Bennet Secures 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

Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, today announced Senate passage of his amendment to the Senate health care reform bill that would further protect and strengthen Medicare for seniors. The amendment earned the endorsements of the AARP, the Alliance for Retired Americans, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

"Only in Washington, D.C. could an effort to extend the life of Medicare somehow be distorted as being bad for seniors," Bennet said. "The passage of this amendment means that we are making it absolutely clear that nothing in this bill will cut guaranteed Medicare benefits for our seniors. This bill will extend the Medicare trust fund, lower premiums, increase Medicare benefits, and improve access to providers for our 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.

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 Closing Remarks on the Amendment:

I'd like to sum up this debate over Medicare in the Senate HELP bill and on the two amendments we have before us. Only in Washington, DC could an effort to extend the life of Medicare somehow be distorted as being bad for seniors. We know from the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan organization that supports both sides of the aisle here, that this Senate bill does not take away any senior's guaranteed Medicare benefits. It extends Medicare solvency for five additional years.

My amendment simply confirms these two facts. I'm the first person that would insist that we have an open process for this debate, and I think there are ideas on each side of this debate on this bill that are worth considering and should be considered. But it's why I find it so confounding that opponents of my amendment want to send the entire bill back to a committee so debate stops.

How can we return home to the people of our states and admit to them that we just gave up as a body and sent health care back to the committee for another round? The people that don't want change here, the people who are content to leave it the same, and don't have a theory about how to extend Medicare, would have seniors believe the bill is bad for seniors.

Yet, AARP, The Alliance For Retired Americans, Center for Medicare Rights, and The National Committee To Preserve Social Security And Medicare beg to differ. They disagree. They agree with this amendment, and with the underlying bill. Senior advocacy organizations, grass roots organizations with their ear to the ground, hearing the voices and concerns of seniors, support health care reform.

And they agree that, with my amendment, this bill strengthens Medicare and preserves seniors' benefits. Now with the Senate bill finally reaching the floor, seniors are looking for simple clarity on how health care reform can help their lives. Nothing in this bill will cut guaranteed Medicare benefits. And this bill will extend Medicare solvency for five additional years.

It actually makes the system work better, instead of cutting or adding to a program, it actually changes the way Medicare works so it will be stronger, and more stable. Mr. President, people may disagree with the prescription, but as a general matter, everybody knows that the status quo is unsustainable. And this bill helps seniors. It eliminates the co-pay seniors have to pay for preventive care. We know that preventive care saves lives and it saves money.

So as we close debate on my amendment, and the alternative motion to commit the bill back to committee, I would urge all the members of this body to consider the consequences of inaction. My amendment affirms what the current Senate bill does to help seniors and strengthen Medicare. We all know even more can be done. So let's continue this debate, reject the motion to commit the bill back to the Senate committee, and I urge every member of this body to support my amendment. Please vote "yes" on the Bennet amendment and protect our seniors. I yield the floor.