By: Andrea Sears
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Switching Medicare to a voucher system would put health care out of reach for many Pennsylvania seniors, according AARP and other advocates for seniors.
Some members of Congress have proposed replacing Medicare’s guaranteed benefits with a voucher system to reduce costs, giving seniors a fixed dollar amount to help pay for care in the private marketplace.
Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director of AARP Pennsylvania, says that would hit the state’s 2.3 million seniors on Medicare in the pocketbook, especially the 31 percent with two or more chronic health conditions.
“We know that those on limited resources could end up in health care plans that restrict choices of doctors and demand higher out-of-pocket spending to get their needed care,” he states.
Nationally, 25 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries have annual incomes below $14,500, and half below $25,000.
Johnston-Walsh points to an additional 2.7 million Pennsylvanians age 50 and older who will be entering the Medicare system over the next 15 years – people who’ve been paying into the system for their entire working lives.
“They’ve been looking forward to this guaranteed promise that benefits will be kept and will be there for them,” he stresses.
Johnston-Walsh notes there are other ways to cut Medicare costs, including reining in drug prices, eliminating over testing and improving coordination of health care services.
He adds that during his campaign, President Donald Trump vowed to protect Medicare and Social Security.
“We’re hoping that Congress is going to follow that lead, while still looking at the need to strengthen it for future generations,” he states. “But not on the backs of seniors and workers who’ve paid into the system for many, many years.”