Oakland, N.J. – Today, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Oakland, N.J. seniors discussed the dangers of Medicare privatization and the impact a repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement would have on retirement security. Gottheimer addressed the crowd of over 50 people at the Oakland Senior Center before mingling with the seniors and taking their questions.
“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 you need in our golden years,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer. “I take that promise and that obligation very seriously. I will stand up to the tea-party when they try to ram through higher prescription drug and doctor visit costs with Medicare vouchers.”
“But some people—led by the Tea Party in Washington—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.”
Gottheimer’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
Hello, thank you for having me here to speak with you all today. Thanks to Rose for the introduction and for the great job she does running the excellent programs you all have here in Oakland. This center is such a great asset to the Oakland community—I was looking at the programming schedule and was very impressed. Exercise, arts, fellowship—what a fantastic community center.
Since I know many of you just came from Zumba class, I understand that you are a health-conscious bunch. And that’s what I want to talk about here today.
There’s a lot of talk in Washington about reforming our health care system. And I agree that there’s a lot we need to fix about the health care industry here in the United States. We should repeal the Cadillac Tax and Medical Device Tax and work to lower costs while maintaining quality. There are parts that are really helpful: the 26-year old provision, the pre-existing conditions provision, etc.
And, as I’ve repeatedly said, I will work with anyone, regardless of political party, who has ideas to improve healthcare.
But one aspect of reforming the Affordable Care Act that alarms me greatly is the impact it would have on seniors and on the retirement security of families of all ages.
Through the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare Part D Donut Hole is closing—and will be fully closed by 2020. That means lower drug costs for seniors. That’s a good thing.
And the ACA also extended the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by 12 years—to at least 2029—protecting retirement security for future generations.
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. 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—led by the Tea Party in Washington—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, the Tea Party 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 the tea-party and the alt-right when they try 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.
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
So if the ACA law goes away, 211,881 New Jersey seniors would lose extra help they now have to buy prescription drugs. 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, the average New Jersey senior would lose more than $1,000 in savings each year.
And not only that, but the ACA guarantees that Medicare enrollees can access free preventative care like blood pressure and cancer screenings.
So that’s why I’m here today. We need to sound the alarm on those in the Tea Party who are trying to blow up a system that seniors depend on without having any plan to replace it.
My approach to governing is about solving problems–not creating unnecessary chaos and uncertainty.
I’m about problem solving. I was recently just elected to chair a group called the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is a group of Republicans and Democrats who want to sit down together and find common ground on areas that have easy solutions.
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 protect Medicare from privatization 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.