Congressional Corner: "We Must Protect Health Care Access For Seniors"

Congressional Corner: “We Must Protect Health Care Access For Seniors”

By Representative André Carson, (IN-7)

As the Representative for Indiana’s Seventh Congressional District, I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with many seniors during my Medicare forums. These seniors have uniformly shared concern that they will bear the lion’s share of the burden of Congress’ failure to come to a constructive resolution on our nation’s debt. As cuts to Medicare and Social Security have been put on the table, seniors are wondering whether their health or their standard of living is in jeopardy. In this difficult economic climate, we must ensure that changes to either of these programs do not deprive seniors of the ability to fend for themselves.

The issue of physician choice and access to care for Medicare recipients arises time and again as Congress has taken last minute action to prevent drastic cuts to physician reimbursements. Only repeated, last-minute actions have saved doctors from substantial pay cuts. Cutting reimbursements for doctors has surface appeal because it does not require seniors to pay additional dollars out-of-pocket. However, there is a hidden cost. Physicians who live under constant fear of substantial cuts may opt to stop serving Medicare patients, resulting in loss of access to care for many seniors.

Regrettably, this uncertainty persists during the on-going deficit reduction discussions. Those who received services paid for by Medicare will not be affected by the automatic budget cuts due to the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reach a compromise. Nevertheless, I am concerned that providers are not also shielded from those cuts. That is why I am co-sponsoring H.R. 3519, legislation to protect Medicare providers from the 2 percent cuts that were part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Providing Medicare services is not simple, but it is critical that we continue to make efficient investments in the healthcare expenses of 48 million people and develop an adequate workforce to provide those services. I proudly voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which expanded access for Medicare beneficiaries and increased investment in healthcare provider training. I also remain a staunch opponent of attempts to increase costs to beneficiaries and privatize this valuable program.

Over one million Medicare recipients in my home state of Indiana would face reductions in choice and difficulty receiving care if provider incentives are cut. Instead of reducing access to healthcare, it is time to shift focus to the big picture of improving the economy through job creation so more people are able to contribute to their own healthcare. It is not time to chip away at benefits to the men and women who built this great country. Individuals who contributed to Medicare for decades rely on that investment for their well-being.