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37 Attempts to Take Away Seniors’ Health Care Benefits | Commentary

In May we celebrate Older Americans Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions seniors make every day in our communities. It is also a time to reflect on what we can do, as policymakers, to ensure their lifetime of hard work is rewarded and their golden years are comfortable.

And so it is ironic that Speaker John A. Boehner and House Republicans have chosen this month to vote once again on repealing the health care law. For those who are counting, this makes the 37th vote on repeal, the 37th time that House Republicans are attempting to repeal the many benefits provided to seniors under the law. Clearly, we differ on how best to celebrate Older Americans Month.

Since being signed into law in March of 2010, the health care law has been saving seniors money and ensuring they can receive the health care services they need at an affordable rate. The law strengthens Medicare and helps seniors take charge of their health.

Under the law, seniors on Medicare receive free preventive services such as mammograms, colonoscopies, diabetes tests and flu shots, as well as a free annual wellness visit. These services allow seniors to avoid illness and improve their overall health by catching serious medical problems before they become too severe, or by preventing them altogether.

The health care law also includes provisions to make Medicare prescription drug coverage — Part D — more affordable. In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that the average senior in the Part D ‘donut hole’ coverage gap has saved $706 on Medicare drug costs. And, in less than 10 years, the average Medicare enrollee will save nearly $5,000, thanks to the health care law. For many seniors who live on fixed incomes, this savings represents a little more breathing room in their tight budgets.

The health care law provides tangible benefits for millions of America’s seniors. It expands benefits and lowers costs. It increases the number of primary care doctors, nurses and caregivers, adding about 15,000 primary care providers by 2015. It provides unprecedented new tools to stop fraud and abuse, tools that have already saved more than $4 billion in 2012. It improves access to home and community-based long-term care services and improves nursing home quality.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about the health care law. The truth is simple. Thanks to the health care law, seniors have access to additional preventive services, save money on their prescription drugs and still get to choose their own doctors. The law is already providing benefits to millions of seniors, benefits which will only get better and better in the years to come.

Unfortunately, House Republicans are once again scheduling a vote where each member of Congress will have to make a choice: keep these benefits or eliminate them and make seniors go back to the days where they pay more and get less. For us, the choice is simple. For the 37th time we will cast our votes with our Democratic colleagues to protect these benefits and maintain the law of the land.

That is how we celebrate Older Americans Month.

Reps. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., are co-chairmen of the Democratic Caucus Taskforce on Seniors in the House of Representatives.

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