By Senator Charles E. Schumer (NY), Democratic Leader
Medicare and Social Security are two of the greatest policy innovations of the past century, raising countless older Americans out of poverty and want, and profoundly changing for the better the way our country treated its seniors. These critical programs provide dignity and quality of life of millions, and they must be preserved and strengthened.
But they are under threat, and their future is in jeopardy. Between President Donald Trump’s nomination of Congressman Tom Price, an avowed Medicare opponent, to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Republican leaders’ threats to privatize Medicare and end the guarantee, it is clear that leaders of the GOP are plotting a war on seniors.
Every senior, and every American, should know that Democrats will not let them win that fight.
Last year, on its 50th anniversary, 55 million Americans, including 3.3 million New Yorkers, were Medicare beneficiaries. After paying into the system throughout their working lives, millions over age 65 rely on these modest benefits for dignity and health security.
Our country must keep its promise to seniors by ensuring they have access to health care and economic security in their aging years. Social Security and Medicare are bedrock pillars of American society; these benefits are earned; and, time-and-again in the campaign, President Trump vowed to keep them intact.
However, while the President declared during his campaign last year that seeking any “substantial” changes to Medicare would be a political “death wish,” his selection of Price insists that converting Medicare to a voucher-based program is still on the table. In addition, GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan have already highlighted their plan to fundamentally eviscerate Medicare by proposing policy after policy in their budgets that would undermine the program's integrity, and force seniors to navigate a maze of insurance options – just to access substandard care at higher costs.
Don't kid yourself: These efforts would end Medicare as we know it. Half a century after Medicare began – ensuring health security for millions – some in Congress would snuff it out. We simply cannot pull the rug out from under our seniors. To keep the trust fund that supports Medicare and Social Security solvent past 2030, Congress must start with reigning in prescription drug prices and asking the wealthiest among us to pay a little more – not insisting the middle class accept steep benefit cuts or inferior care.
In the 115th Congress, Democrats will fight proposals that cut benefits and will instead engage the Republican majority to work on real bipartisan solutions to make sure Medicare is kept intact for generations to come.
The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.