By Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler
On Friday, The Columbian examined my mail piece to seniors throughout Southwest Washington on actions I've taken to protect Medicare. My votes, and the solutions I've supported, are based on important facts showing that Medicare is in jeopardy if no action is taken. A few important details were missing from the original article, and I appreciate the chance to air the facts here.
The health care reform of 2010 made some sweeping changes to Medicare. One change was to create a powerful 15-person board tasked with reducing costs within Medicare, known as IPAB. I oppose IPAB, because unfortunately this board will restrict seniors' access to necessary treatments and health care.
There is nothing partisan about concerns over IPAB. That's why more than 230 Democrats and Republican members of Congress joined together to co-sponsor legislation to eliminate this unelected, unaccountable board.
Consider the letter to Congress signed by more than 400 nonpartisan physician, patient, hospital, and health care advocacy organizations -- including the Washington State Medical Association -- that says the powerful IPAB board "will have a severe, negative impact on Medicare beneficiaries." The letter cites the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to note that IPAB will look to squeeze payments to physicians, making it difficult for doctors to even afford seeing Medicare patients.
Another massive impact of the 2010 health care law was that it cut $500 billion from Medicare. Again, this is not simply a partisan talking point. While discussing his party's ability to cut spending, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a former Democratic presidential candidate, admitted, "We cut $550 billion in the health care act from Medicare." (Nov. 20, 2011, "Meet the Press").
Call them cuts
While selling the bill, proponents liked the word "reduction" much better. But numerous news sources, including the Washington Post, CNN and others, used the "cut" characterization. And when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office scorekeepers say that nearly 3 million fewer seniors will be on Medicare Advantage as a result of the health care law, one can conclude that these are cuts, and that they will have a real impact on current and future retirees.
And Medicare can hardly afford this hit. At a congressional hearing on June 22, 2011, two of the Medicare program's own trustees testified that Medicare's bankruptcy was speeding up. With 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age each day, never before has Medicare had to provide health care to so many. Comparing Medicare in 1970 to Medicare today is like comparing grapes to watermelons. It doesn't work.
I refuse to ignore the facts. Only if we face the truth and deal with it will America be able to move forward on bipartisan solutions to protect the vital Medicare program for our seniors.
Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, represents Washington's 3rd Congressional District.