Seniors have interests that must be protected. Since taking office, I have worked hard to preserve Medicare, rein in taxation for seniors, advocate for important research, and protect Social Security. I believe we must strengthen the viability of these important financial and health programs so that current seniors can utilize these services without having to worry that their benefits will be drastically cut any day. Additionally, by strengthening these programs' long-term solvency, future beneficiaries can rest assured that these programs will still exist when they retire.
Throughout my life I have been committed to serving seniors and advocating for them. Besides being close to my grandparents growing up, I served for over 10 years on the Cass County Council on Aging which oversees and raises money to support the Harrisonville Senior Citizen Center and the Meals on Wheels program, worked as Senior Citizen Director for Harrisonville Parks and Recreation during college, and had the joyful privilege of serving as the director of the "Sunshine Club" at Parkade Baptist Church while attending the University of Missouri. I care about seniors and want to do all I can to represent the greatest generation to the best of my ability here in Congress. It is an honor to serve you.
- There are approximately 40 million Americans 65 years and older. This is the fastest growing age group in the country.
- In Missouri's 4th Congressional District there are over 120,000 seniors.
- There are over 900,000 Missourians enrolled in Medicare.
- There are over one million retirees in Missouri receiving Social Security.
- An average couple contributes $110,000 over the course of their lifetimes into Medicare but uses over $340,000 in benefits.
Let me share with you some of the work I am doing on your behalf:
Preserving Medicare: Medicare is a vital and important program providing health care to thousands in our district. Costs are escalating due to skyrocketing healthcare costs, the growing number of seniors qualifying for the program, and the increasing life expectancy of participants. This is causing a greater and greater percentage of the nation's budget to be spent on Medicare and will continue to do so as more and more Baby Boomers enter the system. Currently, 10,000 new seniors qualify for Medicare and Social Security every day! Here's a chart showing the projected impact on our budget in the future.
Medicare Part A, which covers inpatient hospital stays, nursing homes, and long-term care hospitals, will be bankrupt in 2020 according to the Congressional Budget Office. Most recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that controls spending for Medicare, stated that if the Medicare Trust Fund were to become insolvent "payments to health plans and providers could be made only from ongoing tax revenues, which would be inadequate to cover total costs. Beneficiary access to health care services would rapidly be curtailed." In addition, according to the American Medical Association, 1 in 3 primary doctors is limiting their number of Medicare patients mainly due to low and unreliable payments. This current trajectory of Medicare is unacceptable.
We must honor the promises made to current retirees while at the same time preserving this vital system for future retirees. In order to do this we must reform Medicare. The budget plan I voted for proposes common sense reforms to preserve Medicare but does not cut benefits for anyone 55 or older. Several groups have run ads trying to scare seniors about their benefits, but please know that what they are saying is NOT true. The program only proposes reforms for those 54 and younger to preserve the programs by allowing future enrollees to participate in the same healthcare program that federal employees and Members of Congress currently enjoy. It's a common sense approach to preserving quality healthcare for the elderly.
Rest assured, I am working hard in Washington, DC to ensure current retirees have access to quality health care and that our children and grandchildren also have access to this important health program.
Preserving Access: Access to Medicare continues to diminish and plague the current system. The new health care law passed last year took $500 billion away from Medicare, further weakening the program's long-term solvency. In addition, it establishes a board of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats to make healthcare decisions over Medicare expenses. According to The Heritage Foundation, this board could lead to the denial of care for many current Medicare beneficiaries. I believe this is the wrong approach and have thus co-sponsored H.R.452, which would repeal this onerous piece of legislation and ensure outside groups don't deny care to our seniors.
Recently, the CMS proposed cutting Medicare payments for skilled nursing facilities by 12.8% for Fiscal Year 2012. I sent a letter to Medicare and Medicaid administrators asking them to reconsider these deep and immediate cuts to assisted living facilities. Rest assured I will fight to increase the financial stability of Medicare to ensure that our seniors are provided the benefits they deserve.
Protecting Social Security: Seniors have paid into Social Security for years. The federal government has used those funds to pay benefits to current retirees and used the excess funds for other purposes, issuing the Social Security trust fund IOUs in return. Until last year, there were more revenues coming into Social Security than were going out for benefits, resulting in a surplus. That changed in 2010 when there were more benefits going out than coming in. As a result, the Social Security Trust Fund has been cashing in the IOUs and the federal government has had to use General Revenue to pay it back. Eventually, the IOUs will all be cashed in and the Fund won't have the revenues needed to pay out all the benefits due to people. According to the President's own actuaries, the Trust Fund will reach this point in 2037, requiring painful across-the-board benefit cuts for seniors unless we take action soon. Waiting until the program faces an imminent financial crisis would be a disservice to future retirees. That is why earlier this year as part of the House budget, a discussion was started on what could be done to maintain the future solvency of this vital program. No specific recommendations were made, but the budget did direct the Social Security Board of Trustees to do a study to determine the viability of the Social Security system and to make recommendations for its solvency. This could be done fairly easily. However, waiting until we reach that date would be irresponsible. It is vital that we honor the promises made to current retirees while preserving this important financial program for future beneficiaries.
Aging Research: Starting this year, every single day more than 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65. As these baby boomers age, one in eight will develop Alzheimer's, a devastating and heartbreaking disease. In Missouri alone, 110,000 people currently live with Alzheimer's. Age increases the risk of acquiring the disease as Alzheimer's rarely strikes before the age of 65. Alzheimer's is the fifth leading cause of death in people over the age of 65. Because people are living longer, a much larger portion of our senior population faces this debilitating disease.
Over the next 40 years, caring for individuals with Alzheimer's will cost Americans $20 trillion, with $15 trillion coming from Medicare and Medicaid. To combat this growing problem I have cosponsored the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act. This important legislation will ensure an appropriate commitment to Alzheimer's research. Scientists believe that we are at a tipping-point on Alzheimer's research. Alzheimer's is the only disease in the top 10 causes of death in America without a way to prevent, cure or slow its progression. Alzheimer's is a national crisis, and I am committed to fighting this awful disease.
Honoring Veterans: I am proud to serve on the House Armed Services Committee, and since taking office I have been a constant advocate for our troops and veterans. Members of the military are all too aware of the government's failures to honor past commitments and sensitive to threats to future benefits. The United States has a responsibility to provide health care at a reasonable rate for current and retired members of our military. The brave men and women who sacrificed so much to ensure the safety of our country deserve the protection and gratitude of a reliable health care system.
We should prohibit any healthcare reform that would endanger TRICARE and VA healthcare benefits. Our veterans deserve excellence in hospital care. Many of our veterans have voiced their concerns to me regarding the backlog in processing medical and other claims. To address this claims crisis I sent a letter asking Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to address the backlog of benefit claims made by America's veterans. I have offered to work with him to clear up this backlog crisis.