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U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster
Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bass not being candid about Medicare vote

Guest Commentary

When I read about U.S. Rep. Charles Bass voting to abolish Medicare as we know it, I thought about the impact on the lives of seniors all across New Hampshire, and I thought about my own family.

My 87-year-old mother-in-law lives on her own in a small apartment on a widow’s pension and her Social Security. A few weeks ago, she was hospitalized for a few days with pneumonia, and her hospital stay was covered by Medicare.

In 2008, more than 200,000 people in our state received benefits from Medicare, which is why I am so disturbed that our congressman and his colleagues voted to jeopardize the health and well being of future retirees.

In order to pay for a large tax cut for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, the Republican budget would replace the successful Medicare program with a system of private insurance vouchers, leaving tomorrow’s seniors without adequate coverage when health care costs inevitably continue to rise.

This private mandate and voucher system sets up an unstable, hurtful and discriminatory system for seniors. In essence, the only element it keeps from our current successful program is the name “Medicare.”

At town hall meetings across New Hampshire in the days after the vote, Bass defended his vote by attempting to argue that his plan relied on “premium support systems,” not “vouchers.” It was Washington-speak from his partisan leadership’s talking points – and we flinty constituents in New Hampshire are not buying it.

Even Fox News’ Chris Wallace, no Democrat by any stretch, called the bill Bass voted for “a major overhaul of Medicare and turning it into a voucher system.” Even in this day of cynicism, that’s a sorry commentary on the motives of our elected officials.

I am a frugal Yankee, and I do believe we need to cut spending when it is truly wasteful. We can find prime candidates for those cuts in the billions of subsidies for oil companies, the corporate tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas, and the billions more spent on redundant weapons systems that our military leaders have identified as wasteful and not needed.

These are all expenditures that our congressman has voted to support in his seven terms in Congress – including his votes as recently as this winter.

But ending Medicare as we know it in order to make room for corporate tax breaks?

No way. That’s not the America I want to pass on to my sons. It’s not the country that Nanny worked hard for her whole life, nor the country that is looking out for her now. We can do better.

Ann McLane Kuster was the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2010.