Commentary by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin
The defeat of the Ryan budget in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 57-to-40 last week was a victory for Americas seniors and a clear message that Americans will not tolerate dismantling of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
The budget proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), which passed the House of Representatives in April, would have jeopardized the health of seniors by reinstating the Medicare Part D coverage gap, and eliminating Medicare as we know it. The Ryan plan would have turned Medicare into a voucher program, more than doubling average out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries from $5,630 to $12,500, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
As a member of both the Finance and Budget committees, I firmly believe that Congressman Ryans plan would kill Medicare and Medicaid, two of the most important programs in our nations history that have helped millions of Americans access health care.
Medicare was created in 1965 because most seniors were unable to purchase private health insurance at any price. Today, 775,000 Maryland seniors rely on Medicare for their health care needs. To attack such successful programs is to try and undo the progress we have made in creating the largest, most secure middle class in the world. It also risks putting seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies.
The Ryan plan also would have converted Medicaid, now a federal-state partnership, into a block grant to the states, reducing its funding by $770 billion over 10 years. CBO has estimated that these reductions would force governors across the nation to either raise taxes, reduce services—such as nursing home care—or cut people from the rolls.
In addition, the House-passed budget would have reduced the marginal tax rate for millionaires and billionaires, and extended tax breaks for oil companies and multi-national corporations that ship jobs overseas. It also would have extended the current freeze on federal wages and salaries to five years, shifted much of the funding for the Federal Employees Retirement System from the employer to the employee, and reduced the federal workforce by 10 percent.
The defeat of the Ryan budget plan is a victory for American families who depend on Medicare and Medicaid to ensure that either their—or a member of their familys—health care needs are met.