Today, as Congressman Paul Ryan made his budget proposal promising massive cuts to Medicare benefits, Ron Barber made the following statement.
"Today, I am pledging to protect Medicare. Before I can ask anyone to vote for me, I want to be specific about what that means. I am making four specific promises today, and I call upon my Republican opponents to make the same promises.
"First, I will not support massive cuts in Medicare benefits to seniors. That is how Time Magazine described Congressman Ryan's "premium support" plan last year.
"Second, I will not support making Medicare a voluntary program. Medicare is a sacred trust between generations that cannot be broken. Everyone 65 and over is eligible for Medicare. If healthy seniors walk away from Medicare it will make it more expensive for the seniors who need it most.
"Third, I will not vote to change Medicare from an insurance program, which it is today, into a program that simply offers seniors a discount and tells them to go out and buy their own insurance, which is going to get more and more expensive every year. Congressman Ryan calls this idea "premium support." Republicans in Congress say that their premium support plan doesn't end Medicare. But even the Wall Street Journal wrote that this program would "essentially end Medicare." [ Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11]
"The so-called "premium support" plan removes the Medicare guarantee and shifts costs onto seniors. Last year's Republican budget would cost seniors $6,400 more for their health care.
"Right now, Medicare is less expensive and more efficient than private insurance. Why should we kick seniors off of Medicare and into the private market? We should not.
"Fourth, I will not vote to make seniors take responsibility for fixing the deficit. Arizonans know that it's an insult to ask seniors, who have worked hard their entire lives earning Medicare benefits, to be asked to sacrifice. We need to get the deficit under control, but we have to do it the right way. We need a balanced approach to dealing with our debt and deficit, and that means shared sacrifice.
"Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who has said Medicare should "wither on the vine,' has said the House Republicans' plan to end Medicare goes too far and called it "right-wing social engineering.'
"Budgets should reflect our values. Seniors have earned their Medicare with a lifetime of hard work, and we have to keep our end of the deal. Especially in these challenging times, when seniors rely on the right to see a doctor of their choice, we must protect the Medicare guarantee.
"When I go to Congress, I will."