Arizona senior advocates fight Medicare voucher proposal

Senior advocates in the Grand Canyon State are speaking out against proposals in Congress to replace Medicare with a voucher system.

AARP Arizona is part of a national campaign, launched this week, opposing Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to provide seniors with a fixed monthly subsidy with which to buy health coverage rather than guaranteeing their existing level of benefits.

Dana Kennedy, AARP Arizona state director, said a voucher program would lead to reduced access and higher out-of-pocket medical expenses for anyone who can’t afford to buy a costly comprehensive plan.

“The voucher system would force people with fewer financial resources to enroll in less expensive plans with more limited benefits and restrictive provider networks,” Kennedy said.

Mr. Ryan has not yet introduced the bill, but has said his aim is to bring down costs in order to extend the lifetime of the Medicare program.

AARP’s campaign will include TV and digital ads; and they are meeting with political leaders, circulating petitions and encouraging volunteers to write letters to their Congressional representatives.

Ms. Kennedy said she hopes President Trump will follow his campaign promise to protect the program, which is a lifeline for tens of millions of seniors.

“President Trump said that he would make sure that seniors continue to receive the benefits that they already have. So he was crystal clear about his position on Medicare during the election,” she said. “He said that it’s a deal made with the American people and he intends to honor that deal. So we want to make sure that Congress honors that deal as well.”

AARP estimated that the average American senior lives on less than $25,000 a year and spends $1 of every $6 on health care.

Seniors in particular also depend on certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act that forbid lifetime caps on medical benefits and guarantee that no one can be turned down for coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Editor’s note: Suzanne Potter is a writer with Public News Service-Arizona.

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