ESCANABA - Congressman Dan Benishek (R-Iron River) recently stopped by the Daily Press to discuss his campaign, and specifically the Medicare issue, as he looks to retain his seat for a second term in the U.S. House of Representatives this November.
Benishek has been touring the district as part of his "House Calls with Dr. Dan" tour, where he has spoken at senior centers, schools, and with local business people and veteran groups.
One topic Benishek discussed was the impact of President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Medicare.
Recently the Congressional Budget Office estimated that Medicare provisions of the Affordable Care Act would reduce Medicare spending by $716 billion over a 10-year period - from 2013 to 2022.
"The president's health care bill cuts $700 billion out of Medicare and the University of Minnesota did a study that shows that Delta County's share of the cuts would be $99 million over the next 10 years," said Benishek.
The study, released by the university's Medical Industry Leadership Institute, also highlights that Menominee and Schoolcraft counties would lose $54.82 million and $26.82 million in Medicare payments, respectively, over this same period. Delta County's projected loss of $99.39 million in the study would be the second-highest of all U.P. counties - surpassed only by Marquette County's projected loss of $133.54 million.
Benishek said the reductions would equate to approximately $2 billion worth of cuts throughout Michigan's First Congressional District.
"We're working to preserve Medicare and my opponent Gary McDowell and the Democrats in Washington ... support the president's health care bill and those cuts are just a clear distinction between him and me as to what is going to be the future of health care in this country," he said.
According to the non-partisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on major health care issues facing the U.S. and the U.S. role in global health policy, some provisions in the Affordable Care Act would reduce growth in Medicare spending mainly "by phasing down payments to Medicare Advantage plans, reducing updates in payment levels to hospitals and other providers,
and increasing premiums to be paid by higher-income beneficiaries."
Benishek said the assertion that he is against Medicare and wants to end the program are not true.
"I support a bipartisan plan that preserves Medicare for the long term," he said. "Even before Mr. Obama's health care plan takes the $700 billion away from Medicare, the Medicare Trust Fund is projected to be bankrupt within the decade, so shouldn't we look at that? Shouldn't we try to fix Medicare so it's not out of money within the decade? Our plan does that."
The plan that Benishek supports would be to preserve Medicare as is for those 55 years of age and older. It would also provide those ages 54 or younger an option of either traditional Medicare or to pick from multiple private insurance companies.
"It's very similar to what we have in Congress," he noted. "The kind of policies that we get to pick from, the American people will get to pick from and they'll have an opportunity to pick a plan that may be better for them than traditional Medicare."
Benishek also claims this plan would be beneficial in that multiple companies competing for this business will help lower costs.
"I want health care to be between the patient, the doctor and the family - not bureaucrats in Washington," said Benishek.
According to a recent Detroit Free Press article, the most recent plan Benishek voted for that would allow anyone to opt to stay in the current Medicare program and not force them to accept a "voucher plan" was an idea proposed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan - Mitt Romney's Vice Presidential running mate.
His opponent McDowell opposes the Ryan Medicare plan, according to his website. McDowell claims the plan ends Medicare in order to give more tax breaks to the wealthy and shifts the burden of health care to seniors by an average of $6,000 per year.