Three AFT retirees went to the White House on Sept. 27 to hear President Joe Biden talk about the progress his administration has made to bring down healthcare costs and strengthen Medicare. Viola Curry, John Soldini and Nina Tribble joined a gathering to promote the Inflation Reduction Act, which the president recently signed into law; the legislation will help Medicare recipients in the coming years. Biden noted that the measure delivers on the promises that many in the audience had made, and addresses issues the American people have had to deal with for decades.
“It was exhilarating to hear the president talk about moving toward the future of Medicare, and it gives you hope in an age where a lot of things are questionable,” says Soldini, a retired United Federation of Teachers member. “For the first time in many years, we're optimistic rather than fighting a defensive battle,” he says, referring to Republicans' yearly plans to cut programs like Medicare. The fact that there is an annual fight to repeal Medicare shows that Republicans are aware of the program's popularity, says Soldini.
Even though the Inflation Reduction Act reduces the deficit and allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, every Republican voted against it.
“It was disturbing to know that Republicans did not vote for this at all,” says Curry, a retired Philadelphia Federation of Teachers member. “They didn't consider seniors and what they go through as they age,” she adds. “I felt like the president threw us a lifeline because the cost of prescription drugs can be exorbitant and force seniors to make difficult choices.”
Soldini agrees, explaining that Medicare covered a large portion of the cost when his wife became ill and required emergency surgery. “People work their entire lives, and one illness can wipe out their savings. ... I'm not sure what I would have done if it hadn't been for Medicare,” he says, adding, “I like how Biden looked at the problem that Medicare is facing—looked at the problem that we are facing—and tried to solve it for all Americans.”
President Biden is “not afraid to talk the talk, and he’s been walking this walk with us,” says Nina Tribble, a retired member of the UFT. Tribble also believes people should tell others how programs like Medicare have helped them. "We need to tell our stories," she says. “People would be outraged if they heard these stories about plans to eliminate programs like Medicare. Our stories may persuade them to vote for candidates who serve in their best interests.”