May 24, 2011

(Washington, D.C.)—U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor today to oppose the House Republicans' budget and the proposed changes to Medicare.  Below are her remarks, as prepared for delivery.

Make no mistake about it:  the House Republican budget proposal will end Medicare as we know it today. 

And, since women are a majority of all Medicare beneficiaries, any radical change to the Medicare system will disproportionally affect women and hurt them badly.

For example, take a typical senior on Medicare in New Hampshire. Under the House Republican plan, that senior’s out of pocket health care costs will double – to $12,000 a year. And, as time goes on, out of pocket costs will continue to increase. 

This health care hit on senior women is especially hard because, during their working years, most women earn less than men.  Women often work part time or leave the workforce while raising families.   As a result, they have less average savings for retirement and lower Social Security benefits.  For these women, Medicare is a critical source of financial security.  It keeps many of them out of poverty.  The House Republican proposal will end that security.

For seniors who rely on prescription drugs, the House Republican plan will dramatically increase their costs.  In New Hampshire, 15,200 seniors will pay $8.5 million more for medications in just one year.

Women tend to live longer than men.  As a result, women represent three quarters of our most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries, those living in nursing homes, assisted living or other long term care facilities.  When their savings run out – which happens often given the cost of these facilities seniors must turn to Medicaid to pay the bills. However, the House Republicans also have proposed radical changes to the Medicaid system.  Their proposal will threaten long term care of the millions of women who rely on Medicaid.

The House Republican proposal eliminates the current Medicare system and puts private insurance companies in charge of the health benefits seniors receive.  The Republican plan does nothing to reduce the cost of health care – it just shifts the cost of health care to seniors. The House Republican budget will hurt all seniors, but especially women, when they are most vulnerable. I urge my colleagues to join me in voting against the House Republican budget.

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