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Seniors Ask Congress to Protect Medicare

AARP is launching a campaign to protect Medicare as Congress considers making changes to the program. (
AARP is launching a campaign to protect Medicare as Congress considers making changes to the program. (
February 2, 2017

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Even though President Trump promised during his campaign to protect Medicare, lawmakers in Congress are signaling that they would like to make changes. In response, AARP is launching a campaign to protect the program, which serves more than 700,000 Oregonians.

Medford resident Don Bruland, a retiree with a pacemaker that was recently replaced - a procedure covered by Medicare - is worried the voucher system proposed by members of Congress will put health insurance out of reach for people like him.

"It would be just impossible to get affordable insurance,” Bruland said. "And what I like to think of is that, with this implant I will be able to continue to volunteer in the community and be a part of my grandchildren's lives."

He said, especially for seniors on fixed incomes, the out-of-pocket costs left over in a voucher system would be too high. And he's worried that insurance companies under a voucher system may not be willing to cover his next pacemaker replacement.

Jerry Cohen, director of AARP Oregon, said a voucher system would shift risks onto seniors. Whereas Medicare has a guaranteed set of benefits for everyone, the voucher system would defer to insurance companies, possibly leaving some seniors behind.

Cohen added that Medicare is a benefit program all Americans pay into. That's important for the more-than 800,000 Oregonians age 50-64, like him, who are about to age into benefits.

"Basically, this would really jack up my health-care costs in the long run,” Cohen said. "So, again, for those that say, 'Well, I'm not on Medicare yet,' I'm at even greater risk, in terms of cost-shifting."

Cohen said rising out-of-pocket costs already are a concern when it comes to both public and private health coverage, and that it could become worse under a voucher system. This is especially concerning for the 5 percent of Oregonians 65 and older who live under the poverty line.

Bruland said Medicare has worked for him, but he's worried the next generation won't have the same benefits.

"I want to make sure that my children and grandchildren have the same thing,” he said. "In fact, I'm much more concerned about their futures and having a health care program than I am about my own."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR