Medicare (Executive Session); Congressional Record Vol. 166, No. 161
(Senate - September 17, 2020)

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[Pages S5687-S5688]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                                Medicare

  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, the election is only weeks away. Voting has 
already begun in some places. I know that folks at home in Oregon, 
where some of our communities are literally reduced to ashes, are 
already thinking about how they are going to vote. They will have a lot 
on their minds when they fill out their ballots, obviously, and I hope 
all Americans will fill out their ballots early as a raging pandemic 
and catastrophic fires in Oregon and across the West have taken a huge 
toll on our communities.
  What I want to do this morning--and I am going to use public records 
to sound an alarm--is talk about another issue that isn't getting 
nearly the attention it deserves--not even close. A Medicare crisis is 
headed our way and fast. Whoever wins the next Presidential election 
will be in charge during the biggest crisis Medicare has ever faced.
  Based on these public records, I want to warn the public--
particularly seniors--about something I believe they already know: You 
cannot trust Donald Trump to protect Medicare, so you have to protect 
Medicare from Donald Trump.
  Donald Trump has proposed extreme budget cuts to Medicare for 3 
straight years. In 2018, he proposed cutting $500 billion, and in 2019, 
more than $800 billion. In 2020, Donald Trump proposed cutting $450 
billion from Medicare. The Democrats blocked him from making those 
cuts, but in another Presidential term, he could undermine Medicare on 
his own. Here is how the situation comes to be.
  Our economy melted down earlier this year because the President 
downplayed the coronavirus. Millions were out of work, and businesses 
shuttered--whole sectors of our economy mothballed. The economy 
collapsed. Again, I base this on public records. It has been 
devastating to Medicare's finances. According to the nonpartisan 
experts in charge of Medicare's books, the Medicare trust fund is going 
to be insolvent within 4 years.
  These funds are essential to Medicare as we know it. They pay for 
basic services that millions of seniors need each day--treatment for 
heart attacks and strokes, care for a broken bone or a bout with the 
flu that lands an older person in the emergency room, and access to 
skilled nursing care. Once you reach insolvency, you are sending this 
country's seniors out into no man's land.
  Whether Medicare is going to continue to function the way it does 
today is a big unknown. If Donald Trump is in a position to be in 
charge, these Trump budgets are going to be the end of the Medicare 
guarantee. Ever since I was the director of the Oregon Gray Panthers, 
we had always looked at that Medicare guarantee as sacred. It meant 
that there would be defined, secure, high-quality health benefits for 
America's seniors and that they would be available under any type of 
Medicare that older people received.
  Based on some of these Trump budget proposals, older Americans are 
going to have to figure out some other way to pay for their healthcare 
and their prescription drugs. That includes the millions and millions 
of seniors who have very modest incomes--many who are just scraping by 
on Social Security. What we know based on the policies of Trump's 
favoritism for the insurance lobby, they could be at the mercy of 
insurance companies and be stuck with huge premiums and bills they 
couldn't afford to pay.
  The reason I wanted to put this into the Record today and sound this 
alarm is that this is not some far-off crisis that Americans and 
particularly seniors can ignore and can afford to ignore. If you are on 
Medicare now or if you plan on getting on Medicare anytime soon, these 
are direct threats to your healthcare. Whoever is sitting behind the 
desk in the Oval Office on January 21 is going to be in charge when 
this crisis hits.
  Everybody ought to understand that the special interests that want to 
see Medicare crumble will have an advantage this time around. This 
isn't like repealing the Affordable Care Act or slashing Medicaid, 
where Trump can't act without Congress. If he has his way, he won't 
need Congress to help him undermine Medicare; he would be able to just 
sit back in front of the television, forget about his obligation to 
protect that sacred Medicare guarantee, and let Medicare just drift 
into a crisis on its own. Any attempt to fix it then would have to 
happen on his terms, and, for seniors, good luck with that.
  The Trump administration has spent years doing the bidding of 
healthcare's special interests. In my view, there is no question they 
would seize on this Medicare crisis as another way to let those special 
interests make a buck, and there would be no way for Americans to know 
what kind of financial interests Trump and his cronies would have in 
undermining this program that tens of millions of American seniors rely 
on every day.
  Now, if you were the President and you were to ask him ``Well, what 
about

[[Page S5688]]

these comments that are being made?'' and you were to ask about the 
budget documents that I have cited today that would unravel the 
Medicare guarantee, he would probably tell one of his bold-faced 
whoppers. He would probably say he would be the only person who could 
fix Medicare's challenges and would mislead the public about the agenda 
of those of us on this side of the aisle, who want to uphold and expand 
on the Medicare guarantee, who want to make sure, for example, that 
there will be affordable medicine for senior citizens, that we are 
using the bargaining power of the Federal Government to get seniors a 
fair shake and are protecting Medicaid, which is a lifeline for 
millions. We will also unravel the damage Donald Trump has done to the 
Affordable Care Act, such as trying to let the insurance companies 
discriminate again against those with preexisting conditions.
  The fact is that Donald Trump has not been straight with the seniors 
of this country about his Medicare policies. He hasn't told the truth 
about them, and in the days ahead, I intend to make sure that this 
truth gets out and that seniors really understand what is on the line 
in the weeks ahead.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Texas.