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Iowa Congressional Leaders Asked to Honor Medicare

Many older Iowans are squeezed by increasing health care and prescription drug costs. (Images Money/Flickr)
Many older Iowans are squeezed by increasing health care and prescription drug costs. (Images Money/Flickr)
February 6, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – More than 540,000 Iowans depend on Medicare for health care, and keeping the program strong is among the challenges facing the Trump administration and congressional leaders.

Government reports show the program will not be fully funded after 2028, and among the solutions suggested by lawmakers is a Republican-backed "premium support program."

Anthony Carroll, advocacy director for AARP Iowa, explains it's essentially a voucher program that would dramatically increase health care costs for current and future retirees. That's why he says AARP is asking Congress to follow the president's lead.

"During the campaign, President Trump was very clear about his position, saying, 'I'm going to protect and save your Social Security and your Medicare,’” he relates. “’You made a deal a long time ago.'

“Medicare absolutely is a deal with Americans, with Iowans, that must be honored and must not be broken. "

Medicare currently is a single payer program that pays for health care directly. The GOP proposal, which aims to reduce costs in order to extend the lifetime of Medicare, would give older Americans a fixed monthly subsidy to buy coverage, instead of guaranteeing their existing level of benefits.

Volunteers and workers with AARP are meeting with congressional leaders as part of an aggressive national campaign to fight any proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

Carroll says lawmakers should be protecting the health and financial security of older Americans who already are squeezed by increasing health care and prescription drug costs, and spend $1 out of every $6 on health care.

"Shifting more costs onto them is something that would be of concern when you're talking about median income of $22,800,” he states. “Even with Medicare and Social Security, 9 percent of Iowans over the age of 65 were below the federal poverty level."

Besides putting more than 540,000 Iowa seniors' benefits at risk, Carroll says, the proposal also threatens the benefits of about 625,000 workers currently paying into the system and set to transition to Medicare over the next 15 years.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA