I consider it a great privilege to represent a district in Congress that so many of our nation's retirees call home. My constituents are men and women who served in our armed forces, rebuilt America after the Great Depression, and contributed so much to our country through meaningful careers in education, business, law enforcement, and more. My commitment to their health and financial security is based on the simple premise that those who have worked hard and played by the rules their entire lives deserve to enjoy a retirement of dignity.
With the 112th session of the House of Representatives led by a Republican majority, protecting the hard-earned benefits of America's retirees and preserving quality Medicare benefits will be upmost priorities of mine. Many seniors in Palm Beach and Broward Counties rely on Social Security as their primary source of income and Medicare for access to affordable health services. These programs keep millions of America out of poverty every year, and they must never be taken for granted. In fact, a recent budget proposal supported by the new Chairman of the House Budget Committee once again ties Social Security benefits to risky private accounts and replaces Medicare with limited vouchers for private insurance. If this most recent economic recession has taught us anything, it should be that tying the retirement benefits of America's workers to the whims of the stock market could result in life savings being gambled away.
During the 111th Congress, I introduced legislation to extend Social Security's solvency and ensure adequate cost-of-living increases without raising the retirement age or cutting benefits. I also have joined the House Democratic Seniors' Task Force, a coalition of members committed to America's seniors. Together, we have released a Seniors Bill of Rights, a resolution reaffirming our national commitment to affordable health care for seniors, a secure retirement, protection from abuse and scams, and safe and livable communities with adequate transportation options.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and signed by the President in 2010, contains several provisions that will improve Medicare benefits. Each year, over 20,000 seniors in Florida's 19th district fall into the Medicare donut hole, resulting in massive prescription bills. Starting in 2011, the health care reform law provides seniors in the donut hole with 50 percent discount on brand name medications, and over the next decade, this unfortunate coverage gap will be completely phased out. In addition, the Affordable Care Act authorizes Medicare to provide annual check-ups and many routine screenings to Medicare patients free of charge. The bill also increases payments to primary care doctors and general surgeons who treat Medicare patients, a provision aimed at preserving seniors' access to quality care. Protecting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from Republican repeal efforts and ensuring this legislation and its many benefits to seniors are fully implemented will be a key priority of mine in the 112th Congress.