Issue Position: Protecting Medicare

Issue Position

By:  Ann Kuster
Date: Jan. 1, 2012
Location: Unknown

Annie's column, published in the Concord Monitor in May 2011:

When I read about the recent congressional vote to abolish Medicare I immediately thought of my mother-in-law. She was living in a small apartment when she went to the hospital with pneumonia at 88 years old. Nanny was getting by on a widow's pension and Social Security at the time, and her hospital care and rehab were covered by Medicare. Soon after, she was home and in her own apartment again.

Nanny lived in Columbus, Ohio when she had her hospital visit, but her story is common here in New Hampshire as well. In 2008, there were 200,348 people in New Hampshire receiving Medicare benefits. Which is why I find it deeply disturbing that the U.S. House of Representative -- including my opponent, Congressman Charlie Bass -- just voted for a plan to eliminate Medicare as we know it.

In order to make room for a large tax cut for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, the GOP budget would replace the successful Medicare program with a system of private insurance vouchers, pushing tomorrow's seniors into the arms of insurance companies and leaving them without an adequate way to cope when health care costs inevitably continue to rise. This private mandate and voucher system sets up an unstable, hurtful and indefensibly discriminatory system for seniors, the disabled, and the poor -- and the only element it keeps from our current, successful program is the name "Medicare".

At town hall meetings across New Hampshire in the days after the vote, Congressman Bass defended his vote by attempting to argue that his plan relied on "premium support systems," not "vouchers". It was Washington-speak from his partisan leadership's talking points -- and we flinty constituents in New Hampshire are not buying it.

According to Kathleen Hennessey of the L.A. Times, who covered a town hall discussion at the American Legion Post 59 in Hillsborough, Bass "struggled with the tax part of the plan, flatly denying that the proposal would cut taxes on wealthy individuals and saying incorrectly that the reduction applied only to corporations."

Hennessey concluded,

"Now, it's hard to separate how much of the muddying is Bass honestly not understanding the budget he voted for, and how much is him deliberately obfuscating. But when you're trying to convert abstract beliefs into support for wildly unpopular particulars, obfuscation is pretty much the only play."

Even in this day of cynicism, that's a sorry commentary on the motives of our elected officials.

I am a frugal Yankee, and I do believe we do need to cut wasteful government spending. We can find prime candidates for those cuts in the billions of subsidies for oil companies, the corporate tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas, and the billions more spent on redundant weapons systems that our military leaders have identified as wasteful and not needed. These are all expenditures that Congressman Bass has voted to support in his seven terms in Congress -- including some votes as recently as this winter.

But ending Medicare as we know it in order to make room for corporate tax breaks? No. That's not the America I want to pass on to my kids. It's not the country that Nanny worked for her whole life, or the country that looked out for her in her final years. We can do better.