Last updated: August 07. 2013 9:17AM - 746 Views

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I am fighting hard to strengthen and protect Medicare and will vigorously oppose any measure that undermines seniors’ access to their benefits. At issue is addressing the basic human need for quality health care and helping ensure that our seniors, especially those on fixed incomes, can live and retire in dignity.

Throughout my years serving the people of southern West Virginia, I have consistently voted to protect Medicare, most recently in opposing the budget passed by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Their budget would end traditional Medicare as we know it, and slowly rollback the guarantees promised to seniors, forcing Medicare beneficiaries into the private insurance markets where they would have to purchase less extensive coverage and at higher costs.

With the end of the fiscal year approaching, and ill-conceived threats about government shutdowns rising, I am fighting strenuously against Medicare being used to offset some fanciful grand bargain, as the President proposed in his budget. I have written to the President in opposition to raising the entitlement age for Medicare beneficiaries and have cosponsored several bills to ensure necessary Medicare payments to health providers and continued access to care for Medicare patients.

While reforms are necessary to ensure Medicare’s long-term solvency, and I have voted to strengthen Medicare oversight and crackdown on fraud and abuse — saving billions of dollars and helping to extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by several years — seniors and workers, many on fixed incomes, have a moral claim on the benefits they have earned over a lifetime of paying into Medicare; those obligations must be honored.

Likewise, I am and always have been an ardent opponent of Social Security privatization, fighting against legislation that would jeopardize the retirement benefits of seniors. Most recently, I have written to the President and cosponsored legislation in opposition to proposals that would reduce the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by substituting a chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) in calculating benefits.

Forty-eight years ago, on a July day in Independence, Missouri, under the eye of former President Harry S. Truman, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the law creating Medicare. On that auspicious day, President Johnson said that the tireless work and heroic efforts of the Greatest Generation “planted the seeds of compassion which have today flowered into care for the sick and serenity for the fearful.”

I am doing my utmost to honor that commitment, and have been successful in pushing for legislation to expand coverage for seniors’ prescription drugs under Medicare by closing the so-called donut hole, and supporting legislation to ensure preventive benefits, cancer screenings, and an annual wellness visit. I am adamant in pressing to expand access to affordable and quality health care in southern West Virginia.

In West Virginia, where we live by the credo of love thy neighbor, making cuts in medical care for children and seniors in need is not sensible fiscal policy; it is heartless behavior, contrary to our values.

Seniors depend on Medicare, and anything that calls into question the guaranteed access to care that seniors now have is something that I will vigorously oppose.

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