March 06, 2014

Senators Fight to Protect Medicare for Seniors

Text of the legislation

WASHINGTON D.C. -U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (AR), Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH) Jeff Merkley (OR), Al Franken (MN), Brian Schatz (HI), Tom Udall (NM), and Elizabeth Warren (MA) today introduced the Medicare Protection Act, legislation expressing strong opposition to changes in Medicare that would reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or raise the eligibility age for hard-working seniors. Today, more than 46 million Americans rely on Medicare.

"We've seen an irresponsible few in Washington try to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors by recklessly voting to turn Medicare into a voucher system and raise the eligibility age for benefits," Pryor said. "I refuse to let that happen. That's why I'm proud to lead the charge on the Medicare Protection Act, a responsible solution that will protect the health, safety, and financial security of nearly 600,000 seniors in my state alone."

"Seniors cannot afford cuts to their Medicare benefits," Brown said. "As the cost of living continues to rise, the budgets of many are already stretched to the breaking point. Instead of privatizing Medicare, we should focus on ensuring the health and wellness of our country's seniors. The Medicare Protection Act would protect Medicare as we know it so that we aren't reducing the deficit on the backs of our seniors."

"I want to make sure that Medicare can continue to provide New Hampshire seniors with the care they need," Shaheen said. "Preserving Medicare is crucial to the health and financial security of our seniors."

"Raising the Medicare eligibility age would be absolutely disastrous. In my town halls, I hear from a lot of Oregonians who are in their early 60s and are praying they make it to 65 to receive their Medicare benefits. If anything, we should be lowering the eligibility age. Medicare is an important lifeline for our seniors, and must be protected from hostile attacks to privatize it or weaken it," said Merkley.

"About 700,000 Minnesota seniors rely on Medicare to cover most of their health care costs," said Franken. "It not only keeps them healthy and out of poverty, but also brings peace of mind to their families who don't have to worry about whether they can afford to see a doctor. I disagree with those who want to turn Medicare into a voucher program, slash benefits, and tell seniors that they're out on their own. This legislation will help protect this important program that millions of Americans depend upon."

"Since the program's creation, Medicare has been a vital lifeline for our seniors, ensuring access to health care for people who need it the most," Schatz said. "Yet time and time again, changes to the Medicare program are wrongfully used as a bargaining chip. This bill will help us protect seniors' Medicare benefits. In Hawai‘i, generations take care of each other and it is our responsibility in Congress to make sure benefits are there for America's seniors."

"Our seniors rely on Medicare, they paid into Medicare, and they deserve to know they can count on Medicare when the need it," Tom Udall said. "I have been proud to fight for Medicare, and will continue to push for measures like this that will keep this program strong."

"Millions of seniors rely on Medicare to pay for critical health care services, and we should not cut these essential benefits for people who need them most," said Warren. "Cutting benefits will not stop people from getting sick, it will only shift more of the cost of health care onto our seniors. We should be focused on bringing down the costs of health care, not slashing benefits for people who need care. I'm pleased to support the Medicare Protection Act, which will help protect older Americans from irresponsible benefits cuts and efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher program."

The Medicare Protection Act would amend the Congressional Budget Act to define any provision included in reconciliation legislation that makes changes to Medicare to reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or restrict eligibility criteria as extraneous and an inappropriate use of the reconciliation process. The bill would also express the sense of the Senate that 1) the Medicare eligibility age should not be increased and 2) the Medicare program should not be privatized or turned into a voucher system