U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D: MD) stopped by the Richard R. Clark Senior Center in La Plata on Friday and spoke with Charles County seniors, answered questions and enjoyed a lunch of chili.
Senator Cardin also provided literature regarding the benefits of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its immediate impact. Today seniors must pay 20 percent of the cost of many preventive services. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will eliminate deductibles, co-payments, and other cost sharing for preventive care, and provide free annual wellness check-ups for all seniors, including 741,000 Marylanders, this year.
The room was packed with interested seniors listening to the Senator explain how the new health reform law will help. He assured the audience that “an overwhelming amount of providers will accept Medicaid and Medicare.”
It was clear that health care was not the only thing on their minds. The first question was about ending the war in Iraq and the possibility of cutting war spending. Senator Cardin was clear that, with the Iraq campaign coming to an end, he was not in favor of that war and it was a distraction.
He noted that in Afghanistan initially there was no choice but to engage, but the United States is now spending $120 billion a year there. He said, “There are mainly tribal problems with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It’s not clear why we still have a large presence. The government is corrupt and Bin Laden has been killed. The real problem is Pakistan. It’s time for our troops to come home.”
Senator Cardin wants to do everything he can to support the troops in battle and with services once they come home. But he emphasized that it is time for the Afghani troops to step up and take over the internal security of their own country. The audience voiced concern that this may lead to more terrorism. “We will continue to go after terrorism where we find it. We are not talking about abandoning our war on terror.”
After a question about Veterans benefits, Cardin noted that when the Vietnam veterans came home, the country didn’t take care of them, but that lessons have been learned. “That was the worst chapter in American history; we are now using WW II as a model. Our troops need economic help, health care, and a society that welcomes them home.”
Also the funding for the Elder Americans Act received considerable attention. He promised to do everything he can to protect the funding, “85 percent of the funding goes to institutional care, seniors don’t want to go into institutions. Centers such as these keep seniors healthy and active.”
After lunch, during a one-on-one session with the Bay Net, Cardin talked about the economy. He said there are too many people who can’t find jobs. The country is creating jobs but hasn’t turned the corner, he said. Growing the job market is a challenge now, he said, because government stimulus funding has been turned off.
Regarding the partisanship in Washington, Cardin said he was encouraged that Speaker Boehner signaled that he wants a deal in the next month. “I believe the government will raise the debt ceiling because no one will ever allow this County’s credit to be jeopardized. I believe that it will be done in the month of June or latest the middle of July. We will get it done way before the August deadline to prevent any consequences,” he said.
Over all, Senator Cardin expressed confidence in the government process. As Senator Cardin continues to meet with constituents throughout Maryland as he seeks a second six-year term in next year’s election, his and President Obamas re-election chances may hinge on an improving economy.