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Advocates Feel New Urgency to Defend Medicare

"Older Californians depend on Medicare for affordable health care," says AARP California state director Nancy McPherson. (Alyssa L. Miller)
"Older Californians depend on Medicare for affordable health care," says AARP California state director Nancy McPherson. (Alyssa L. Miller)
February 13, 2017

PASADENA, Calif. — Rep. Tom Price begins his first full week as secretary of Health and Human Services today, and Medicare advocates say they will continue to push Congress and the new administration to protect the program they call "crucial."

Price, a Georgia Republican, came under fire from Democrats for being willing to shift costs for Medicare back onto beneficiaries. 50 million Americans - including 5 million in California - rely on the program to help pay for prescription drugs, doctor visits and hospitalizations.

Hilda Delgado, a communications manager at AARP California, said the group is calling on the public to pay attention to plans from Washington that would attempt to privatize or alter the program.

"Workers have earned these benefits by paying into the program throughout their entire working lives,” Delgado said. "So that is a matter of urgency that we're calling not just our members statewide, but all Californians to get involved and find out what is happening."

Advocates do not yet know the specifics of the proposed reforms, but AARP said in a written statement that a voucher system, "would dramatically increase health care costs and risks for current and future retirees."

Advocates for Medicare want to make sure the new administration knows they're ready to defend the program. They have been petitioning lawmakers, as well as the public, since late January.

Delgado said changes would also impact the more than 7 million Gen-Xers in California in coming years.

"We want to make sure that people receive what they were promised,” she said.

In a recent letter to members of Congress, AARP said it would, "oppose changes to current law that cut benefits, increase costs or reduce the ability of these critical programs to deliver on their benefit promises."

More information is available at aarp.org.

Logan Pollard, Public News Service - CA