Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sen. Stabenow holds roundtable with seniors to discuss Medicare

OAK PARK, MICH. -- U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow today held a roundtable with local seniors to discuss Medicare at the Oak Park Community Center. As Congress continues to work on the Federal budget, and as the U.S. House recently passed a budget that would effectively end Medicare, Stabenow heard from Michigan seniors and listened to their concerns regarding the future of the health care program. Senator Stabenow has been a long-time proponent of protecting Medicare for Michigan seniors.

At today’s event, Senator Stabenow discussed ideas to generate hundreds of billions of dollars in savings by making Medicare more efficient and holding drug companies accountable, instead of changing seniors’ benefits or making them pay more. For example, Senator Stabenow said that allowing Medicare to use its bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower drug costs could reduce the deficit by roughly $200 billion by preventing overpayments to drug companies without affecting benefits or costs for seniors.

Stabenow said she was working with colleagues on a proposal to do this and may have an announcement on proposed legislation soon.

"We need to do everything possible to responsibly reduce our debt, but we should do that by holding government accountable, measuring everything government does and eliminating programs that aren’t working," Senator Stabenow said. "Taking benefits from seniors ought to be the last thing we do -- unfortunately that’s the first thing the Republican plan would do. I will not support dismantling Medicare and doubling the costs seniors would have to pay for their health care."

Jerry Bixby, Troy resident, said, "Like the majority of Americans I oppose privatizing Medicare. The plan passed in the House would slash benefits, literally throwing millions of Americans into poverty and destitution for the rest of their shortened lives because they will not get proper medical care in their twilight years. Such a plan would be one giant step backwards!"

Penny Adams, Rochester resident, said, "Nearly everyone our age has a pre-existing condition. To send any of us out equipped only with a voucher to negotiate affordable health insurance with private insurers is an appalling proposal to make. Most Medicare participants are on a fixed income and will be unable to deal effectively with a profit-hungry commercial insurance industry."

Joanne Braund, Royal Oak resident, said, "I feel that the House plan will destroy Medicare, which is so important to seniors in the United States. The health insurance industry will see this as an opportunity to raise prices to the point that seniors will not be able to get the care they need."

During the roundtable discussion, Michigan seniors spoke out against the House Republican 2012 budget proposal and what it would mean for Medicare. According to the Congressional Budget Office, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget proposal will double out-of-pocket health care costs for seniors, sending the average senior’s out-of-pocket expenses to $12,000 per year. It will also reinstate the Medicare donut hole -- a gap in prescription drug coverage that would cost nearly 100,000 Michigan seniors $55 million in additional costs next year.

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