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GOP Doctors Caucus: Medicare Seniors and Obamacare

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HAYWORTH. Thank you, Dr. Fleming, and I add my thanks to our distinguished colleague from Georgia in gratitude for your hosting and managing this session tonight.

We just had a Medicare telephone town hall today with our constituents in the beautiful Hudson Valley. We had a Medicare administrator with us because it's open enrollment season for Medicare throughout the country, I believe, up through December 7. So we were very grateful to have a Medicare administrator with us who helped answer some of the questions about some of the complexities of Medicare because there are a number of them, as you might imagine.

But we did get one question that was conspicuous because the gentleman asked me, and it's one that we've all been asked, as Dr. DesJarlais was saying not long ago, ``Nan, why are you against Medicare?'' I explained to my constituent that gosh, sir, it's exactly the opposite. I want to preserve and protect Medicare. I want to make it secure and sound. This is very important to all of us, to me as a doctor. I had the privilege of practicing for 16 years. I'm an opthamologist. So many of my patients were seniors. I'm the daughter of two elderly parents, both of whom rely on their Medicare benefits. So the last thing that I would want to do, the last thing that any of us want to do is to harm Medicare. We know how important it is.

More specifically, this nice gentleman was asking about our vote on the budget this past spring. And as all of us here know and as our listeners may not be fully aware, we did pass a budget in the House of Representatives this past April. They may not have heard quite as much about it as they otherwise should have, if you will, because the Senate did not pass a budget. They did give ours 47 more votes than the one proposed by the President. Nonetheless, that was not enough to pass a budget so we've been waiting now, the American public, for at least 2 1/2 years for the Senate to pass a budget.

But in our budget, and Dr. Gingrey and Dr. Fleming have just been referring to the $575 billion that was removed from Medicare by the massive 2010 health care overhaul. In our budget, we restore those funds to Medicare. That is a very, very important fact.

We all voted here as doctors, as caring legislators, as representatives of our districts to restore funding to Medicare, to strengthen Medicare, not to weaken it. That's the last thing we want to do and the last thing we can afford to do.

So I think it's very important for the American people to understand that as things stand now, the Medicare benefits that people are counting on are threatened in ways that they don't have to be.

So that's something that people should think about, people who cherish Medicare, who receive Medicare and who have loved ones who depend on Medicare; that Medicare is, unfortunately, as our colleagues have discussed, running out of funds.

When we think about payroll taxes, and we hear a lot about payroll taxes in the news these days, payroll taxes go to pay for Social Security and for Medicare. And the way these programs were set up, as we all know but just so that everybody understands, they were supposed to be, people would contribute from their paychecks, and the money would be kept by the Federal Government and then returned to them in their benefits in their senior years, when they would need them.

That could be a very helpful thing; but as Dr. DesJarlais has pointed out, thank the good Lord, people are living much, much longer than they were when Medicare was first made law.

So we are facing a challenge because, for several decades, contributions to Medicare from the payroll taxes were built up. People weren't taking out as much in their Medicare benefits as they were paying in. The baby boomers were not part of the Medicare-eligible senior group yet, and now they are. Now our seniors are living many years longer, thank the good Lord--and I wouldn't trade a day with my parents nor with any of our seniors--and our health care is wonderful in the United States, but it is costly for a number of reasons.

The Medicare funds that were built up have now started to be depleted, and they're going to run out, it's projected, anywhere from 2024 to now 2021. What we all know is that the estimates are probably off the mark. So, to take an extra $575 billion out of Medicare is the last thing we want to do.

It's very important for everybody to understand that because, although there are workers in this country who are contributing their payroll taxes now--and those are going to help fund Medicare--when those folks become retirees, Medicare is going to be very different in terms of the funds it has. That Medicare trust fund is going broke.

So folks have been thinking about--Dr. DesJarlais in particular mentioned it, I think--and may have heard three letters, SGR, about the doc fix. What is that? What does that mean?

When patients go to visit their doctors and when they receive Medicare, as Dr. Fleming was saying, our Medicare patients have a certain fee schedule that we are obligated to follow. In a lot of cases, depending on their insurance and other factors, that fee schedule is far less than the fee schedule that is set up for our other patients. So Medicare pays doctors and other providers, and it generally pays less than other programs do. We accept that when we participate in the Medicare program, but to provide Medicare in the United States is very expensive. We have staff that we have to pay. We have overhead. Everybody who has a business--and I had my own practice, a small business--has rent and supplies and staff and insurance to pay.

One of the unique aspects of America in terms of our medical care is that we do have what's called a ``liability system,'' which is very costly, to cover lawsuits for malpractice. We should, indeed, do everything we can to prevent malpractice, but lawsuits in this country are very expensive.

Mr. FLEMING. If the gentlelady would yield, I think Dr. Gingrey has something he would like to add.

Mr. GINGREY of Georgia. I thank the gentleman from Louisiana for allowing me to take up a little time--maybe just a minute--to interrupt the gentlelady from New York.

Ms. HAYWORTH. Absolutely.


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