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Op-Ed: The Health Care Reform Bill: Bad For Seniors


Location: Washington, DC

This summer Democratic leaders in Congress introduced H.R. 3200, "America's Affordable Health Choices Act", which sets the tone for a Washington takeover of the health care system -- one defined by federal regulation, mandates, a myriad of new big government programs, and a significant increase in federal spending. While this legislation contains a multitude of dangerous policies it is particularly detrimental to our senior citizens.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that provisions in H.R. 3200 would lead to a total of $162.2 billion in cuts being taken from Medicare Advantage plans that provide a choice of health care options to seniors, including many thousands in the 6th Congressional District. The Medicare Advantage program allows private companies to compete to provide health coverage to seniors. Providers are compelled to maintain a level of care to retain participants, but at the same time, competition forces prices to remain fair. While the Medicare Advantage program needs to be reformed, these harmful and arbitrary cuts could result in Medicare Advantage plans dropping out of the program, harming beneficiary choice and causing millions of seniors to lose their current coverage. Other seniors could see their premiums rise or additional benefits cut.

H.R. 3200 includes a total of more than $400 billion in Medicare savings provisions. Not one dime of these savings are devoted to improving the solvency of a program where the Part A Trust Fund is expected to be insolvent by 2017. Any reform of our health care system needs to protect Medicare benefits for our nation's seniors, especially at a time when the number of people eligible for Medicare is set to skyrocket as baby boomers, those born in the 15 years after World War II, are just beginning to reach age 65. Medicare has run a deficit since 2004 and H.R. 3200 does nothing to ensure that these benefits are fully funded. Instead, harmful cuts will result in fewer choices and higher premiums for our seniors.

Additionally, H.R. 3200 includes an adjustment to the Medicare formula that governs physician reimbursement levels, which CBO has previously stated would cost $285 billion over ten years. Since this provision is not offset with other federal spending reductions, seniors would be forced to pay one-quarter of the increase in physician spending through higher Medicare premiums. While many in Congress, including myself, agree that we need to revise the physician reimbursement formula, Congress should not push over $70 billion in increased Medicare premiums onto our seniors to accomplish that goal and add more than $200 billion to the national debt to be borne by their children and grandchildren. That is not real Medicare reform.

The hard work and determination of our seniors helped to build this country into the great nation it is today. As your Congressman, I will continue to work diligently to ensure that the interests of our nation's seniors are protected and that health care reform includes solutions that empower patients with choices, lowers costs, makes high quality coverage more affordable, and protects and preserves the doctor-patient relationship.

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