To the Editor:
I have been involved in health care for most of my professional life as a nurse and later as a health care attorney. I also have a 90-year-old-mother who depends on Medicare for her health care coverage, so I understand, firsthand, the importance of Medicare to seniors in Upstate New York.
Our country has made a promise to our seniors who have spent their adult lifetime contributing to Medicare. Our government has an obligation to make good on that promise. I write this to assure seniors that I will honor this commitment to them. I will not vote to change Medicare for those currently receiving it or nearing the age of eligibility. I will remain steadfast in supporting their Medicare benefits from any further cuts.
I say "further" because the biggest threat to Medicare is the Affordable Care Act, also known as the health care law. Seniors should be aware that this legislation will impact their Medicare coverage. The health care law, signed by President Obama in 2010, cuts Medicare by $500 billion.
Included in those cuts is the popular Medicare Advantage program, which faces cuts of $135.6 billion. These cuts will unduly affect New York seniors; in Upstate New York, one-third of seniors have chosen Medicare Advantage plans. In 2017, a new payment formula for Medicare Advantage will be fully phased in, reducing benefits by 27 percent, or about $3,700 per person. With these cuts, Medicare Advantage plans will face significant adjustments, including cuts in service, access, and quality of care. It is believed that these cuts will slash enrollment in half.
Furthermore, the cuts will hit low-income seniors and the disabled with disproportionate cuts. It is expected that 70 percent of these cuts will directly impact beneficiaries earning below $32,400 annually.
One of the reasons I voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act was because of its drastic cuts to Medicare. I strongly oppose the cuts included in the president's health care law and will fight any future proposed cuts to the program.
While we must protect Medicare for seniors receiving the benefits now, we cannot ignore that the current program is unsustainable for future generations. As this next generation retires, Medicare spending will grow exponentially and will bankrupt the program. Medicare should remain untouched for those 55 years and older, but we must look to strengthen the program so it remains viable for generations to come. Our goal should be to find ways to improve Medicare so that we can preserve it for those 55 years and younger.
Protecting and preserving Medicare is a top priority for me. Our country must uphold the commitment that was made to our seniors who depend on Medicare. Washington must work together, in a bipartisan fashion, to protect Medicare for our seniors as well as preserve the program for generations to come.
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-Onondaga Hill, represents the 25th Congressional District.