04/30/2012

Retirees continue the fight to improve healthcare

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Over the years, AFT retirees have been leaders and grass-roots activists in the fight to strengthen Medicare for seniors and improve healthcare for all Americans. Now, more than ever, it is important for us to come together. This past March, we marked the second anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law. In the same month, the U.S. Supreme Court held arguments on the constitutionality of the law. With Election Day seven months away, it is likely that nearly every race will be between candidates with opposing views on healthcare. 

Seniors have benefited significantly under the Affordable Care Act.

  • 3.6 million seniors with the highest drug costs saved an average of $600 on their prescriptions.
  • 32 million seniors have received free, life-saving tests for chronic diseases. 

However, healthcare for seniors is still being targeted. Recently, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) proposed a budget that would make significant changes to Medicare. Three major changes would be:

  1. Replace traditional Medicare's current guarantee of coverage with a premium support voucher;
  2. Raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67; and
  3. Reopen the "doughnut hole" in Medicare's coverage of prescription drugs. 

These proposed changes would shift substantial costs to Medicare beneficiaries and (with the simultaneous repeal of the healthcare reform law) leave many 65- and 66-year-olds without any health coverage at all. This plan would likely lead to the end of Medicare by making its pool of beneficiaries smaller, older and sicker—and therefore, increasingly costly to cover. That isn't right. It takes us in the wrong direction for all seniors. 

The budget proposed by Rep. Ryan "would end Medicare as we know it and leave seniors without access to affordable, high-quality healthcare," says AFT president Randi Weingarten. "The American people can't afford a reckless economic plan like the Ryan Republican budget that says you're on your own unless you're wealthy or a big corporation. Instead, we need a bold economic vision that is rooted in rebuilding the middle class, strengthening our public schools and our democracy, and ensuring that everyone has a fair shot at success."

—Lauren Luchi