At a recent House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee hearing, I had the opportunity to question Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, about the President's Budget and commitment to ensure Medicare is solvent for generations to come. To my surprise, her testimony said the best the President could do in his budget is provide an additional four years of solvency under the Medicare Part A Trust Fund.
This floored me. The best the President can do is give seniors four more years of Medicare benefits? In real terms, this means the present Medicare Part A Trust Fund will be bankrupt, or as Secretary Sebelius politically conceded, "underfunded," in 2028 as opposed to the present date of 2024.
What does this mean? Right now, Medicare will be bankrupt by the time anyone 54-years-old or younger qualifies for the program. Under the President's proposal, anyone 50-years-old and younger will face the same fate if all of his proposals are adopted.
What I heard from the Secretary's testimony is that the best the President and his budget can do is push the bankruptcy date out a few years, but not keep our promises beyond that. The bottom line is that the system is going bankrupt and the President and Congressional Democrats -- who haven't proposed any solution -- do not have a plan to preserve Medicare long-term.
At least President Obama proposed to do something about it, because the Congressional Democrat proposal does nothing to address the insolvency and those 54-years-old and younger are promised a bankrupt system. We cannot just accept the status quo.
So who does care about preserving the system? I do. I believe we should ensure those preparing to retire will not face the threat of the benefits they've worked toward and been promised not being there. Hardworking taxpayers who paid for this health care security all of their lives deserve to have this promise honored. To do otherwise is just plain wrong. If Medicare collapses, our country will face an immediate financial crisis because we will not let seniors go without health care, causing a crisis level impact on our budgets and economy equivalent to or greater than the 2008 financial collapse.
We can and must do better. This is why we have proposed reforms to Medicare like premium support that will ensure Medicare will be stabilized and the rightful promise kept for generations to come.
You've undoubtedly heard the cheap and deceptive political attacks that have been lobbed at me and others for proposing a solution, from the same individuals who have proposed nothing. I am sure these attacks will continue. But the simple truth remains, Medicare is going bankrupt and to do nothing is to be complicit in its demise.
I will not let this happen. I am open to discussing any resolution to this pending catastrophe that will accomplish this necessary fix for our seniors, our children, and our grandchildren. This means if others have different ideas, I am willing to consider them regardless if they are a "Republican" or "Democrat" idea. That is why I have personally reached out to the head of the AARP and asked for his participation in this debate from the perspective of telling us what we can do, not what we cannot do. That is why I participate in such bipartisan groups in Washington as the Go Big Coalition and No Labels Problem Solvers to build consensus across party lines and join together, not as Democrats and Republicans, but rather as nonpartisan Americans trying to ensure we fix the problems we're facing and ensure better days on our horizon.
I implore all of you to join us constructively and send me your ideas. We know firsthand in Western New York how important Medicare is to our family members and to ourselves. Send me your solutions because I believe the practical "can do" attitude we all share as New Yorkers will truly provide the practical and common sense answers to this impending crisis.