shar­ing re­quire­ments, putting in­di­vid­u­als at risk for not re­ceiv­ing needed care due to costs they could not af­ford. When he was run­ning for pres­i­dent, Don­ald Trump pledged to pro­tect Medi­care, and rec­og­nized its im­por­tance to older Amer­i­cans who de­pend on it. We are now depend­ing on Congress to stand by Pres­i­dent Trump’s prom­ise to pro­tect Medi­care. As our new pres­i­dent de­clared last year, “You made a deal a long time ago.” That deal does not in­clude cut­ting ben­e­fits and push­ing up health care bills at a time in life when peo­ple can least af­ford it. Ris­ing health care costs con­tinue to be a key prob­lem for Amer­i­cans of all ages and po­lit­i­cal views and must be tack­led by both po­lit­i­cal parties, but re­spon­si­bly.

Amer­i­cans have earned their Medi­care ben­e­fits by pay­ing taxes through­out their work­ing lives. Our na­tion has been well ser ved by a strong Medi­care pro­gram that has kept health care af­ford­able for se­niors and can do so in the fu­ture with­out a ma­jor pro­gram re­place­ment. A pro­posed voucher sys­tem would dra­mat­i­cally in­crease costs for older Amer­i­cans when they can least af­ford it. Pres­i­dent Trump un­der­stands this vi­tal prin­ci­ple, and we urge him to re­mind those in Congress who do not share this same vi­sion. For more than half a cen­tury, Medi­care has de­liv­ered on its prom­ise of pro­vid­ing health care to se­niors who were once shut out of the sys­tem. Our con­gress­men and sen­a­tors must keep Medi­care sus­tain­able and strong and should not re­place a health care pro­gram that is not broken.

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