SILVER SPRING U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin told residents of the Riderwood Village retirement community Monday that he will continue to fight what he said were Republican efforts to end Medicare and Medicaid.
Speaking to a packed room of more than 125 residents, predominantly senior citizens, Cardin said the Republican budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that passed the House ultimately would end the two federal programs as they currently exist for those 55 and under.
Cardin called the Ryan plan a “radical change.”
Instead of having a single-payer program like Medicare, the Republican plan would provide a government voucher to help people pay for private insurance.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Ryan plan estimated that out-of-pocket expenses would double to $12,510, compared with the current Medicare system. Medicaid would be turned into a block grant program to the states and would no longer be the safety net for the poor and seniors who need nursing home care, Cardin said.
Medicare was established in 1965 because private companies did not want to insure older Americans who make more claims, Cardin said.
“I remember the days before Medicare existed, when seniors were unable to purchase health coverage at any price,” he said. “I will oppose any plan that ends the Medicare program and turns seniors over to the mercy of private insurance companies.”
Cardin said he has urged President Obama to not make any cuts to Medicare or Medicaid.
Residents who spoke said Obama and the Democrats needed to do a better job telling people about the benefits of the health care reform changes they had passed.
Riderwood resident Robert J. Merikangas, 77, said the Democrats should have sought passage of a single-payer insurance, a “Medicare for all.”
Cardin said he had supported a strong public insurance option to allow people to buy into Medicare coverage.
“We lost that debate,” he said.
Morton Koeppel, who declined to give his age, urged Cardin to tell Obama that the administration has done a “terrible job” of explaining to the public the benefits of the new health care law and its amendments. Changes now prohibit insurance companies from denying claims based on pre-existing conditions and allow parents to keep their children on their insurance until they are 26.
“The administration needs to get people out there and make [the public] understand what it is about,” Koeppel said.
“You’re preaching to the choir here,” one man shouted from the audience.