Reader Submitted

Candidates speak on issues impacting seniors

Friday, August 31, 2012

Candidate for Hollis state representative, Kat McGhee, joined the Hollis Seniors meeting on July 19 to help shed light on policies effecting senior members of our community.

Mrs. McGhee secured guest speaker Natasha Perez, former political director of AARP and current seniors advocate with the Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare, to lead a discussion on facts vs. fiction regarding the recent the health care reform bill and a pending bill in Congress that proposes to alter Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Perez explained the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was designed to eliminate the current fee for service model, and replace it with a patient-centered, outcome-centered approach, which will bring down costs, without cutting benefits. The ACA gives tuition incentives to medical students who become general practitioners to help address the country’s need for more physicians; it also provides for care coordinators to facilitate handling multiple providers simplifying the process and cutting down on unnecessary procedures.

The ACA covers broad-based preventative services and annual check ups at no charge to seniors to encourage early detection and aid in lowering health care costs.

The first question Perez received was from current state rep. Jim Belanger who asked, ‘How are you going to pay for all this?” What many people don’t remember, or pass along, is that the 2010 bill was paid for and came into the budget as deficit neutral – the Congressional Budget Office scored the bill as decreasing the US deficit over time – so it would cost us more to undo it than to keep it as proposed.

The speaker discussed recent political flyers attacking the ACA that suggested billions in new taxes and threats to Medicare as reasons to support repeal. The explanation on the tax rhetoric comes from the fact that the Supreme Court decision found the mandate portion of the law constitutional under the governments’ authority to tax and spend. Thus, the mandate of the law can be enacted under that authority and if someone who can afford insurance, chooses not to buy coverage, they will pay a penalty/tax. At most, this penalty will affect approximately 1 percent of the U.S. population - so again, a huge tax increase is not part of the ACA, and if anything, Medicare is strengthened by the elimination of redundant programs and fraudulent claims.

Perez spent some time informing the group of a pending bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives and, thus, could become law.

The Ryan Budget, also referred to as the GOP Plan, would require a 2 percent cut to Medicaid which would affect seniors receiving long-term care benefits. The Ryan Budget Plan triggers cuts in Social Security and proposes privatizing the program. Perez explained that although it is widely acknowledged that Social Security and Medicare need reform to remain viable, very few of our leaders explain the connection between the Affordable Care Act and the need to bring the costs of these programs down.

Perez explained that while many believe that Social Security is about to run out of money, the program is funded through U.S. Treasury bonds and is secure for the next 40 years; she further explained that by implementing a small change, like raising the income cap from $110,000-$160,000 for paying into Social Security, the program would remain solvent for the next 75 years. This solution is not on the table, but was used as an example of what could be done rather than privatization.

The over-arching message was that in addressing the needs of our health care system, we go a long way to addressing the rising costs of our other social safety nets. Hollis Seniors benefit from the ACA and Medicare benefits will not be cut by any of its provisions. While there were questions about the many rumors undermining the new health reform bill, in general, both Perez and McGhee did their best to answer questions, sort fact from fiction and created a space for additional dialogue among our seniors about policy decisions that effect them, this year.

More information can be found at www.white
house.gov/healthreform.

– Submitted by
Darlene Demetrion

NOTICE: We use the Facebook commenting system. For more information, read our Comment Policy