I am rather surprised, almost shocked, that Utah senior citizens haven't reacted to what is going on in Washington with regard to a federal promise that appears to be almost doomed.
Just below the surface of budget discussions held in Congress is an immediate threat to 168,313 Utahns eligible for Medicare. In the next several weeks, Congress will be deciding how much it will cut Medicare funding. In order to cut the deficit, balance the budget and/or cut taxes, Congress has looked to reforms in welfare and Medicaid to produce "savings." Their conclusion: More savings must be found. With Social Security off the table, Medicare now finds itself on the chopping block with cuts ranging from $250 billion to $400 billion nationally. This expedient move by Congress defies the wishes of the public.We have looked at the projected figures of several scenarios proposed by Congress and it scares us. One conservative projection says that Utah's Medicare budget would be cut by $170.8 million by the year 2000. Reducing Utah Medicare funds by 23.8 percent by the year 2000 would affect all Utahns and devastate several communities through reduced health-care services to the elderly and loss of jobs because of cuts in federal funds sustaining health care providers.
The majority of Americans (and Utahns) view Medicare as part of the covenant the government made with the American people. We keep our part of the pact by paying into Medicare through payroll deductions and expect to receive the benefits we have paid for. In 1992, 42,219 Utahns were the recipients of the Medicare program. These new cuts will not only affect Utahns over age 65 but the next several generations of those now 35, 45, and 55. Congress needs to hear from the public right now that unless something else takes its place, Medicare should be left alone.
Imagine the difference to those on the ill-fated Titanic if a better warning system could have prevented the disaster that occurred. Medicare is that close to a disaster. Your voice of warning is needed. Say something now before the lifeboats become a last resort.
Richard B. Kinnersley
Utah Association of Health Care Providers
Salt Lake City