Seniors fear budget cuts could impact benefits

April 22, 2011 3:06:14 PM PDT
The contentious debate in Congress over budget cuts that could affect social security and Medicare is making many seniors nervous.

Dozens of residents of the North Shore Retirement Hotel in north suburban Evanston discussed the impact with Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D) on Friday.

"The bad news is that the Republican budget really does end Medicare as we know it," she said.

Schakowsky's message was that the deficit reduction bill passed by the House last week in Washington would force retirees to buy private insurance to help pay for some of their medical expenses.

"The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this would cause seniors to have to bear about 68 percent of the cost of their healthcare. It's far lower under traditional government-sponsored Medicare right now," said Schakowsky.

In southwest suburban Joliet, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who voted for the House bill, said it will not affect anyone currently over 55 years old. He accused Schakowsky and other Democrats of using "mediscare" tactics.

"When you stand in front of seniors and you try to scare them in this 'mediscare' game, I think that's the wrong approach to take. It really doesn't do a lot to help us have this conversation together to figure out what we're going to do," said Kinzinger.

Frances Seidman, who is well over 55, was frightened by the session with Schakowsky. She said there is no way the government should solve its budget deficit on the backs of seniors, now or in the future.

"I don't think that the American public is going to be that stupid to let this be lost," said Seidman.

"I think it is possible that people are going to stand up and say this has to be balanced," said Schakowsky.

President Obama wants more taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans as opposed to cuts in entitlement programs for the elderly. But Kinzinger said without reducing spending for Medicare, the program will go broke in a few years.

"Here is our vision for how we can get out of this difficulty and make sure that we're not leaving our kids and grandkids, and frankly even us, a legacy of despair," said Kinzinger.

Kinzinger is a freshman congressman from the southwest suburban 11th District. His outspokenness on spending issues, including Medicare and social security, has made him a target of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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