Massachusetts healthcare workers are scheduled to launch a radio advertising blitz on Friday calling on Bay State Republican Sen. Scott Brown to change course on his plan to vote in favor of a Republican budget plan that would privatize the Medicare system and implement a controversial voucher system. Caregivers say that voucher system would put their senior patients at the mercy of private insurers and drive up costs for Medicare consumers.
Brown has made conflicting statements about the upcoming vote on the Medicare plan, which GOP lawmakers have made a top priority. Brown last week appeared to support the privatization scheme in remarks to a local Massachusetts business group. He, then, tried to distance himself from those remarks, leaving his true position unclear about how we intends to vote when the Medicare plan comes up for a Senate vote.
“We’re not asking Scott Brown to change his talking points on this dangerous plan to destroy Medicare,” says Leslie Stafford, a patient access representative at Boston Medical Center. “We’re asking Scott Brown to change his vote on this plan which would end Medicare as we know it, and jeopardize the health of thousands of vulnerable seniors.”
Top Democrats on Thursday released a new report indicating the impact the House Republicans’ budget plan would have on at least 4 million seniors across the country. The Republican budget would reopen the prescription drug donut hole, costing each of the 4 million seniors who fall into the coverage gap up to $9,300 by 2020, they say. In total, it would cost seniors $44 billion in prescription drug costs over this time period, including $2.2 billion next year alone. It would also force at least 1 million seniors and people with disabilities to pay over $110 million more for their annual wellness visits in 2012, according to the Democrats’ analysis.
“There’s a right way to preserve Medicare, and that’s by improving it,” says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “President Obama has begun to do just that. The Republican plan would end Medicare as we know it and impose significant costs on today’s seniors and tomorrow’s seniors. That is clearly the wrong way.”
The lone Republican in the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Brown is up for election next year for a full Senate term to represent what is traditionally a heavily Democratic-leaning state.
Members of the state’s largest healthcare workers union, 1199SEIU – which includes a range of hospital, home care, and nursing home employees – say that Brown’s endorsement of the Medicare overhaul is misguided.
“As frontline caregivers, we know that dismantling Medicare is a threat to our patients,” says radio spot, which the union says will air on radio stations across the state until the vote is called. “We’re asking Scott Brown, please, don’t destroy Medicare. Don’t turn your back on seniors.”
“Even if Senator Brown thinks his party’s attack on Medicare will fail, he should still vote against the bill on principle. His allegiance to the party on this proposal to gut Medicare really calls into question his independence,” says Veronica Turner, executive vice president of 1199SEIU. “Everyone agrees there is a need to address the deficit, but dismantling Medicare while giving even more tax breaks and subsidies to big oil is absolutely the wrong approach.”
The 1199SEIU union says that it represents more than 40,000 hospital, nursing home, and home care workers in Massachusetts.
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.