By Beth Finkel
A battle over Medicare is looming.
Key leaders in Congress are eyeing a voucher system that would replace traditional Medicare and could cost thousands of dollars a year for hardworking New Yorkers who have paid into the health care program for older Americans their entire working lives.
The good news is three members of Congress serving Western New York are in strong positions to try to save Medicare.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, has President Trump’s ear as the first member of Congress to endorse him when much of the political establishment was bucking him.
Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and both he and Collins are members of the House’s Republican majority.
And as minority leader of the Senate, New York’s Chuck Schumer, leads the congressional opposition.
Candidate Trump promised, “I am going to protect and save your Social Security and your Medicare. You made a deal a long time ago.”
We remind Congress that the president was crystal clear on the campaign trail about his commitment to protect and save Medicare. And we will hold Schumer to his own pledge on a recent teletown hall with 15,000 New York AARP members that he won’t support “one nickel” of cuts to Medicare.
AARP recently launched a comprehensive, nationwide campaign to protect Medicare. You can help, and send a message to your congressional representatives, by signing our petition at aarp.org/protectmedicare.
AARP New York staff and volunteers are meeting with all 29 of the state’s congressional representatives and underscoring that the voucher plan would put 3,061,394 New York seniors at risk and end the guarantee of benefits for 3,968,339 workers in New York age 50 to 64 who are currently paying into the system.
The average American senior gets by on less than $25,000 a year, already spends one of every six dollars on health care and counts on Medicare “for access to affordable health coverage,” AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins recently wrote to Congress. “We will continue to oppose changes to current law that cut benefits, increase costs, or reduce the ability of these critical programs to deliver on their benefit promises. We urge you to continue to do so as well.”
A voucher plan would end guaranteed Medicare benefits and replace them with a fixed dollar amount that beneficiaries would apply toward their health care coverage. That would lead to higher premiums for traditional Medicare plans, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office suggests. And those premiums could grow faster than the inflation rate over time, while many low-income New Yorkers could be forced into high-deductible alternative plans.
Medicare is not fundamentally broken and doesn’t need counterproductive “fixing.” It’s not right that a program you’ve supported with your tax dollars your entire working life suddenly denies you benefits you were guaranteed. Let’s not let that happen.
Beth Finkel is New York State director of AARP. She lives in New York City.