September 17, 2020 - Issue: Vol. 166, No. 161 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 2nd Session
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.