Concerns among senior citizens led congressional candidate John Ewing to offer a plan he says will cut Medicare costs but keep the system in place.
Ewing, a Democrat, is running against Republican Rep. Lee Terry in Nebraska's 2nd District. He presented his plan at a press conference Monday. Sixteen senior citizens wearing Ewing campaign stickers stood behind him.
Ewing said one part of his plan would allow the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan. That is not permitted under current law. The change, he said, could save up to $24 billion annually.
Ewing also said he supports provisions in the health care law that stop what he called overpayments to health insurance companies under the Medicare Advantage program. He said the changes under the new law are expected to total $500 billion over 10 years. The overpayments, he said, went to insurance company profits, not medical services or reimbursement rates.
In a written statement responding to Ewing's comments, Terry said the changes to the Medicare Advantage program "will simply force seniors to pay more out of pocket."
Terry also said Ewing supported a $716 billion "raid" on Medicare that slashed payments to doctors and other providers to pay for the law. Those providers, Terry said, then will reduce the number of patients they see. Senior citizens seeking treatment will have to wait longer, he said.
Ewing said the country must do more to prevent Medicare abuse and fraud, and he said he supports more funding for law-enforcement efforts. The Medicare Fraud Strike Force, set up in 2007, has recovered billions of dollars, he said.
Ewing said Medicare has been a hot topic on the campaign trail. Many people, he said, are concerned about the plan proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the presumptive Republican nominee for vice president. He said Ryan supports a voucher system that would threaten the health of the program.
Bob Dornacker, 66, one of the Ewing supporters at the Monday event, said that if the new health care law and its patient protections are repealed, a voucher system would hurt seniors with pre-existing medical conditions.
“Those pre-existing conditions would price you right out of the (health insurance) market. That’s what makes it dangerous,” said Dornacker, who lives near Bennington.
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