The $500 Billion Dollar Elephant is Still in the Room

December 15, 2009

The $500 Billion Dollar Elephant is Still in the Room

It appears this morning that the Senate will take two positive steps in their march toward health care reform. While nothing is in writing, the rumors indicate that the expansion of Medicare to those age 55 up to and through age 64 will be removed from what will be the final Senate bill. Majority leader Reid has indicated that they are working on a way to close the gap in Medicare Part D coverage, often referred to as the donut hole. We applaud these two steps but warn that the biggest step still needs to be taken, the step to remove almost $500 billion worth of cuts to Medicare.

While some might think that these two positive steps would divert our attention, we are here to tell everyone that the 500 billion pound (dollar) elephant is still in the room. It's sitting right in front of us, and no amount of effort to get us to focus on another ring in this three ring circus will keep us from shouting as loud as we can that Medicare is in danger if these cuts are allowed to become law. Senator Reid can bring in his financial jugglers and try to convince us that they are making Medicare stronger, but our common sense tells us different. You can't take almost half a trillion dollars out of Medicare and make it stronger. Some might be able to close their eyes to this huge elephant in the room but even with your eyes closed you can still smell it and it stinks.

Agreeing to remove the plan to expand Medicare to those age 55 through 64 is not a concession. It was an ill-conceived attempt to buy votes in the first place. It was conjured up in the back rooms of the Democratic caucus, and we can't be expected to celebrate the removal of an idea that shouldn't have been considered viable in the first place. While the pledge to close the donut hole completely is a positive step, why is it being done now, at the eleventh hour? Is it being proposed only to buy votes? This option should have been considered at the very beginning of this debate. When the pharmaceutical companies made a pledge to pitch in to pay half of the donut hole, Congress should have followed their lead and included legislation to close the gap completely right then. If Congress was really concerned with older Americans, they should have made this move as a first step rather than a last ditch effort to buy votes. So far all I've heard is Senator Reid suddenly seeing the light and pledging to close the donut hole completely, no mention that the pharmaceutical companies will be paying half. Politics has once again trumped good legislation that should have been done months ago.

The focus of the discussion should be centered on how to reform health care without cutting Medicare rather than all of these other amendments that are included to buy votes. The Congressional Democrats and the administration have set a seemingly arbitrary deadline of having a health care reform bill to the President by Christmas. This deadline is not arbitrary at all. They know that if this bill doesn't get finished by then, and the Members of Congress go back to their home states, they will finally be forced to listen to common sense Americans who will be affected by this bill. A new CNN poll found that 61% of Americans don't think the health care reform bill, as it stands right now, should be passed. The Democrats and the Administration know that when Congress hears from their constituents, they just might come to their senses. We need somehow to delay this runaway big government, deficit building, Medicare cutting freight train long enough to let our Members of Congress can get out of the hypnotic clutches of Washington D.C. and back to the mind clearing common sense of real America. They need one more opportunity to talk with America's seniors, who are quite aware of that 500 billion dollar elephant in the health care reform room.

RetireSafe has not given up the fight. We cannot stand by and watch a bill that will destroy a program that older Americans rely on to be passed without our opposition to the Medicare cuts. The Chairman of the Board of RetireSafe, despite the predictions that the cuts to Medicare would be included in the final bill, looked me in the eye and said that we can't give up the fight. We will not give up the fight. Call both of your Senators now and tell them that they should focus on getting this right, not just getting it right now. Coming up with hair brained ideas in the back rooms of Congress, ideas that will have decades of impact on almost every American, especially seniors, is not the way Congress should work. Important decisions should be given the time equal to their importance. Tell them you want them to slow down, and tell them that you want them to keep fighting for health care reform done the right way -- without cutting Medicare. Tell them you are watching their votes and to not forget that you vote too!

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