Seniors, say goodbye to your healthcare

We need a sensible, responsible and targeted plan to fix our nation’s budget challenges, including reducing our deficit and balancing our budget. And yes, we have tough choices ahead.

But, that is not what House Republicans have proposed this week.

Instead, the Republican budget dismantles Medicare as we know it—forcing seniors to purchase insurance on their own, no matter the cost or how sick they are. Their proposal slashes Medicaid by $1 Trillion—threatening our sickest seniors and disabled Americans with no option for long-term care. And it guts funding for education, infrastructure, innovation and scientific research—risking America’s economic competitiveness in the global marketplace.

This is absolutely the wrong approach, and is an attack on seniors, children and middle class families.

Every day, 48 million seniors count on Medicare for their lifesaving medications, doctor visits and hospital care. And six million seniors and disabled Americans count on Medicaid for their long-term care.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, 2.3 million seniors depend on Medicare and 62 percent of nursing home residents depend on Medicaid. These are seniors with the most debilitating conditions who worked hard all their lives and have exhausted their life savings in order to cover their health care costs. They have sold their homes and spent their retirement savings—they have given up everything to cover their own care.

America’s seniors are not looking for a handout. They are looking for the security they have earned and we have promised.

But instead of protecting this promise, Republicans are destroying it.

Seniors will be forced to purchase insurance on their own, replacing their guaranteed benefits with an uncontrolled private marketplace that discriminates based on age, illness or income; provides limited benefits at a higher cost; and eliminates patient protections that provide our oldest and sickest with health care security.

To make matters worse, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Budgets are about choices.

And what choices did the Republicans make?

Protecting tax breaks for oil and gas companies, tax cuts for the top two percent of Americans, and tax loopholes that aid the wealthiest corporations.

Republicans are spending billions of dollars—yes spending—to protect the top earners in this country while saddling seniors with a mountain of new health care costs and middle class families with higher taxes and no new jobs. They are claiming that it is absolutely necessary to make these drastic cuts that will destroy seniors and middle class families.

Sound familiar?

We have been down this road before and instead of creating growth, Republicans squandered a budget surplus and a robust economy, replacing it with massive job loss and a recession that we are still recovering from.

The question here is not whether we need to reduce our deficit, but how we do it.

The Republican budget fails America.

Privatizing Medicare and gutting Medicaid doesn’t reduce costs; it shifts the financial burden to our seniors and our families.

Slashing spending from education, innovation and infrastructure doesn’t create economic growth; it makes us less prepared to compete in a global marketplace.

Cutting taxes for millionaires doesn’t reduce our deficit; it adds to our already mounting debt when we can’t afford it.

Budgets are a statement of our priorities and our values as a nation. And, it is clear to all Americans that House Republicans value the wealthiest few and prioritize helping them on the backs of our seniors, children and middle class families.

Allyson Schwartz is the vice ranking member of the House Budget Committee.