02.27.13

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Reaffirms Her Commitment to Strengthening Medicare

Baldwin Attends First Hearing on Senate Special Committee on Aging

Washington D.C. -- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin attended her first hearing as a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging today.  At the hearing, which focused on strengthening Medicare, the committee heard from a panel of health-care delivery experts on a number of ideas aimed at keeping Medicare costs under control by improving care.  Among other things, they include paying providers for quality of care instead of quantity of care.

Senator Baldwin praised Senator Herb Kohl’s previous leadership as Chair of the Aging Committee for six years.

“I am proud to hold the Senate seat of this Committee’s previous Chairman, Senator Herb Kohl. In his six years as Chairman and 24 years in the Senate, Senator Kohl was a steadfast champion for Wisconsin’s seniors. I look forward to carrying on his work, as well as pursuing new initiatives to ensure Wisconsin seniors have quality, affordable health care, retirement security, and the ability to fully enjoy their golden years,” Baldwin said.

The committee took testimony from the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation on their latest survey on the public’s attitude toward Medicare and efforts to reform it.  In January, the foundation found that 58 percent of Americans opposed Medicare spending cuts. Raised by her grandparents, Baldwin has a strong record working to protect and strengthen retirement security for seniors.     

“Medicare has served my family and millions of others well for decades. It has kept Americans secure that when they reach their older years, guaranteed health care coverage will be there for them. This promise has endured through good economies and sluggish ones—booms and the Great Recession. Now we must do everything we can to strengthen Medicare for current and future generations,” Baldwin said, “We must focus on smart, targeted Medicare savings—like delivery reforms pioneered in Wisconsin to provide more integrated, more efficient care—and reducing hospital readmissions. If we shift the payment paradigm and build off successful delivery reforms in the Affordable Care Act, we can strengthen Medicare and avoid harmful benefit cuts.”

Last week, Senator Baldwin traveled to Stevens Point and held a roundtable dialogue with seniors at the Aging & Disability Resource Center of Portage County. At today’s hearing Baldwin gave voice to the Wisconsin seniors she met with in Stevens Point.

“Last week I visited a senior center in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  When I told the seniors there about this hearing, their message was consistent:  “Medicare must be strengthened, not cut.” One woman spoke of the dilemma that too many seniors face—and far more would experience if Medicare benefits were slashed—the choice between buying medication and buying groceries. She said, “I think there are politicians that are so out of touch that they can’t even imagine being in a situation like that. Please remember that, and don’t forget about us.” We should never forget about these seniors. Let’s get to work to honor their wishes and guarantee that Medicare remains stronger than ever,” Baldwin said.

Senator Baldwin’s Aging Committee Hearing Statement is below:

Statement of Senator Tammy Baldwin

Senate Special Committee on Aging Hearing, Strengthening Medicare for Today and the Future, February 27, 2013

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I am very excited to join this committee under your leadership and am proud to hold the Senate seat of this Committee’s previous Chairman, Senator Herb Kohl. In his six years as Chairman and 24 years in the Senate, Senator Kohl was a steadfast champion for Wisconsin’s seniors. I look forward to carrying on his work, as well as pursuing new initiatives to ensure Wisconsin seniors have quality, affordable health care, retirement security, and the ability to fully enjoy their golden years.

Aging issues, and Medicare in particular, are near and dear to my heart. I was raised by my maternal grandparents in Madison, Wisconsin. They were heroes. No matter what happened, they were there for me. When I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with a serious childhood illness similar to spinal meningitis.  I spent three months in the hospital.  My grandparents made great sacrifices to pay for the care that I needed.  Of course, they did it without a second thought.  Because that’s what a family does.

So when my nana became older and more frail, I didn’t hesitate to return the favor.  It was my duty to make sure she received quality health care, just like I had received. Medicare was there for her. Because of Medicare, my grandmother had access to quality, affordable, dependable health care. She did not have to exhaust her life savings to pay for her medical treatments. And as her caregiver, I did not have to exhaust mine. I was able to remain focused on building a career as a young lawyer—not stress out over the next medical bill. 

Medicare has served my family and millions of others well for decades. It has kept Americans secure that when they reach their older years, guaranteed health care coverage will be there for them. This promise has endured through good economies and sluggish ones—booms and the Great Recession. Now we must do everything we can to strengthen Medicare for current and future generations.

That is why hearings like this one are so important. Too often recently, folks here in Washington have derided Medicare as an “entitlement” to cut. They have said that the only way to preserve Medicare is to fundamentally change its design, shift costs to seniors, and provide reduced coverage.  And they have ignored the personal stories of how Medicare has changed Americans’ lives for the better.

That is not my position and not the right track for today’s and tomorrow’s seniors.  Instead, we must focus on smart, targeted Medicare savings—like delivery reforms pioneered in Wisconsin to provide more integrated, more efficient care—and reducing hospital readmissions. If we shift the payment paradigm and build off successful delivery reforms in the Affordable Care Act, we can strengthen Medicare and avoid harmful benefit cuts.

Last week I visited a senior center in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  When I told the seniors there about this hearing, their message was consistent:  “Medicare must be strengthened, not cut.” One woman spoke of the dilemma that too many seniors face—and far more would experience if Medicare benefits were slashed—the choice between buying medication and buying groceries. She said, “I think there are politicians that are so out of touch that they can’t even imagine being in a situation like that. Please remember that, and don’t forget about us.” We should never forget about these seniors. Let’s get to work to honor their wishes and guarantee that Medicare remains stronger than ever. 

I look forward to the testimony from today’s esteemed panel.  Thank you for being here. I yield back my time.”

For more information on the Special Committee on Aging click here.

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