WAKEFIELDâ€“As the Democrats and Republicans in Washington debate over how to decrease the federal deficit, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) visited local seniors at the South Kingstown Senior Center Monday to discuss the House Republican plan to privatize Medicare.
To close the $14.3 national deficit, House Republicans, lead by Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin proposed a plan for the 2012 budget that would reduce the deficit by $5.8 trillion over the next decade by making cuts to discretionary spending programs and privatizing Medicare by turning it into a voucher system for seniors to buy private insurance.
Under Ryanâ€™s plan, current Medicare recipients and people within 10 years of eligibility, between ages 55 to 64 would get to stay in the program. However, those now 54 and under would get a fixed payment from the government when they turn age 65. They would be able to use the voucher to buy a Medicare-approved private plan from a menu of coverage levels and options.
Republicans argue that the Medicare program, in its current form, is unsustainable, and their proposal guarantees seniorsâ€™ access to health care. Democrats, on the other hand, criticized the proposal for making cuts to entitlement programs but not reducing defense spending or seeking higher tax revenue.
â€śMy colleagues on the other aisle want to change Medicare as we know it. I donâ€™t support that plan,â€ť Langevin said. â€śIâ€™m not going to balance our budget on the backs of our seniors or most vulnerable people in the country. I know weâ€™ll have to make changes, but there are changes we can make so that Medicare remains intact and we can strengthen Medicare in the future. I will fight to protect it.â€ť
Rep. Langevin told seniors that the Republicansâ€™ budget proposal would create a voucher system that requires seniors to cover the extra cost of insurance in the private market. He stated that a typical senior would pay an extra $6,400 for health care in the first year, more than doubling what he or she would pay if the plan was not adopted.
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