U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, told about 20 seniors in Baton Rouge on Wednesday that changes are needed if Medicare is to survive.
Cassidy said the Congressional Budget Office predicts the Medicare system could be bankrupt within the next 10 to 14 years. Under that scenario, taxes will have to increase or coverage will have to decrease, both dramatically, he said at a meeting of residents at the Southside Gardens Retirement Community on Perkins Road.
Like Cassidy, a number of the Republicans around the country are using the congressional recess, which began Monday, to hold local meetings and criticize the impact on Medicare caused by President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. GOP congressmen, according to media reports, are promoting a Medicare revamp proposal called the Ryan Plan.
Named after the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the plan would allow individuals to purchase private insurance with government subsidies.
Cassidy said Democratic Party rhetoric about the GOP proposals, incorrectly leaves the impression that seniors would lose Medicare coverage.
“If you look at the polls, those currently on Medicare have been scared,” Cassidy said when asked why he was holding a meeting with seniors.
Cassidy said the Ryan overhaul would affect only people age 54 and younger. He told the Baton Rouge seniors that their Medicare would not be affected.
Edwin R. Chubback, 88, a retired engineer who sat on the front row of Cassidy’s presentation, said he wasn’t concerned about his Medicare. “But we don’t want to leave a mess for our offspring to clean up,” Chubback said.
The Republican plan is aimed at stabilizing Medicare and shoring up its costs, Cassidy said.
“Whatever tensions we have with the private insurance companies, they are, at least, operated and structured in such a way as to know that people can opt out and go somewhere else. Private companies don’t want their customers making that option,” Cassidy said. “If you equip patients with the information they need to know, they can make the best decisions for themselves.”
Denise Bottcher, of AARP Louisiana, said in an interview later Wednesday that the issue is coming up now because House Republicans have made changes in the Medicare program part of the negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling.
The Obama administration needs to raise the amount of debt government can take on in order to get enough money to finish out the rest of the federal fiscal year. Some congressmen are seeking budgetary concessions in order to approve the mechanism that would allow government access to the money to pay its bills after August.
“AARP wants Congress to first pay the nation’s bills without impacting Medicare,” Bottcher said.
The membership group of retirees opposes the Ryan plan that puts Medicare in the hands of private insurance companies because those insurers can limit what is covered, she said.
Republicans around the country have been criticizing Democrats on Medicare.
In California, for instance, several newspapers in the Los Angeles area this week reported on television commercials by the National Republican Congressional Committee accusing Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, of Santa Barbara, Calif. of wanting to “decimate” Medicare.
In Georgia, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Republican U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, of Marietta Ga., criticizing the Independent Payment Advisory Board for Medicare, as Cassidy did in Baton Rouge.
Both Cassidy and Gingrey called the board “a bunch of bureaucrats” who could decide whether a senior can get care.