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U.S. Dems Tout 'Obamacare' to Local Seniors

House GOP's proposed budget would cripple Medicare, lawmakers say.

Sen. Robert Menendez and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. on Friday paid a visit to in Belmar where they spoke to a packed house of seniors about how they benefit from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or "Obamacare."

The congressmen also managed to get a few digs in to Republicans ahead of the 2012 presidential election regarding the House GOP's budget proposal that they say would strip $1 trillion from the Medicare program. 

Before a backdrop of wall-to-wall windows overlooking Belmar beach, Mayor Matt Doherty introduced his fellow Democrats who took turns at the podium touting the benefits seniors already, and will, reap from the ACA, which they said has extended the life of the Medicare Trust Fund, provided preventative care with no co-pays, and will close the "doughnut hole" in senior prescription drug coverage.

The lawmakers also used their platform to take shots at the GOP's plan to repeal Obamacare, which they said would end up costing seniors $6000 extra in out-of-pocket expenses each year. Both legislators decried "tax cuts for the rich," big-oil tax breaks, offshore tax havens and ethanol subsidies for needlessly contributing to the deficit and diverting away funds from programs such as Medicare and Social Security. 

After the Great Depression, Menendez said, Democrats led the way in creating a baseline of security for seniors with Social Security and then through Medicare ensured they would not spend their way to poverty by paying their rising health-care costs. 

"Yes, we have to reduce our debt, but we can do that in ways that don't undermine the very essence of the principles that we've had, the social contract we've made," Menendez said. 

The lawmakers cautioned seniors to be weary of the Republican notion that Medicare and Social Security are unsustainable and should be privatized. 

"I want you to know that they are sustainable. I don't buy that argument. So when people tell you these programs are not sustainable and we have to change them or privatize them, I say, 'Not true,' OK?" 

Growing the economy and reducing unemployment, Pallone said, would increase tax revenues and ensure those programs are here to stay.

"Social Security still has a very long way to go," Menendez said during a question-and-answer session following the lawmaker's speeches. "There is no immediacy that some people try to portray as a way to dramatically change the very nature of Social Security."

Pallone said that privatizing and "voucherizing" Medicare, which the Republican House budget proposal would do, eliminates the program's guarantee. The GOP budget plan also takes away a large portion of funding from Medicaid, which helps pay for nursing home and community-based home health care Pallone said. 

If that happened, Pallone said, states, which match federal dollars to fund the program, would not be able to afford nursing home care and likely be forced to do away entirely with community-based care. 

"The consequence of that, I think, is either nursing homes are not available or they're lousy," Pallone said. 

Pallone, during the question-and-answer, said that since Republicans already lost their battle to privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid was the next battle. 

But since the Democratic-controlled Senate would never pass the GOP budget, Pallone said that legislation was already dead in the water. 

When Menendez was asked if tax cuts under Reagan and Kennedy caused federal revenues to increase, the senator said he disagreed and that the Regan-era tax cuts in fact led to major deficits. 

"I know our Republican colleagues like to say that, but it's simply not true," Menendez said of the Reagan tax cuts. 

Following the event, Pallone said that this was just one step of several throughout his district to clear up the misinformation among seniors regarding Medicare. 

"We're just basically trying to explain to seniors why these ideas in the Republican budget are not good," Pallone said.

Friday's trip to Belmar may be one of Pallone's final public appearances as its congressman before redistricting takes effect in January. 

Should Obamacare be repealed? Tell us in the comments.

Jack Wagon April 23, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Menendez - "I want you to know that they are sustainable. I don't buy that argument. So when people tell you these programs are not sustainable and we have to change them or privatize them, I say, 'Not true,' OK?" These two momo's should be ashamed of themselves for talking to seniors like they're school children unable to grasp the concept that SS is in trouble. What hacks! Typical Democratic politicians putting on a dog and pony show for senior votes! Really? There's nothing wrong with SS. Who is Menendez kidding? Everything our government puts their grubby hands on is broken beyond repair. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, USPS, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Amtrak, just to name a few of our government's programs that have totally mismanaged our money. Now Obama's bozo's are hijacking our healthcare and we're supposed to blindly trust them with 1/5 of the economy. Another governmental money pit we'll all be paying for if the Supreme Court allows it. Please! Let there be a voice of reason on the Supreme Court that Justice Kennedy listens to. "We'll have to pass it to know what's in it" - Nancy Pelosi speaking about the HC bill. OMG! This isn't the America I envision.
Joe R April 23, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Social Security is not in crisis, it can make full payments, even if nothing is done, through 2036. In 1978, George Bush (the dumber) told the Texas Observer that SS would go bankrupt in 10 years, he lied then and he lied in 2005 when he tried to privatize or destroy SS. The SS trust fund has $2.6 trillion in assets earning interest every day. They are treasury bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the US government. They are just as valid as the treasury notes owned by millions of Americans and by foreign governments, they are just as valid as our currency. If you think that your US treasury bonds are worthless, then I guess we have bigger problems than SS. Even Alan Greenspan, of all people, says that there is no SS crisis and that the long term short fall can be solved by any number of minor tweaks, such as raising the cap on the wage taxes. Currently, only wages up to $110,600 are subject to the SS tax. Just raise the cap or eliminate it and SS will be good for another 75 years. SS never goes bankrupt, even if nothing is done, it could still pay about 75% of benefits after 2036. SS is a 76 year old success story and keeps millions of seniors out of abject poverty.
Joe R April 23, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Whoops, correction about the SS wage cap. For 2012, the maximum taxable earnings amount for Social Security (OASDI) taxes is $110,100. There is no limitation on taxable earnings for Medicare's Hospital Insurance (HI) taxes.
Joe R April 23, 2012 at 08:12 PM
There is no problem per se with Medicare. The problem is that our whole medical system is very expensive and health insurance costs are going through the roof. Private health insurance premiums have been skyrocketing for some time, well before Obama. We have the most expensive health care system in the world but with poorer overall results than the other advanced countries with universal health care. Medicare costs are rising because costs for all sectors of the medical system are rising and the worst offenders are the private insurance companies. Thus we have 50 million uninsured people. The GOP "solution" is to destroy Medicare, Medicaid and let people die and rot in the gutter like they do in many third world countries. If Medicare is destroyed, then we will have close to 100 million uninsured. The private insurers make money by denying care when people need it the most. The private insurance CEOs make obscene profits on the backs of sick people.
raymond Weis April 23, 2012 at 10:02 PM
As many people who read these comments know I am involved in the health care system at the local level. I have to comment that in the fifteen years that I've been on the first aid squad I haven't seen people dying in the streets due to lack of health care. I have seen the waiting room of the ER filled with people waiting to be seen, and rest assured they are seen and treated at the ER's regardless whether they can pay or not. Our health care system may need some tweaks but I don't think it needs an entire overhawl. If the medical systems in other countries is so good how come they come here when they can't wait in their home countries.
Joe R April 24, 2012 at 01:05 AM
I did not say that people are dying in the streets NOW but if Medicare and Medicaid are killed off or gutted then you will see people dying in the streets. What about the poor and uninsured who never even make it to the ER, who die before they get to an ER? Millionaire foreigners come to the US for health care and many of them also go to Europe for advanced health care. It's a total myth and lie that Canadians come to the US for health care. An actual study was done by the University of British Columbia and Michigan University which found that the number of Canadians who come to the US for health care is infinitesimal. Why would the average Canadian come here, do you think they want to go bankrupt? A couple of years ago, a wealthy Canadian who had a summer home in FL had surgery done in FL and the right wingers made a big deal about that. The key word being WEALTHY; sure, very rich people come to the US for health care.
Joe R April 24, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Poor people and the uninsured go to the ER for last minute emergency health care or a medical crisis because they could not afford regular check ups, regular doctor visits or they could not afford the medication. That's one of the causes in the steep rise of health care costs. You CANNOT go to the ER for regular check ups, health screenings, for follow up care, for ongoing care and for palliative care. ER care is not free, if the poor can't pay for it then the hospitals and the rest of us have to absorb the costs. ER care is not free, the hospital will go after you for payment of services rendered. If you are 65 and older, then you are lucky to have Medicare which is universal health care for folks 65 and older. Why not Medicare for all? I guess some folks on Medicare don't give a damn about the millions of uninsured people. If the poor and uninsured could get regular screenings and check ups, then our ERs would not be so over crowded and burdened.
Jack Wagon April 24, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Here are some hard facts about Medicare and Medicaid: Medicare and Medicaid already burn through one in five federal tax dollars -- and taxpayers lose an estimated $100 billion a year to waste, fraud and abuse in the two programs. To put that staggering figure in perspective, the annual average cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is about $115 billion. Even more troubling is these broken programs often deliver substandard care for patients. Nearly half of physicians don't accept Medicaid patients because the reimbursement rates are so low. Not surprisingly, patients on Medicaid have poorer health outcomes, higher rates of infant mortality and more complications after major surgery than individuals with no health insurance at all. Medicare is often perceived as popular, but millions of seniors still have care delayed or denied because they can't access a physician. The government-run Medicare payment process creates perverse incentives through a dizzying array of billing codes that often overpay for specific tests, but underpay for primary care. Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/reform_or_go_broke_AxZmLn5iEzaEZohOJPB23J#ixzz1sxSapr7w
Jack Wagon April 24, 2012 at 01:12 PM
On the front page of today's Star Ledger: Trustees: America's Safety Net shredding: This is what you kind of said about SS Joe, but now they say it will happen 3 years sooner. Even the Trustees of SS and Medicare say these two social programs are rushing toward insolvency. If nothing is done now, SS in a short 20 years (by 2033) can only cover 75% of benefits. Medicare is even worse. In 12 years will only cover 87% of costs. Menendez and Pallone need to get their heads out of the sand. Two posturing political hacks pandering to seniors. Despicable.
Joe R April 24, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I saw the SS/Medicare trustees on C-SPAN. Yes, the SS TRUST FUND (not SS itself) will run out in 2033 but they emphasized that even after 2033, SS will still be able to pay 75% of benefits, seniors will still be getting 75% of their benefits. They will not be getting zero or nothing. One of the trustees stressed that point for the press, namely that even if the trust fund is totally depleted, SS recipients will still be getting 75% of benefits. That is not acceptable and can easily be fixed by raising or eliminating the SS wage tax cap. Medicare and Medicaid save lives and give medical care to people who might otherwise be totally uninsured. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan kill and maim people. Our whole health care system is way overpriced because of the inefficiencies of the for profit health insurance system. Seniors are very happy with SS and Medicare. Without them tens of millions of seniors would be in abject poverty, would be homeless and would be dying off like flies. SS, Medicare and Medicaid are not perfect but without them, people would be dying sooner and would be suffering the horrors of total destitution.
Jack Wagon April 24, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Let's hope they raise, or better yet, remove the cap.
Joe R April 24, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Our whole health care system is in crisis, not just Medicare and Medicaid. We have 50 million uninsured because the working poor, many of the self employed just scraping by and even many middle class folks who have to buy health insurance on the open market, cannot afford health insurance and cannot afford to see the doctor on a regular basis. Our health care system is twice as expensive as the health systems of the advanced countries but with poorer or equal results. Gee, if our system is twice as expensive it should be twice as good as the other advanced countries, except that it isn't. About 60% of personal bankruptcies in this country are due to medical expenses and that even includes people with health insurance. Health bankruptcies do not happen in the other advanced countries with universal health care. I guess the right wingers want to abolish Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid because they think that they are socialistic programs?!? Obamacare is not perfect but it does cover millions more and eliminates many of the deficiencies and injustices of the private for profit rip off companies.

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