Today, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) visited the House of the Good Shepherd Retirement Community in Hackettstown and spoke with seniors there about retirement security. They discussed the impact that Medicare and Medicaid privatization as well as the AHCA and Administration’s recently proposed budget would have on seniors and their families.
“Our nation made an intergenerational promise to our seniors. I take that promise and that obligation very seriously,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer. “We need to make smart decisions now to make the country a better place for future generations, but the answer isn’t to leave seniors in the street. We need to sound the alarm on those who are trying to guy the retirement security that seniors and their families depend on.”
Video of this event is available HERE and a photo from the event is below.
Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
It’s good to be here at the House of the Good Shepherd, a pillar of our community, serving the community for more than 125 years.
And this House here in Hackettstown has served seniors since 1965, providing not just a place to live, but enrichment, fellowship, and medical care – in fact, 1965 was also the year they signed Medicare into law.
Speaking of fellowship, I’ve been in Congress now for five months, and have a few observations to share from my experience so far.
First, despite what you may see on TV, there are plenty of people there who genuinely want to work together, but it takes real effort to do so. I’ve found that if you make the effort to work across the aisle, people are generally willing to join you.
Second, while America is divided along party lines, we must figure out common sense solutions. We have real challenges in NJ – it’s expensive to live here, we need more jobs, our infrastructure is crumbling.
Good ideas don’t come with party labels. That’s why I am proud to serve as the co chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of Republicans and Democrats who are working to find common ground on issues like cutting taxes and fixing our crumbling roads and bridges.
Third, we need more governing from the pragmatic middle and less extremism in Washington. I’m a pro-business moderate; I want lower taxes and less regulations. I want to do more for vets, infrastructure, and law enforcement.
I’m also someone who believes if you can get 80 percent of what you want to move an important priority forward, you’re better off than if you insisted on 100 percent and end up getting nothing. We have real challenges and we can’t just obstruct and refuse to work together.
One significant challenge I’m here to talk about today are those facing our seniors.
As you all know, more than half a century ago, our nation made an intergenerational promise to our seniors–a promise that we will have access to the health care we need in our golden years.
I take that promise and that obligation very seriously.
First, Medicare, which was signed into law in 1965, the same year this building started serving seniors.
In Independence, Missouri, President Truman said Medicare put this “nation where it should be. To be right.”
Our seniors pay into Medicare through a lifetime of hard work and deserve the security of knowing they will be able to access healthcare when they need to.
We can’t go back to a time when an illness or injury meant bankruptcy or death for retirees.
But some people want to go back on their word and privatize Medicare, risking higher costs for nearly 60 million Americans. Not on my watch. My mom would never let me home to the dinner table again.
By handing out coupons for coverage, these reckless politicians would be increasing out of pocket costs for seniors by an estimated $6,000 annually.
For many on a fixed income, that additional $6,000 in out of pocket costs each year would cause a big problem for their budgets, forcing them to choose between a meal and their medicine. Some wouldn’t be able to afford health care at all.
I won’t allow that bond to be broken. I will stand up to anyone who tries to ram through their extremist agenda on the backs of seniors.
Because here’s what this would mean for seniors here in New Jersey.
1.3 million New Jersey seniors rely on Medicare for their healthcare. And another 1.9 million people here in New Jersey are scheduled to enter the program in the next 15 years. That’s 3.2 million people over the age of 50 who have paid into Medicare through a lifetime of hard work. To put it another way, that’s about a third of our population who could be left in the cold.
By privatizing Medicare, seniors would lose the fundamental guarantee of insurance coverage, and out of pocket costs would skyrocket for some.
Because if the value of the voucher you receive turns out to be insufficient to cover your care, you’re out of luck. Your out of pocket costs will be higher-and that’s on a fixed income.
A 2012 study found that nearly 60% of all Medicare recipients would be forced to pay higher premiums if the program is privatized.
Second, I voted against the reckless health care bill that recently passed House of Representatives. Three out of the five Republicans in our congressional delegation voted against it, too. I’ll be the first to say the ACA is far from perfect, and I am open to common-sense fixes.
But the bill I voted against last month would have shifted costs onto the State of New Jersey in a major way, requiring a new state tax to the tune of $4,000 a family.
It would also make it impossible for people with pre-existing conditions to get health care coverage they can afford in some states.
Additionally, one in five Medicare enrollees fell into the donut hole gap in 2009, before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, costing them big in prescription drug costs. They are now saving $15 billion a year.
Closing the Part D Donut hole has already made a real difference in pocketbooks of seniors across New Jersey. And the savings will continue to grow as we get closer to 2020 when the hole will be entirely closed.
But should the ACA be repealed without a plan to replace it, those costs will jump right back up. According to one study by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the average senior would lose almost $2,000 in savings each year.
Earlier this year, I sent a letter to Congressional leadership, telling them not to reopen this donut hole work on health care reform. Seniors would be crushed by additional drug costs and experience extreme economic hardship.
But it’s not just prescription drug costs that are at risk of increasing dramatically during this reform process.
The misguided health care bill that recently passed the House includes a “Senior Tax” that would make those over 50 pay 5 times or more for their health care, bankrupting many older Americans by the time they’re eligible for Medicare.
New analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found that for a 64-year-old earning $25,000 a year, their annual premiums would go up by $13,600.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many 64 year olds on fixed incomes who can afford $13,600 in new health care costs each year.
In fact, I got a letter from a woman in Franklin a few weeks ago who told me, “I as well as most of my community are senior citizens living month to month on a small Social Security check. Some among us are very ill and have a lot of medical bills. One across the street and one beside me have very bad diabetes. I myself have several health problems and take a lot of medicine every day in order to get out of bed and function. I live alone so without this medicine I would die.”
I think of all the people like this woman who would be adversely impacted by this health care plan and know I have to keep speaking out on their behalf.
Next, this bill would also radically change Medicaid, a needed lifeline that millions of seniors and people with disabilities rely on to be able to access long term care.
200,000 Medicare beneficiaries in our state rely on Medicaid for services not covered by Medicare, like long term care.
In fact, 3 out of 5 New Jersey long-term care residents in nursing homes are covered by Medicaid.
This bill could lead to seniors being thrown out of their nursing homes.
Fourth, I’m concerned about aspects of the administration’s budget that was proposed last week. There is bipartisan concern in our delegation.
It would slash an additional $600 billion from Medicaid, further undermining seniors’ access to long-term care.
And this same plan also included steep cuts to the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging, harming research into cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases affecting seniors.
Not only do these programs have a proven track record helping the private sector discover cures, they’re providing hope for the millions of individuals and their families affected by these devastating diseases.
So, that’s why I’m here today. I’m for fiscal responsibility, getting our spending under control, and dealing with our taxes which are holding us back. We need to make smart decisions now to make the country a better place for future generations. But the answer isn’t to leave seniors in the street.
We need to sound the alarm on those who are trying to gut the retirement security that seniors and their families depend on.
My approach to governing is about solving problems–not creating unnecessary chaos and hardship for older Americans. As I’ve long said, I will work with anyone, regardless of political party, to improve health care affordability and accessibility for seniors and everyone else.
So, in closing, I’d want to reiterate to the folks here today that my job is solving problems for you. Whether that’s solving problems like helping make sure we keep prescription drug costs down, protect Medicare from privatization and cuts or cutting through red tape to help you resolve an issue with the VA or Social Security Administration, I am here for you.
For the rest of the program time here, I’d like to come around and talk to you about your concerns and see what problems my team and I may be able to solve for you.