Opinion Pieces

Guest Column: We must act to save Medicare

By U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler

On April 13 at George Washington University, President Obama delivered a warning to Americans that if we don't make changes to Medicare, we "won't be able to keep our commitments to a retiring generation."

The president was right. Our country has now compiled more than $14 trillion in debt, and there is simply no way the federal government can continue to borrow 42 cents on each dollar it spends. If we don't take action, something will undeniably give out.

Specifically, that "something" will be Medicare. What has taken place in Washington, D.C., for the last few decades was nothing less than a spending party. Politicians from both sides of the aisle are guilty of paying for this party with the taxpayer credit card. Families across Southwest Washington understand that D.C.'s free-spending ways have hurt this country, and they deserve to know the facts. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Medicare will be completely bankrupt by 2020 if we don't work to stabilize it.

I was not sent to Congress to stand by and watch this disaster unfold. Cleaning up a mess is not enjoyable, but it is necessary. I am committed to doing what it takes to strengthen and stabilize Medicare so it is there for seniors now and for years to come.

Some would say we can fix the problem by eliminating tax loopholes for big corporations. I'm committed to making sure big corporations pay their fair share, and in fact the budget I supported moves toward that goal, but there just aren't enough loopholes to close that would keep Medicare out of bankruptcy.

There is a budget plan that I voted for and that passed through the U.S. House of Representatives, offered by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, that would not raise taxes and offers what I believe is the most stable and secure path for Medicare. Here is what the plan does for Medicare:

• No one over 55 would see any changes to Medicare. It will be preserved exactly as it is now.

• People 54 and younger would receive Medicare Premium Support. This would closely resemble the current Medicare Advantage program that more than 37 percent of seniors in Southwest Washington have already elected to use for their health care, and it is similar to the health care plan members of Congress receive. They get to choose from a range of plans that best fit their needs.

• This future Medicare Premium Support would be available to folks with greater health risks and would provide additional assistance to lower-income recipients.

• This plan would save Medicare. Again, doing nothing would doom Medicare to bankruptcy in just nine years. This plan would make no changes for retirees and near-retirees, and it would stabilize Medicare so that it is still available when younger Americans reach retirement.

Those hoping to continue the spending party in Washington, D.C., have already begun attacking this budget because they have political ground to gain by doing so. PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact-checker for political statements, disputes claims that it ends Medicare. Declarations that it makes Medicare a voucher system are also false - it doesn't.

This budget is not business as usual, but taking no action would be disastrous for every American. I am committed to strengthening Medicare so that it is there for Americans for years to come. The plan puts Medicare back on a sustainable path, and it is a budget that will serve the best interests of Southwest Washington.

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