Dear Mr. President
As budget discussions continue as part of negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling, we are writing to express our strong support for preventing Medicare and Medicaid and protecting these vital programs from devastating funding cuts. While we fully appreciate the difficult financial choices confronting you during these negotiations, the severity of the cuts proposed by congressional Republicans would devastate these essential healthcare programs to the detriment of the millions of seniors, children and people with disabilities who depend on them. Republican efforts to slash Medicare and Medicaid while leaving untouched tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, unnecessary subsidies for oil companies, and a bloated defense budget is unjust and irresponsible. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you reject any such proposals if they are presented as part of the ongoing discussions.
The 46th anniversary of the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid is approaching next month. Because of Medicare, Americans can retire knowing that they can access quality, affordable healthcare during their retirement years. Since Medicare began, poverty rates among seniors have plummeted, and virtually every American over 65 has healthcare coverage, as compared to just 51 percent before the program started. Medicaid has proved equally as vital, providing health and long term supports and services for 60 million Americans, including nearly 1.4 million in Massachusetts. Medicaid provides a vital safety net for those with nowhere else to turn - seniors who need nursing home care, a poor child who needs to see a doctor, or a young adult with traumatic brain injury, and intellectual disability, or severe mental illness requiring long-term care.
Ending Medicare and eviscerating Medicaid, as congressional Republicans have proposed, would shred the promise President Lyndon Johnson made when he signed these programs into law nearly 46 years ago. In Massachusetts alone, more than one million seniors would be denied guaranteed Medicare benefits, left instead to navigate the complex and expensive insurance market on their own. Seniors would have to pay an extra $540 per month for healthcare. And someone who is younger than 55 today would have to save an additional $182,000 before retirement to make up for the additional healthcare costs they would face without Medicare. Younger people would have to save even more still.
And slashing $700 billion does not trim the fat from Medicaid; it cuts the program to the bone. Medicaid is already an extremely efficient program, covering adults for 20 percent less than private insurers and covering children at 27 percent less. Drastic reductions would virtually guarantee that states are left with no choice but to restrict eligibility, reduce benefits, and cut payments to doctors.
Upon signing these programs into law more than a generation ago, President Johnson said, "No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years." As budget negotiations continue, we respectfully request that you fight any effort that would undermine this pact with America's most vulnerable citizens.
Edward J. Markey