WAKEFIELD–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 Ryan’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 seniors’ 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.
“My colleagues on the other aisle want to change Medicare as we know it. I don’t support that plan,” Langevin said. “I’m not going to balance our budget on the backs of our seniors or most vulnerable people in the country. I know we’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.”
Rep. Langevin told seniors that the Republicans’ 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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