WASHINGTON - Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer vowed Wednesday to use his new leadership position to block any attempts to cut Medicare for New York seniors as the Senate prepares to vote on President Trump’s nominee to oversee the program.
During his campaign, Trump said he would not cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. But Democrats fear Republican proposals to convert Medicare into a voucher-based privatized system are gaining momentum and would result in cuts.
Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, supports privatization. The Senate is likely to take up Price’s nomination today.
“After paying into the system throughout their working lives, it is unconscionable that some in Congress would pull the rug out from under millions who depend on these modest, earned benefits for dignity and health security,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “Our country must keep its promise to seniors by ensuring they have access to health care and economic security in their aging years. I’m urging my Senate colleagues to keep Medicare off the partisan chopping block, and I plan to use my new role to make sure that Medicare is not only preserved but strengthened for generations to come.”
Republicans say privatization would lead to lower costs through increased competition. House Speaker Paul Ryan has called for Medicare reform as part of the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump, after the election, called for “modernizing” the program.
Schumer said privatization would effectively gut Medicare, a program in which millions of seniors and people with disabilities in New York are enrolled, and devastate upstate seniors who have spent years paying into the system. He warned that privatization would force seniors to navigate a maze of options to access substandard care at higher costs.
Last year, 55 million Americans, including 3.3 million New Yorkers, were Medicare beneficiaries, according to Schumer’s office. In upstate New York alone, hundreds of thousands of people will become eligible for Medicare by 2020.
Nicole Gaudiano is a correspondent with USA TODAY Network's Washington Bureau. Follow @ngaudiano on Twitter.