Column: Voices of Everyday Leaders

by Wandra Green | October 24, 2018 6:21 pm

I, like so many Americans of my era, believed…

After 12 and a half years in an often stress-filled role as an associate director in public relations at a local university, I retired February 1, 2017. I was promised over my more than 45 years of work that if I worked and paid into Social Security, I would have the benefits toward which my employers and I had been contributing.

I’m not sure when I learned about Social Security benefits, but somewhere along the way, my new employer explained the Social Security tax deductions and the match made by them. If I paid my Social Security taxes and my employers matched the taxes, upon retirement, I would have a nice little nest egg to complement my pension. These same steps occurred throughout my career at the university and the other companies where I was previously employed.

It was July 30, 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law at the Harry S. Truman Library. On that date, Johnson said: “(it) all started with the man from Independence. Harry S. Truman ‘planted the seeds of compassion and duty,’ leading to this national health insurance through an expanded system of Social Security.”

I, like so many Americans of my era, believed in this insurance program where our taxes were automatically deducted each pay period. If based on my years of work alone, I paid into this program for more than 45 years. That’s a lot of years, regardless of the amount. I did my duty – what was required of me – and I looked forward to receiving a monthly Social Security check and the coverage under Medicare.

When former President Truman spoke of the required compassion and duty in providing insurance coverage, I believe he meant long-term coverage. But, those coverages are now under attack.

On June 16, 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump promised to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He said he would: “Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud, get rid of the waste and abuse, but save it.”

On June 19, 2018, The Washington Post published, “House GOP plan would cut Medicare, Medicaid to balance budget, reported by Erica Werner. The proposed cuts would help balance the U.S. budget over the next nine years.

During the final presidential debate, in response to the question: “Would President Trump make a deal to save Medicare and Social Security that included both tax increases and benefit cuts, in effect a grand bargain on entitlements?” He responded as president, he would:

“I’m cutting taxes and we’re gonna grow the economy. It’s gonna grow at a record rate. One thing we have to do is repeal and replace Obamacare (Affordable Care Act). Premiums are going up 60, 70, 80 percent. Next year, they will go up over 100 percent.”

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides insurance coverage to more than 20 million Americans, some of whom previously were denied coverage or those with pre-existing conditions, helped those who were not yet eligible for Medicare. The GOP has been chopping away at the ACA since taking office and now have a proposal to take away the pre-existing condition clause available under this Act.

As a senior citizen, I have pre-existing conditions, including a heart attack. I exercised daily with few exceptions. I ate no fried foods and ate lots of green – most of the time. But stress had a strong presence in my life for years. One night after baking a cheesecake for my family, I tasted a sliver of it. Soon after, it felt like a brick stuck in my chest. After about 45 minutes, I called my daughter, who encouraged me to call Ask-A-Nurse. The nurse said, “Chew four aspirins and call 9-1-1 right now.” I called my daughter back first and told her what the nurse said. I know – not the smartest decision.

The EMTs arrived quickly and took me to the hospital. I had a heart attack. I had one stent inserted, and, there was no damage to my heart muscle. I need, we need coverage for pre-existing conditions.

In the last five years, I have received treatment for some conditions on the list of pre-existing conditions, which would not be covered without the protection of the ACA.

Medicare and the insurance coverage from the university cover most of my health needs. They deduct my premiums monthly, and I have peace of mind – the peace that I won’t lose my home or savings due to unsurmountable medical bills.

But, if the GOP follows through with the dismantling of the ACA and coverage for pre-existing conditions, my nights may be a lot more restless, and my future not so bright.

All Americans should be aware of the impact the changes and/or reductions will have on them. Individuals on Medicare and Medicaid should pay particular attention to the House GOP’s current proposed changes, which could have a significant impact of how they receive healthcare coverage, the quality of the coverage and the cost of the coverage in the future.

Based on the House GOP proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, the long-term promise of coverage is no longer a guarantee. Unlike former President Truman, they are not the party of compassion nor do they appear duty-bound to provide affordable and quality healthcare to its seniors or disabled citizens.

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