Millbrae seniors voiced their concerns on Wednesday to Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, over a government plan that would privatize Medicare and raise out-of-pocket costs for the elderly.
To a crowd of about 50 people at the Millbrae Senior Center, Speier admonished Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, who authored a budget that would replace Medicare beginning in 2022 with a voucher system controlled by private insurance companies—costing the average 65-year-old up to $12,500 per year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
“Any of the half-cooked ideas that are being promoted on the federal level will stay half-cooked as long as I am there,” Speier said.
The GOP-controlled House passed Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare on April 15, but it has already faced opposition before going to the Senate sometime next month. That opposition includes Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who called the plan a ‘radical change’ on Sunday’s episode of Meet the Press.
Under Ryan’s plan, the federal payment for a typical 65-year-old would be capped at $8,000 per year, and seniors would burden any additional costs.
“Not only does [the $8,000] not go far, but it’s totally impractical,” Speier said. “God forbid if one of us contracts cancer. One month of chemotherapy is $8,000.”
And, private insurers could charge unhealthy seniors more.
“This is the kind of discrimination that will destroy health care for seniors,” she said.
Ryan’s plan would also eliminate discounts on prescription drugs, and raise the age eligibility from 65 to 67.
Instead of drastic cuts to Medicare, Speier proposed other solutions to combat rising Medicare costs and an aging baby-boomer population.
For example, she suggested aggressively pursuing and enforcing Medicare and Medicaid fraud, which costs the government $60 billion annually, according to the non-profit Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.
Some seniors shared their fraud stories.
Marilyn Rosekind, a senior citizen who lives at , a retirement home, went to Washington, D.C. last August to visit her son. She fell, hurting her leg, and visited a local hospital where doctors bandaged her knee.
However, when she saw her Medicare statement a few months later, she noticed the hospital had billed the government for a $150 knee brace that she never received. When she called the hospital to alert it of the mistake, she was told that because records showed she received the knee brace, the hospital would not revise the statement.
“I got frustrated because I called them and it didn’t go anywhere,” Rosekind said.
For every $1 spent investigating healthcare fraud, the US government reclaims $17, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
To further cut costs, Speier also suggested reducing medical errors and infections, by testing patients for infections upon hospital entry.
“Her commitment to fight for what is right for us is just tremendous,” said Millbrae Vice Mayor Marge Colapietro.