While voters across the country are up in arms over whether and how to proceed with health care reform, many seniors are struggling to understand what reform could mean for them. The opinions seniors form about the matter could prove to be a determining factor; they are guaranteed health care through Medicare and consume a disproportionate share of the country’s medical care.
A recent interview with seniors at a Denver retirement community revealed some of what is on the minds of the country’s seniors.
“Will it affect how quickly I can get in to see my doctors?” asked Anna Janeway, 80, a retired marriage and family counselor.
Anthony Mehelich, 82, a former construction company administrator, asked, “You hear all these things about Medicare going broke if we do nothing. Where would that leave everybody?”
“Do we really have to make so many changes all at once? Couldn’t we just take parts of the problem and solve those?” inquired Joseph Duffy, 90, a former accountant.
Seniors have been contacting their congressional representatives with a flood of questions about how reform would affect them. Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) reported that his office has received “hundreds of calls” from older people eager to understand the proposed legislation. The absence of a clear-cut plan may be adding to voters’ uncertainty.
Persuading seniors that reform is necessary may be the biggest obstacle facing the Obama administration. A recent CNN poll revealed that a majority of voters over 50 are against the reform effort, while a majority of those under 50 supported it.
One issue that seems to be confusing seniors is the fact that Medicare is a government-run healthcare plan. Representative John Tanner (D-Tenn.) has received calls from panicked seniors saying they are happy with Medicare and don’t want the government to take it over.
Legislators have been careful not to alter the basic services provided by Medicare in structuring their reform proposal. There has been no proposal to ration care, as charged by reform critics. As Obama stressed in a recent AARP teleconference, “Nobody is talking about reducing Medicare benefits.” On the contrary, some Medicare benefits could be improved. For example, the reform legislation would close a gap in prescriptions under the current Medicare plan.