Lincoln: I Remain Committed To Protecting Arkansas Seniors’ Access to Medicare

Washington – U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) today voted against a proposal by Senator John McCain to send health reform legislation back to the Senate Finance Committee. This procedural motion offered by McCain, which would have sent the legislation back so that Medicare provisions could be removed, wrongly insinuated that the bill’s proposed savings in the Medicare programs would reduce seniors’ traditional Medicare benefits.

Sen. Lincoln said the proposal was nothing more than an attempt to frighten seniors into opposing health reform.

“With a mother who is covered by Medicare, I remain committed to protecting seniors’ access to Medicare, just as I have throughout my public service, which is exactly why I am opposed to Senator McCain’s proposal,” Senator Lincoln said. “Senator McCain’s purpose is not to protect Medicare but to frighten our nation’s seniors so that they too will oppose health care reform.  I have noted that he has taken his scare tactics to a new level by recording his voice for an automated phone call into my state claiming to seniors that these Medicare savings are going to cut their benefits.  He urges them to call me.  I believe Arkansas’s seniors know me better than that.  They know that I have worked my entire career to protect Medicare.”

Senator Lincoln cosponsored an amendment offered by her colleague Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), which passed the Senate today. The Bennet amendment reaffirms that nothing in the health insurance reform legislation will cut guaranteed Medicare benefits. It also says that the bill will be used to further protect and strengthen Medicare.

I have cosponsored the Bennet amendment as an extra safeguard to ensure our seniors that this bill does not cut the guaranteed Medicare benefits that they receive today and that any savings generated from making the Medicare program more efficient will go back into improvements to the program,” Lincoln said.

“If we do nothing, the Medicare program will be broke in just eight years. This bill restores the program’s solvency beyond 2022. It will reduce premiums and co-pays for seniors; ensure seniors can keep their own doctors; cut the billions of dollars of waste, fraud, and abuse that occur annually; provide new prevention and wellness benefits for seniors; lower their prescription drug costs; and help them to stay in their own homes rather than going to nursing homes if that is what they wish to do.

“So what about the $500 billion in Medicare cuts Republicans say seniors should be worried about?  What they’re not saying is that part of the reason Medicare is insolvent is the fact that private insurers under the Medicare Advantage program are overpaid by 14 percent on average. A typical couple pays $90 more per year in Part B premiums to pay for Medicare Advantage overpayments, even if they are not enrolled in these plans.  This bill curbs those overpayments, saving more than $118 billion, by requiring competitive bidding of Medicare Advantage plans against one another for the first time. Furthermore Medicare and Medicaid subsidies to hospitals to help cover the cost of the uninsured will be reduced since hospitals will have less need for them once millions more Americans have health insurance. That’s another $43 billion. Provision after provision is specifically designed to ensure greater value in Medicare, all while the Republicans are using fear tactics to score political points.

“I have heard from many seniors in Arkansas recently — and over the years — about their satisfaction with Medicare.  It is not a perfect program, and as a Senator it is my job to ensure that Congress continues to improve upon the program as needed so that it can continue to meet the needs of our nation’s seniors.  Rightly so, Arkansas seniors are concerned about the misinformation spreading that we will cut their benefits and allow bureaucrats to ration their care.  Organizations such as AARP, the Alliance for Retired Americans, and the National Committee to preserve Social Security and Medicare have stood up to say enough with the misinformation campaign.  Today I add my voice to that chorus.”