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Congresswoman Waters, CPC Members Stand Up for Medicare, Health Care Reform

May 25, 2011
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) delivered the following statement from the House floor yesterday, during debate on H.R. 1216, which eliminates guaranteed funding for the Teaching Health Center program. The Congresswoman joined her colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus during a two hour-long mini-filibuster to expose the Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it:

Watch Rep. Waters' video here

Watch the CPC compilation video here

"Madam Chairman and members, this is just one more trick by Republicans to dismantle health care reform. They are going after the training of primary doctors. We need more primary doctors, even if there was no health care reform. There are many communities throughout this country that have no primary health care physicians.

Our Nation is facing a serious shortage of primary care physicians. Primary care physicians are an essential part of a successful health care system. They are the first point of contact for people of all ages who need basic health care services, whether they are working people with the employer-provided health insurance, low-income children on Medicaid, or seniors on Medicare.

The Republicans have made it clear that they are not concerned about access to basic health care services. The Republican budget for fiscal year 2012 turns Medicare into a voucher program, slashes Medicaid by more than $700 billion over the next decade, and cancels the expansion of health insurance coverage, which was included in the The Affordable Care Act last year.

The Republican budget cuts to Medicare are especially detrimental to current and future Medicare recipients. Under the Republican budget, individuals who are 54 and younger will not get government-paid Medicare benefits like their parents and grandparents. Instead, they will receive a voucher-like payment to purchase health insurance from a private insurance company.

There will be no oversight to these private programs. We will not be able to contain the cost. We will not be able to mandate what the basic services should be. As a matter of fact, we know the stories about the HMOs and the fact that they had accountants who determined what care you could get, not physicians who had the knowledge and the ability to determine what you need.

When the first of these seniors retire in 2022, they will receive an average of $8,000 to buy a private insurance plan. That is much less than the amount of the subsidy Members of Congress receive for our health plans today.

The coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug program will continue indefinitely. Under the Affordable Care Act, this so-called doughnut hole is scheduled to be phased out. The Republican budget will allow seniors to continue to pay exorbitant prices for their prescriptions when they reach the doughnut hole. The Republican budget also gradually increases the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67 years of age.

Madam Chairman, the Republican budget is also detrimental to Americans who depend again on Medicaid, including low-income children, disabled Americans, and seniors in nursing homes. The budget converts Medicaid into a block grant program and allows States to reduce benefits, cut payments to doctors, even freeze enrollment.

Medicaid funding is slashed by more than $700 billion over the next decade.

That is over one-third of the program's funding.

Meanwhile, the Republican budget extends the Bush-era tax cuts beyond their expiration in 2012 and cuts the top individual tax rate down to 25 percent from 35 percent. According to the Center for Tax Justice, the Republican budget cuts taxes for the richest 1 percent of Americans by 15 percent while raising taxes for the lowest income 20 percent of Americans by 12 percent.
The national shortage of primary care doctors is not a problem for multimillionaires. They will always be able to find a doctor who will treat them and pay them whatever they ask for. But most American seniors need well-trained primary care physicians and Medicare benefits that they can rely on.

I urge my colleagues to oppose the underlying bill, oppose the drastic cuts to Medicaid, and oppose the Republican plan to dismantle Medicare. They're trying to dismantle health care reform piece by piece, inch by inch. Today it's an attack on training needed by primary care physicians. What is it tomorrow?

We know that they have a strategy that includes hundreds of bills that would dismantle, again, piece by piece Medicare reform. It's not fair, Madam Chair and Members. Health care reform so that all Americans are covered is something that we should all support."