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Higgins Says Ryan Budget Is Devastating for WNY Seniors

Apr 15, 2011
Press Release

Today, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) voted against a Budget Resolution submitted by Congressman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin which could be devastating to Western New York seniors.  The legislation was approved by a vote of (235-193).  

“This shreds the safety net Western New York seniors have built for themselves through years of hard work,” said Congressman Higgins.  “A plan that takes from the pockets of older Americans while filling the pockets of big oil executives and the mega wealthy is beyond unfair, it is illogical.    They want to take away Medicare, hike prescription prices, increase the Social Security retirement age and bankrupt Western New York families facing tough choices about nursing home care for their loved ones all in the name of cuts but the Budget does not do that which it sets out to do: it barely reduces the debt because it reduces taxes on the wealthiest nearly as much as it cuts spending.  We can certainly do better. ”  

How the Ryan Budget Impacts WNY Seniors

MedicareUnder the Ryan Budget:

  • Medicare is Eliminated, creating a voucher program for everyone under 55
  • Starting in 2022, the Medicare eligibility age increases by 2 months each year, reaching an eligibility age of 67 in 2033.
  • Brings back the donut hole that significantly increases prescription drug costs for seniors
  • Takes away free preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies, for seniors.

Why that’s bad for WNY…

  • New York has the 3rd highest number of Medicare Beneficiaries in the Country - 2,964,318 people. Only Florida with over 3.3 million beneficiaries and California with 4.68 million beneficiaries ranks higher
  • Medicare recipients (March 2011) 
    • Chautauqua: 27,202
    • Erie: 174,015
    • Niagara: 43,229
  • Nearly 2.9 million seniors in New York would again have to pay to receive important preventive services, like mammograms and colonoscopies.
  • In 2010 39,943 seniors in WNY alone entered the Part D donut hole which requires them to pay the full cost of their prescription drugs.   These WNY seniors received nearly $10 million through the $250 rebate and additional savings this year, through Health Reform.  The Ryan Budget is a huge step backward that will cost WNY seniors falling into the donut hole millions in additional prescription drug costs.

Medicaid: The Ryan Budget cuts about $771 billion from Medicaid over ten years by converting the program into a fixed funding stream, or block grant that bears no relation to the actual need for Medicaid services. Seniors and persons with disabilities are especially at risk from these cuts, as they account for two‐thirds of Medicaid spending.

Why that’s bad for WNY…

  • At least 70 percent of persons over age 65 will likely need long‐term care services at some point.  Many WNY Seniors and their families rely on Medicaid to help pay for the enormous expense of long-term care:
  • Fee report for Medicaid Skilled Nursing Facilities (nursing homes) (2007):
    • Total (statewide): $6,769,059,072
      • Chautauqua: $41,349,673
      • Erie: $251,700,409
      • Niagara: $61,461,956
  • Medicaid enrollment, aged over 65 (Nov. 2010):
    • Chautauqua: 2,337
    • Erie: 10,589
    • Niagara: 2,206

Social Security: The budget sets up a special fast‐track procedure for cuts in Social Security benefits.  The Republican Study Committee is recommending the following: 

  • Increasing the retirement age to 70 for anyone born in 1975 or later, which is nearly a 20 percent cut in scheduled benefits
  • Cuts benefits for everyone under 60, so this plan would affect people who are very close to retirement and have no time to prepare for changes.

Why that’s bad for WNY…

Tax Breaks for the Wealthy
The Budget makes permanent the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy (top 2 percent) at a cost of nearly $700 billion over 10 years, while creating additional financial burdens for seniors, students and working families. In addition it gives away tens of billions of dollars in tax subsidies to Big Oil. 

Why that’s bad for WNY….

Others have voiced significant concern over the severe hardship this would bring to seniors: 

  • 192 health economists and health care experts wrote to Congress opposing the plan writing, “In summary, turning Medicare into a voucher program would undermine essential protections for millions of vulnerable people. It would extinguish the most promising approaches to curb costs and to improve the American medical care system.”
  • Speaking on behalf of the AARP, Executive Vice President Nancy A. LeaMond said, “The Chairman’s proposal, rather than tackling skyrocketing health care costs, would simply shift these costs onto the backs of people in Medicare.  It would undermine Medicare’s promise of secure health coverage—a guarantee that future seniors have contributed to through a lifetime of hard work.  If Congress is serious about reining in Medicare costs, it can start by allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices and speeding up access to generic versions of expensive biologic drugs.” 
  • The American Hospital Association (of whom several of Buffalo’s largest employers are members) has already come out in strong opposition to the Ryan Budget resolution plan.   Rick Pollack, EVP of AHA said “…the budget resolution passed by the House Budget Committee is not the right prescription for the health of America” and urges members to “reject the resolution when it comes to the House floor.”

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects the Ryan plan will double beneficiary costs in 2022, from $6,150 to $12,513 – an increase of more than $6,000 in premiums and co-pays.  Meanwhile the Ryan plan maintains tax breaks for big oil companies that have been around since the early 1900s – tax breaks expected to deliver $36.5 billion in tax subsidies oil industry over the next decade.  According to a report by the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, “The top five oil companies reported total year-end profits of $77 billion, despite a yearly loss for BP due to their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. All told, the five companies -- BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell -- made $952 billion in profits over the last 10 years, a decade when oil spikes and higher gas prices ate up more of every American’s paycheck.