Bennet Urges Passage of Amendment to Protect Medicare for Seniors

Amendment Makes Clear: Nothing In The Senate Health Care Reform Bill Will Cut Guaranteed Medicare Benefits

Bennet: The Opponents Of Health Reform Do Not Have A Plan To Protect Seniors And Strengthen The Medicare Program

Saying that opponents of health reform do not have a plan to protect seniors, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today urged passage of his amendment to the Senate health care reform bill that would further protect and strengthen Medicare for seniors.

The amendment states that nothing in the Patient Protection and Affordability Act will result in a reduction of guaranteed Medicare benefits. It also ensures that improvements to Medicare are made in the Senate health reform bill and extends the solvency of the program, lowering premium costs and improving care for seniors.

"The opponents of health care reform do not have a plan to protect seniors and strengthen the Medicare program," Bennet said. "This legislation makes explicit the commitment all of us share to seniors all across the United States of America. We will protect Medicare, make sure that nobody touches your guaranteed benefits and ensure Medicare is around for future generations."

Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Mark Begich (D-AK) cosponsored the amendment.

Below are Bennet's Floor Remarks as Delivered:

I have been paying very close attention to the floor debate over the last few days and at times I'm beginning to wonder what bill it is we're debating. Only in Washington could an effort to extend the life of the Medicare trust fund be viewed or distorted somehow as being unfair or bad for seniors.

We know, and it's in the print in the CBO report, that this Senate bill does not take away any seniors guaranteed Medicare benefits. We know that the bill extends Medicare solvency for five additional years.

How does it do it? It does it in a way that is different from the way that government usually does business which is usually either adding to a program or cutting from a program. It changes the way we deliver medicine in this country and it does it in a way that protects seniors' benefits and extends the life of Medicare. The attacks on this bill and attacks on the amendment have nothing to do with those facts. The sad part is that there are ideas on every side of this debate that are worth considering. I think we should be debating those ideas rather than claiming something that's just not true about this bill.

These Washington tactics of trying to ship health care reform back to some committee to languish is exactly why nothing ever gets done around here. The almost unbelievable part of this is that the opponents of my amendment say that the health care bill hurts seniors. Yet the bill and our amendment is being supported by the AARP, the Alliance for Retired Americans, Center for Medicare Rights, and the National Committee To Preserve Social Security And Medicare. What are the opponents of my amendment actually saying? That the AARP and other senior advocates don't know what they're doing?

Mr. President, they know what they're doing and they also know what's in the bill. The AARP has seniors' best interests in mind and they want what's best for Medicare in the long run.

This Senate bill makes tremendous strides to a more solvent, more stable Medicare program for years to come.

Unfortunately in the hopes of eventually trying to kill the bill, there are people that are making claims that are frightening our seniors, meant to frighten them here and also back in my home state of Colorado, where people have been called on their telephones at home to convince them that somehow I want to cut their benefits. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe strongly in the sacred trust that we've created with our seniors and that's why I've introduced this amendment. Seniors are looking for simple clarity on how health care reform can help their lives.

This amendment says in the clearest, most unambiguous of terms, as directly as we can say it, that nothing in this bill will cut guaranteed Medicare benefits. All guaranteed Medicare benefits stay intact for every senior in Colorado and all across the country. Seniors will still have access to hospital stays, access to doctors, home health care, nursing homes and prescription drugs.

The second part of this amendment goes farther-- says clearly and directly to our seniors that we will use this bill to further protect and strengthen Medicare. We will extend the life of the Medicare trust fund. We will lower premiums or cost sharing, increase Medicare benefits and improve access to providers.

You don't need to believe me on this. You can look at the Congressional Budget Office. And these improvements will be paid for with money saved in Medicare under this bill.

What's so regrettable about this debate and that's so tragic if we don't actually get this done is that everybody understands that Medicare would be bankrupt in seven years, 2017.

In the Senate bill that we're now considering, we extend the trust fund solvency by five years,     we lower premiums for seniors by $30 billion over 10 years. That's real money back in the pockets of our seniors.

We eliminate co-pays that seniors now have to pay for preventive care.   That means, when seniors go for a doctor for a colonoscopy, they won't have to make that co-pay that they have to do, under current law.

When senior women go to the doctor for a mammogram, the same will be true. We know that preventive care like that saves lives, Mr. President, and it also saves money.      

Most seniors live on a fixed income. Free preventive care is the best way to encourage seniors to seek important medical precautions. More preventive care is proven to save lives and lower health care costs.

Mr. President, health care reform will also cut the cost of brand named prescription drugs in half for seniors who are stuck in the gap in coverage between their initial and catastrophic coverage.

We eliminate the 20% cut physicians would otherwise see next year, making sure seniors can continue to see their own doctors.

The opponents of health care reform do not have a plan to protect seniors and strengthen the Medicare program.

I've heard more criticism about the number of pages in the bill than I've heard about a responsible alternative that would extend the life of Medicare and make the other benefits that are in this bill.

So I wanted to come to the floor today with a simple and straightforward message to our seniors. We will protect Medicare. This bill does. We will make sure that no one touches your guaranteed benefits. This bill does. We will make sure Medicare is around for future generations. This bill gets us started in that direction.

And that's why I've introduced this amendment and why I support health care reform.

Everything I have said today, Mr. President, is entirely consistent with the findings of the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan organization that advises this chamber. This legislation makes explicit the commitment that all of us share to the seniors, all across the United States of America.

It's my hope once this amendment passes, we can get beyond the debate we've had over the last 72 hours and get on to the substantive aspects of this bill. -- Mr. President, I urge support for my amendment and yield the floor.