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Reality Check: Standing by Medicare vs. Standing by Insurance Companies

Making clear who is fighting to protect Medicare and who is just fighting to protect the insurance industry.

If you're an avid reader of this blog or you've been following the health insurance reform process closely, you probably know by now that reform will strengthen Medicare and keep the Medicare trust fund in the black for an additional five years. So you might find it curious that opponents of reform continue to repeat the false claim that health insurance reform will take Medicare money away from seniors to pay for other folks’ health care.

Unfortunately, this is one of the age-old Washington tactics that has prevented us from fixing our broken health care system for decades.  This time, though, we can’t afford to settle for the same old political games. 

So here’s a reminder about what health insurance reform actually means for Medicare and America’s seniors – and about the record that some Republicans making these claims have when it comes to Medicare.

As President Obama has said repeatedly, Medicare is a sacred trust with America’s seniors.  That's why health insurance reform protects and strengthens Medicare, keeping the program’s finances in the black for an additional five years. Not one penny from the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for reform and no guaranteed benefits will be cut. Period.

In fact, the only people who will be getting less money are the big insurance companies who have received hundreds of billions of dollars in overpayments from America's taxpayers. 

So while big insurance companies get less, the Senate bill will ensure that seniors get better, more affordable care – providing a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs for seniors who fall into the so-called donut hole, making preventive care free, and investing in primary care among other measures.

Those improvements to the Medicare program stand in stark contrast to the record of congressional Republicans in recent years.  Last time Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, it took them just 6 years to cost the Medicare trust fund two decades of solvency. 

The failure to fix a broken health care system allowed the ranks of the uninsured to grow by millions and moved Medicare's bankruptcy date up by years. When Congress finally did act, it did so irresponsibly – with a Medicare drug bill that wasn’t paid for, added hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit and created the overpayments that are bankrupting Medicare and inflating premiums today.

If we allow opponents of reform to successfully defend the insurance companies and the unsustainable status quo once again, we'll see Medicare go broke in eight years, while seniors pay higher drug prices and lose access to their doctors. That's not acceptable – and it won't happen.