Health Care Reform

AARP Tells Senate: Oppose Across the Board Cuts that Could Reduce Benefits for Millions of Americans

WASHINGTON, DC–(ENEWSPF)–January 14, 2010.  With the Senate expected to vote on several budget amendments next week, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand sent a letter to senators today, on behalf of the association’s nearly 40 million members, expressing opposition to three amendments that could jeopardize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits for millions of Americans.

“We urge you to vote against an amendment to be offered by Senators Conrad and Gregg to establish a fiscal taskforce, and to instead focus on addressing the challenges of the nation’s long-term debt through regular order,” wrote Rand.

The letter restated the organization’s opposition to “providing fast-track authority to a task force that will function with limited accountability…Simply because these issues are difficult to address is not reason enough to abdicate the responsibility Congress has to act. However, an open debate is essential in a representative democracy to resolve issues that have as broad and deep an impact on its citizenry as changes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the tax system.”

While AARP supports “balanced policies” to address the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, the organization is opposed to debt-relief measures that would shift “significant burdens and risks to older Americans” who depend upon these programs for their health and economic security. In addition, the letter urged that “Social Security not be considered in the context of debt reduction; this program does not contribute to the annual deficit, and its long-term solvency can be resolved by relatively modest adjustments if they are made sooner rather than later.”

Regarding statutory “pay-as-you-go” (paygo) budgeting, Rand raised strong concerns that Medicare, a program that over 45 million Americans rely upon for their health security, is singled-out under the proposed amendment, and these efforts could leave the program, “…especially vulnerable to arbitrary and automatic cuts that are unrelated to making the program more efficient or effective. This approach is especially unacceptable in light of the significant Medicare savings contained in the House and Senate health reform bills, and the proposed Medicare Payment Board in the Senate bill.”

Finally, the letter also states the organization’s opposition to an amendment that would allow discretionary caps to place programs that serve vulnerable populations in jeopardy. “Capping spending on less than a third of the federal budget will not result in any significant deficit reduction and would have a substantial negative impact on the federal government’s ability to deliver the services our members expect… Discretionary caps would pit programs that serve the elderly, the disabled and children against defense and homeland security programs.”

AARP pledged to work constructively with Congress in open, bipartisan efforts to develop and advance responsible solutions to address the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, but made clear that it opposes any legislative proposals that “…bypass or short circuit the protections afforded by regular order, or that rely on imbalanced, automatic, and arbitrary spending cuts to reach debt reduction goals.”