Tipton needs to listen to diverse voices on safety net cuts

Third Congressional District Rep. Scott Tipton is heading back to Washington from his 3rd District Social Security and Medicare listening tour with exactly the message he wanted to hear.

“I have held town hall meetings focusing on Medicare and Social Security, visited dozens of senior centers and formed a committee of local seniors from all backgrounds to gather thoughtful feedback and comments about Medicare,” he said in his most recent newsletter.

From his listening sessions and town halls, he concludes, “The message of seniors in the 3rd District is clear: Any health care or budget solution should strengthen Medicare and assure it for future generations.”

If Tipton relied on the kind of feedback he got when he held his rally here in Grand Junction, it is not surprising he came away with that opinion. He blew off the only serious health care question he was asked and repeated the GOP mantra that only Republicans — who have tried for years to destroy Social Security and Medicare — can save our social safety net.

But does Tipton really speak for Colorado’s 3rd District seniors?

Do most of Tipton’s senior constituents really endorse the Republican plan that “keeps Medicare as it is for those 55 and older, while strengthening and sustaining the program for our children and grandchildren?”

Probably not.

Especially not if they recognize that Tipton’s reassuring words about preserving Medicare for those more than 10 years from retirement age means the end of Medicare as it now exists.

Under the House Republican budget — often called the Ryan Budget — Medicare would be transformed into a voucher system that subsidizes the purchase of insurance from a government-approved list. Payment would go directly to the insurance company, rather than to the individual.

Estimates are that these subsidies would be insufficient to purchase adequate insurance policies, raising the cost to consumers who must pay the difference.

Seniors with pre-existing conditions would be particularly at risk of being unable to find affordable insurance.

A McClatchy-Marist poll conducted in April found that “Americans oppose cuts to Medicare or Medicaid by a margin of 80 to 18 percent, including 73 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of Independents. In fact, just 28 percent of Tea Party supporters backed the plan, while 75 percent opposed it.”

A poll taken last June in five swing states, including Colorado, found that “71 percent of likely 2012 (Colorado) voters … say they would oppose cutting Social Security to reduce the federal budget deficit.”

The House Republican budget that Tipton supports threatens all three of these foundations of health care.

Under the Ryan plan, Medicaid would be converted to block grants to the states. The amount of grants would rise with the cost of inflation, rather than the cost of health care. The result would be a growing burden on the states to make up the difference between shrinking federal funding and growing health care costs for uninsured Americans. Even more Americans would be without basic health care.

Though Tipton assures current retirees and Social Security clients over age 55 that they will continue to receive their current benefits from Social Security and Medicare, for those under 55, there will be major changes and additional costs.

The House passed the Ryan budget, but the Senate promptly rejected it 57-40. Several Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, who objected to the cost it would add to the national debt, joined the Democrats to defeat the bill.

But politicians like Tipton continue to advocate for a bill they know has no future.

Since Tipton seems to have heard mostly from 3rd District constituents who are predisposed to agree with him, he would benefit from hearing from constituents who want to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in their present forms, not just for the lucky seniors born before 1956, but for generations to come.

Even allowing for the tea party population density in western Colorado, 3rd District voters are probably no more than a few points to the right of most Americans, or most Coloradans, when it comes to protecting the social safety nets that protect our seniors from privation and disease.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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