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Medicare Voucher Concerns for Oldest State in Nation

With Congress in recess, Maine lawmakers are likely to get earful from local seniors on the need to protect Medicare. (Envision-Free)
With Congress in recess, Maine lawmakers are likely to get earful from local seniors on the need to protect Medicare. (Envision-Free)
February 20, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine – Maine lawmakers are expected back home this week, with Congress in recess Monday, and local advocates for seniors say the time is ripe to send them a message on Medicare.

At AARP Maine, State Director Lori Parham says hundreds of thousands of Mainers paid into the system who are either now, or soon will be, old enough to access Medicare benefits.

She's concerned that proposals being floated in Congress to turn the program into a fixed amount voucher system could dramatically increase health care costs and risks.

"The system would be switched to a voucher program, which could really impact Maine seniors who are currently on Medicare, but also those who are getting close to retirement age," she states.

Parham says at last count about 288,000 Mainers are Medicare beneficiaries.

During the election, President Donald Trump said he would protect Social Security and Medicare, because in his words, "workers made that deal a long time ago."

But he's under increasing pressure in Congress to trim those programs.

Parham says AARP is taking a stand nationally to keep Medicare strong, for people who need affordable health care in their senior years.

"Through Medicare Part A and Part B, we're talking about hospital benefits, physicians benefits – the services that they've come to depend on,” she points out. “The idea that there could be no guarantee that those services are available is very concerning."

Parham says nationwide, many retirees live on less than $25,000 a year, and they are already spending $1 in $6 of their income on health care. Maine is no exception.

"Maine is our oldest state, and it continues to grow older, and changes to the program will have even a greater impact for Maine because of the fact that many of our older residents are low-income," she stresses.

Parham adds 24 percent of Mainers – or about 315,000 people – are between ages 50 and 64, who will soon be eligible and transitioning onto Medicare over the next 15 years.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME