Commentary: Preserving Medicare for seniors
by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo
Jul 21, 2011 | 3893 views | 1 1 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Forty-five years ago, in July 1966, Medicare was launched. Seniors were finally provided a pathway to plan and save for their retirement, and for the first time in U.S. history, it gave them a guarantee of health coverage, and with it the peace of mind that medical bills would no longer drive them into poverty.

Before 1966, only one in eight seniors had health insurance. The rest exhausted their savings, sold their homes or went bankrupt trying to cover medical costs.

Earlier this year, House Republicans, led by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, released their proposal to cut government spending by dismantling Medicare. They voted out that guarantee and passed their plan to give seniors a limited voucher to buy private insurance, effective in 2022. Those 65 and older would not be affected, but the plan breaks the promise our country made to its seniors more than 40 years ago, jeopardizing their access to health care and their financial security.

It's difficult to fathom the magnitude of this change for the people in our community and our country. If the Republicans have their way, each resident in my district between the ages of 44 and 54 will have to save an average of $182,000 to $287,000 to pay for the increased cost for health insurance. Young people under 30 will have to save even more — an average of $644,000 over the course of their lifetimes — to pay for the increased costs associated with the Ryan plan.

In the 14th District alone, the Republican plan would:

**Increase prescription drug costs by more than $80 million for 8,100 current Medicare beneficiaries entering the Part D “doughnut hole.”

**Eliminate new preventive-care benefits for 83,000 current Medicare recipients.

**Deny 500,000 individuals, age 54 and younger, access to Medicare's guaranteed benefits.

**Increase the out-of-pocket costs of health coverage for Medicare beneficiaries by over $6,000 per year in 2022 and $12,000 in 2032. Those costs would be borne by more than 100,000 people between the ages of 44 and 54 in our district.

Privatizing Medicare will revive the same broken system that prevailed half a century ago, exposing a new generation of seniors to an insecure retirement.

There is no question that we must control the costs of Medicare. We began to bend the curve in costs with the new health care reform law, which saves $430 billion in Medicare over the next 10 years. The new law focuses on preventive health, which experts agree is a critical way to reduce costs and improve public health. And Congress should allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, just as the Veterans Administration does today, saving billions every year. All of these changes will add decades to the trust fund, strengthening, not weakening, it.

I pledge to do everything I can to end this misbegotten privatization effort, which will throw seniors into the arms of private insurers. My 80,000 senior constituents deserve Medicare with a guarantee and to be able to access doctors, hospitals and medicines when they need them most.

Honor thy mother and father. Medicare has.

On this year's anniversary, it's up to our generation to strengthen our people and the promise made so wisely 45 years ago.

Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, represents the 14th U.S. Congressional District, which includes Scotts Valley and the San Lorenzo Valley.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
MS in BD
July 23, 2011
Thank you, Anna!

There seems to be so much emphasis, in plans like Ryan's, on cutting how much the government spends, that the more important issue of reducing the costs of medical care are ignored. Forcing people into private plans DOES NOT lower prices through competition. The undeniable evidence is the absolute shellacking the people that have to buy individual plans have taken. This is the ultimate example of supply/demand/free market. Not being in a government sponsored or employer sponsored group plan, these people are free to take their money to ANY plan that gives the best coverage for the least money ... yet the insurance companies have wrung them dry, raising their rates far faster than any other group. And this is the pool that Ryan wants to throw all of our seniors into? It does absolutely nothing to contain costs, but simply reduces what the government will contribute.

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