By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts
Despite President Donald Trump’s stated support for the program on the campaign trail, proposals on Capitol Hill to turn Medicare into a voucher system would take health care in precisely the wrong direction – pushing up costs for current and future retirees, and eroding protections that Americans have earned through many years of hard work and taxes.
AARP has launched a comprehensive campaign to protect Medicare in the face of proposals by some in Congress that would hurt hardworking Massachusetts residents who have paid into the program their entire working lives.
AARP staff and volunteers have met with members of Congress to underscore the importance of Medicare to 1,112,950 Massachusetts beneficiaries and the workers who currently pay into the program. Congressional proposals to change Medicare into a voucher system would dramatically increase healthcare costs and risks for both current and future retirees.
Vouchers would break a basic promise of Medicare, which is to provide a guaranteed benefit package. Under a voucher system, sometimes known as premium support, the basic promise could be tossed aside. Instead, consumers would get a fixed dollar amount to help pay for care in the private marketplace.
Older Massachusetts residents depend on Medicare for affordable health care. A voucher system could dramatically increase healthcare costs and risks for current and future retirees. It could mean many thousands of dollars out of their own pockets. Many with limited resources could end up in health plans that limit their choice of doctors and demand high out-of-pocket spending to get needed care.
Nationally, one in four Medicare beneficiaries has incomes below $14,350, and one in two has incomes below $24,150. Raising their healthcare costs could be disastrous, forcing many to choose between going to the doctor and paying for other necessities.
The average senior, with an annual income of under $25,000 and already spending one out of every six dollars on health care, counts on Social Security for the majority of their income and on Medicare for access to affordable health coverage. AARP will continue to oppose changes to current law that cut benefits, increase costs, or reduce the ability of these critical programs to deliver on their benefit promises.
AARP’s Public Policy Institute also has put out new, detailed analyses about Medicare, including a Massachusetts fact sheet and a report titled “Premium Support and the Impact on Medicare Beneficiaries.” The report notes that “premium support could force people with fewer financial resources to leave traditional Medicare and enroll in less-expensive plans, with more limited benefits and restrictive provider networks.”
We are also letting Congress know that we are strongly opposed to the “age tax,” which refers to proposed legislation that would allow insurers to make older Americans pay significantly more for health insurance than they do right now. Under current law, insurers are not allowed to charge older people more than three times the amount charged to younger people. The new law would increase that to five times the amount, making health insurance coverage simply unavailable or unaffordable for millions of 50- to 64-year-olds not yet eligible for Medicare. This has the potential to cost older Americans thousands of dollars a year.
AARP is committed to working with elected officials of both parties to ensure that Medicare remains financially stable. But solutions must be responsible. On behalf of our 800,000 members in Massachusetts and 38 million throughout the nation, AARP will continue to champion a Medicare system that delivers on the deal Americans have counted on and deserve.