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Legislative Watch: Seniors beware of Ryan’s budget proposal

Janice Ayres
For the Nevada Appeal

For you seniors that have been following Congressman Paul Ryan’s Republican budget proposal, you should be outraged and scared silly.

First of all, his budget would force rapid cuts of Social Security through a fast-track procedure which the Budget Act of 1974 forbids because it leaves no room for debate or input from the American public. He plans a statutory reform to do away with this protection so he can have his way.

His budget robs the middle class of retirement security by cutting benefits and raising the retirement age to 70. Congressman Paul Ryan says Social Security is immediately threatened by “out-of-control costs” when in reality the Social Security Trust Fund has a $2.6 trillion surplus. We need to tell Congressman Ryan and his supporters (Sen. Dean Heller and Congressman Joe Heck both of Nevada are supporters) that they must stop scaring our country into believing Social Security must be cut in the name of “fiscal responsibility” when Social Security does not contribute a dime to the deficit.

This whole scenario is a game of questionable politics and is nothing more than a political power struggle at our seniors’ expense. Retirement benefits were paid for in advance over a lifetime of work and failure to deliver promised benefits now is unconscionable.

Let’s move on to Ryan’s plan for Medicare. Medicare as we know it will come to an end. His plan privatizes Medicare and turns care over to insurance companies that won’t cover what Medicare now covers. His plan would drastically increase out-of-pocket payments. By 2030, Medicare vouchers would be about $9,750 a year while annual medical costs would be about $30,460, leaving seniors with an average of $20,700 to pay with incomes as low as $500 a month. Ryan’s plan eliminates many Medicare benefits, repeals health reform and thus all the benefits for seniors in the Affordable Care Act will be terminated, including provisions that require no co-payments for preventative services, free annual visits, and closing the donut hole.

Ryan’s plan guts Medicaid by slashing $1.4 trillion from the program, thus endangering long-term care services for seniors and the disabled. By cutting one-third of Medicaid’s funding, it will be difficult for states to adequately fund long-term care.

I can’t believe that anyone concerned with our seniors and disabled would vote for such a proposal, yet newly appointed Sen. Dean Heller publicly stated that he was glad for the opportunity to vote for this plan while a Congressman and now he is happy that he gets to vote for it again as our new senator (replacing John Ensign who voted for it). Are we supposed to congratulate him?

Seniors and handicapped, you need to let our Congressional delegation know how you feel about this plan. If this proposal is adopted, the life of our seniors and handicapped will change dramatically, and not for the better.

As we noted in previous columns, Ryan is going to do everything possible to once again terminate the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal program that partially funds the Nevada Rural Counties RSVP Program which takes care of thousands of seniors in the rural counties. He didn’t get the votes to terminate the CNCS in 2011, but he got the appropriation chairmen to cut RSVP $12.6 million. That means several RSVP programs have already closed their doors and “pink slipped” thousands of wonderful volunteers.

Here we have our Republican elected officials in D.C. telling us seniors that these cuts are necessary to get the deficit under control because of Medicare/Medicaid and yet they turn right around and give $4 billion in subsidies to huge oil companies who made over $1 trillion in profits in the last decade.

There was a vote the other day to end those tax payer funded subsidies for oil companies and it was blocked by Republicans who then embraced a Republican budget that eliminates Medicare as we know it. There is something terribly wrong with priorities that favor subsidizing huge oil companies over a senior seeing a doctor. Stay tuned.

• Janice Ayres is president Nevada Senior Corps Association