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Town hall call tackles health care
In the last scheduled telephone town hall call scheduled for the year, constituents of District 28 had an opportunity to voice concerns regarding health care. More than 5,725 callers participated July 26, from Wilson and other counties that comprise District 28. Joining U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar was Social Security Administration District Manager Sylvia Serrano, who answered questions regarding Social Security and Medicare.
Almost 117,000 people living in District 28 receive either Social Security or Medicare benefits, with 76,000 people age 65 years or older in the district.
It was reported during the call that it is unlikely Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients will receive another $250 stimulus bonus check, as received in 2009. The last issuance was due to no cost-of-living adjustment given to Social Security recipients for a couple of years, Serrano said.
Cuellar defended his support of the national health-care reform, aka Obamacare, and spoke of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s stance of not participating in a state insurance exchange or expanding Medicaid as part of Obamacare.
Texas will lose $70 billion to $100 billion in federal assistance due to not participating, Cuellar said. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured citizens in the country, reportedly 6.2 million people or 25 percent.
Cuellar warned that hospitals will pay more for emergency room coverage for the poor, due to Perry’s decision against participating.
According to a July 27 press release from his staff about the town hall call, “Cuellar explained that the new health-care law offers additional services that are already benefiting many seniors, sharing that nearly 4 million people with Medicare received cost relief during the law’s first year. ... repealing the health-care law [would] remove many of these protections but would also would add an estimated $109 billion to the deficit, according to a new report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.” This amount would be realized over a 10-year period, according to a July 24 ENews Park Forest article.
Cuellar also spoke of Health Insurance Exchanges, designed to assist in keeping insurance premiums down for those seeking insurance who are not covered in an employer-sponsored insurance or public plan, such as Medicaid. He explained the cost of insurance continues to rise, due in part to the number of insurance companies in Texas. With the Health Insurance Exchange, a minimum of four health companies will be in competition, thus keeping the premium costs down.
One caller asked why he, having paid into both teacher retirement and the Social Security system, is allowed to receive retirement benefits from only one of the programs.
“Money that you worked for is money that you earned,” Cuellar said, “which is why I have cosponsored legislation that makes appropriate changes so that you can earn what you paid into, and I will continue to keep pushing this issue.”
In an informal poll, Cuellar asked whether Medicare should continue as it is today or if it should transition into a voucher system. In a voucher system, seniors will purchase insurance and pay out-of-pocket expenses with vouchers. The poll resulted in 91 percent in favor of remaining as is, with the remaining 9 percent favoring a change to vouchers.
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