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Mr. LOEBSACK. Mr. Speaker, while I oppose the underlying bill, I'm offering this final amendment on a topic that I know is important to all of us here in this Chamber: our Nation's seniors. I grew up in poverty, and my grandmother took care of my siblings and me during my childhood. She relied on Social Security survivor benefits to put food on the table, and because of her, I know firsthand how important programs like Social Security and Medicare are to our seniors. In my grandmother's case, it meant the difference between putting food on the table and my family going hungry.
Before these historic programs were enacted, far too many seniors struggled just to meet their basic needs, let alone access the appropriate medical care to keep them safe and healthy. These important safety net programs have been incredibly successful as well in lowering senior poverty rates in America.
Just like my grandmother, today's seniors made sacrifices big and small to pave the way for a better life for future generations. Our country is what it is today because of them. That is why I believe that seniors who worked hard all of their lives should have access to the best medical care available. We need to care for them just like they cared for us.
If my colleagues join me in passing this amendment, it will be incorporated into the bill and the bill will be immediately voted on. It would ensure that the underlying bill does not eliminate guaranteed health insurance benefits for seniors or people with disabilities on Medicare. It would also ensure that the underlying bill does not lead to a voucher system, ration health care, raise premiums and copayments, or otherwise restrict Medicare benefits.
I recently held senior listening sessions around my district in Iowa. When I talk to Iowa seniors, I hear far too often that many of them are struggling just to make ends meet. That is unacceptable. No hardworking American should ever have to retire into poverty, and they certainly shouldn't see their hard-earned savings wiped out because of medical bills.
During my listening sessions, I heard time and again from seniors about how much they rely on Medicare in order to stay healthy and stay afloat financially. Seniors' medical and prescription drug costs already eat up a growing portion of their income, and many of them are stretched thin even without rising gas prices, utility costs, and an economic downturn that has hit savings hard. They pay attention to what is happening here in Washington--we should all be reminded of that--and they're upset about proposals to cut and weaken Medicare.
Our seniors did not get us into the fiscal mess that we're in today in the first place, and I think it's unfair to punish them for Washington's irresponsible behavior. They cannot and they should not bear more of this burden. Unfortunately, the Republican plan for Medicare would force seniors to do just that. It would end the Medicare guarantee, replacing it with a voucher system. The voucher would not keep up with health care inflation, and it would force seniors to pay more and more of their health care costs out of pocket.
In these tough economic times, we need to find ways to be more efficient while maintaining quality of care. There are ways to do that, such as moving Medicare from a fee-based to a value-based payment system, something that I have supported all along since I've been in this Congress. However, the Republican plan for Medicare ignores these options and, instead, undermines traditional Medicare while doing nothing to reduce health care costs. This would shift costs to beneficiaries.
For low-income seniors like my grandmother was, enacting this plan could be disastrous. That is why my final amendment would ask the Members of this Chamber simply to uphold their commitment to America's seniors.
From my listening sessions, I know that seniors don't want a voucher that forces them to buy insurance in the private market. They don't want higher costs or reduced benefits, and they don't want some newfangled program. They want to keep Medicare the way it is: a guaranteed benefit they can count on when they need it.
Seniors in my district and across the country know we have big problems, but we can strengthen and preserve Medicare without ending the guarantee--a guarantee, by the way, that is neither Republican nor Democratic, but it's an American guarantee. I think we all need to keep that in mind and remember that.
Mr. Speaker, I urge all of my colleagues in the House to join me in voting for this final amendment to preserve and to strengthen the most successful health insurance program our Nation has ever created, namely, Medicare.
Our grandparents have stood by us, folks; I think it's time that we stand by them.
I yield back the balance of my time.
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