(Washington, DC) – If older voters were to rank their Members of Congress the same way they rank products and movies from Amazon, Members of the U.S. House would get 2.6 out of 5 stars for their handling of Medicare in 2017 according to a new nationwide survey released by The Senior Citizens League. “Two key concerns of Americans 65 and older are being able to afford their healthcare, and whether their Representatives are responding to the needs of their constituents,” notes Mary Johnson, Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League.
In 2017 the House of Representatives pushed through highly contentious healthcare legislation that, among other things would have cut Medicare funding by an estimated $127 billion over ten years. The Senate, however, was unable to pass any healthcare legislation. “Today many retirees, and The Senior Citizens League remain highly concerned that Congress may try to cut Medicare again,” says Johnson.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, older Americans generally vote at higher rates than younger people do. In 2016, 70.9 percent of citizens 65 and older turned out to vote, the highest percentage for any other age group. “Medicare and keeping healthcare costs affordable are key issues for older voters,” Johnson notes. “These lackluster ratings on Medicare are a red flag for every Member of the U.S. House going into the 2018 midterm elections, ” Johnson states.
Survey participants, the majority of whom are over the age of 70, report spending a large portion of their Social Security benefits on healthcare. A majority, 30 percent, says they spend from 34 percent to 50 percent of their Social Security income on healthcare. Another one-out-of-four survey participant spend 26 percent to 33 percent of their Social Security benefits on healthcare. “This is important to note, says Johnson. The majority of people close to retirement age, don’t understand the significant portion of Social Security benefits that they can expect to spend on medical costs,” Johnson says.
The new Senior Citizens League survey found a number of legislative measures that are both popular with older voters and could save on out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Eighty-six percent of survey participant’s support allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs, one of the top issues during the 2016 presidential campaign. So far, however, Congress has not taken action to lower drug costs. The survey also found that 63 percent of survey participants support establishing an out-of-pocket cap on their prescription drug spending of $250 per month which would be adjusted for inflation.
On the other hand, there was little support for overhauling Medicare into a system of private plans and giving beneficiaries a premium subsidy or voucher to shop for coverage. Forty-eight percent of The Senior Citizens League’s survey participants opposed the proposal with only 26 percent supporting it.
The Senior Citizens League works to protect Medicare and Social Security benefits and supports measures that would slow rising healthcare costs. Two bills currently before Congress would accomplish that. The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (H.R. 242) would reduce costs for seniors by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices on behalf of Part D beneficiaries. In addition, the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (H.R. 1776) would comprehensively reform the prescription drug industry and put a $250 cap on individuals’ out-of-pocket drug spending.
To learn more, or to take a survey, visit www.SeniorsLeague.org.
With 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of The Retired Enlisted Association. Visit www.SeniorsLeague.org for more information.