Ann-Lynn Denker PhD, ARNP
Florida Nurses Association, Past-President
With only a week until the election, Florida voters have to make a decision on which candidate can protect vital program budgets.
There are so many important questions the two candidates should answer, none more crucial than these: Are you prepared to go to Washington and personally make the tough choices, work with the Members of Congress and prevent cuts that could hurt Americans?
Florida remains home to millions of seniors who depend on one of the most cost efficient and successful federal programs in our nation’s history: Medicare.
As Congress works to reduce the deficit, it must consider the negative impact that drastic spending cuts and reforms to the federal Medicare program will have on patients.
Medicare Part D is the rare government program that is costing less than projected and exceeding expectations. Over 40 million people with Medicare – 90 percent of all beneficiaries – now have comprehensive prescription drug coverage.
Cuts to Medicare will ration care for the millions of Americans – particularly seniors, low-income minority families, and people with disabilities – who rely on this critical program by reducing patient access to providers and affordable quality medicines.
Spending cuts that negatively impact patient access to care exacerbate the problem of rising health care costs in the long run. Improving payment, delivery, and preventative care are the real keys to reducing health care costs.
Our growing federal deficit does pose a real threat to our nation’s economic viability, but America’s leaders can effectively address the federal deficit without putting the Medicare program and its patients and seniors on the chopping block.
Part D spending is 41 percent lower than initial 10-year projections, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates the average monthly Part D premium for 2012 is about $30 – slightly lower than the average premium amount in 2011 and 44 percent lower than initial projections.
Under one plan Congress will debate after the election, Florida could lose almost 38,000 jobs next year, at a time when our state can hardly afford the further loss of jobs. In the health care field alone during the next nine years, the study by the Tripp Umbach firm says Florida will lose more than 55,000 jobs.
The ripple effects of these cuts will be felt for years, perhaps generations.
Cutbacks in health care, for example, will impact patients – but much more than that. Health care providers who receive less in Medicare reimbursement will purchase fewer goods and services from other businesses or stop caring for Medicare patients altogether.
One in four Floridians receives Medicare, so cuts there will threaten an already vulnerable population.
We need our president to exercise intelligent personal judgment and display political courage to cut the federal budget in the most responsible ways possible and avoid the most painful and unsuccessful.