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Pittsburghers Would be Hurt Under Plan to End Medicare Guarantee

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Today Congressman Mike Doyle (D-Pennsylvania) released a report detailing the impact that ending the Medicare program and replacing with private insurance paid for in part with federal vouchers would have on future retirees in southwestern Pennsylvania.

"This study highlights just what a bad deal the House Republicans' budget is for people in Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania," Congressman Doyle observed in releasing this study. "The 2012 federal budget that House Republicans approved in April would shift trillions of dollars in health care costs from the federal government onto tomorrow's senior citizens and the disabled, many of whom are on fixed incomes. With Southwestern Pennsylvania having an older population than most of the country, a disproportionate share of that burden would fall on our region."

The budget passed by the House of Representatives in April would dismantle Medicare and its guarantee of health insurance coverage and a wide range of benefits -- and replace it with increasingly inadequate payments to private insurance companies for Americans who are currently 54 or younger.

The result would inevitably be that, starting 10 years from now, seniors would be forced to buy less comprehensive coverage or pay higher premiums and copayments as the years went by. Those seniors would pay more for their health care, and very soon they'd end up paying most of their health care costs themselves.

This change would affect more than 400,000 (72 percent) of the people in the 14th Congressional District over time, and nearly 100,000 in the first ten years under the new system -- increasing their out of pocket costs by $6,000 in 2022 and by $12,000 in 2032. Under the new system, out-of-pocket costs for these Medicare beneficiaries would more than double compared to traditional Medicare. The average American would have to save more than $182,000 more over the course of his or her working years just to offset the cost of this change.

"Republicans have been implying that their budget wouldn't affect current Medicare beneficiaries or anyone 55 years old or older," Congressman Doyle noted. "But that's simply not true. The budget approved by House Republicans in April would cut benefits for current Medicare beneficiaries as well -- by eliminating free preventive care and raising the cost of their prescription medications."

"Republicans are clearly trying to mislead the public by glossing over the difference between their Medicare plan and the larger Republican budget plan that includes it," Congressman Doyle added. "The American People deserve straight talk about this radical plan to make them bear a much bigger share of their health care costs."

The House-passed budget also calls for repealing the 2010 health care reform law, which among many other things, phased out the Medicare prescription drug benefit donut hole and eliminated co-payments for annual check-ups and preventive screenings like mammograms. Those new benefits went into effect on January 1, 2011.

This budget would hit seniors' pocketbooks almost immediately. Eliminating the phase-out of the donut hole alone would affect more than 250,000 Pennsylvanians and cost them $149 million next year and $3 billion over the next ten years. In the 14th Congressional District, that translates into increased costs for nearly 13,000 Medicare beneficiaries, who will have to come up with an additional $126 million over the next decade alone -- that's an average of nearly $1,000 a year in additional expense for each senior citizen who falls into the Medicare Part D donut hole. That's quite a change for most seniors living on fixed incomes.

Over 100,000 current Medicare beneficiaries in Pittsburgh -- and even more future beneficiaries -- would be hurt by the Republican budget's elimination of the new preventive care benefits Medicare beneficiaries created in the health care reform law. Those benefits included the elimination of deductibles and co-pays for preventive health care like cancer screening, as well as a free annual doctor's visit to discuss ways to improve each patient's health.

"That doesn't sound like "reform" to me," Congressman Doyle said. "It sounds more like health care rationing, with only the wealthy being able to afford the level of health care that all Medicare beneficiaries enjoy today."

On top of that, the budget approved by the House would convert Medicaid into a block grant and cut it by nearly a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. That fundamental change would eliminate the last guarantee that low-income seniors, the disabled, and the poor could get the health care they need at a price they could afford -- and which pays for two-thirds of all nursing home residents in the country.

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