ICYMI: Republicans can save Medicare, again an Op-Ed by Chairman Jim Martin

Democrats like to talk about saving Medicare and healthcare access for seniors from greedy Republicans even as they support policies that decimate the program and make it ever more difficult for seniors to access the care they need.

We’re seeing this bait-and-switch once again in the fight over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) commonly known as ObamaCare. But once again, it is actually Republicans who can and should save this vital program for seniors.

They must do so by coupling any ObamaCare repeal with measures to reinstate Medicare hospital payments, so healthcare facilities can stay solvent and continue providing quality care to those of us who have spent a lifetime building our economy, raising families, and fighting for our country.

Today, American hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities face a staggering shortfall of hundreds of billions of dollars. In fact, according to a recent study by the Urban Institute, hospitals could face as much as $1.1 trillion in uncompensated care in the coming decade.

The ACA as written directly revealed the lie that Democrats care about Medicare or senior health. The reform law cut Medicare funding by half-a-trillion dollars, leaving many hospitals unable to cover the cost of providing care.

The result? Some facilities limited services in general, while others had to turn away Medicare recipients. This wasn’t cold hearted doctors ignoring their charge to “do no harm.” This was business people facing economic reality-providing services at a loss means eventual insolvency, which puts the welfare and health of an even larger group of people than those turned away at risk.

This poisonous process was especially acute for the kind of community and rural hospitals that often have larger-than-normal senior patient populations (and, in the case of the latter, conservative voters). Because these facilities rely on Medicare for a larger portion of their revenues, the cuts engendered by ObamaCare hit them hard.

In just the last six years, 77 rural hospitals have closed across the United States. No senior or someone dealing with a debilitating condition should have to travel hours to get proper care. In emergency situations, such conditions could be a matter of life or death. When minutes count, having to wait an hour for an ambulance is simply not an option.

Democrats like to accuse Republicans of wanting to “end Medicare as we know it.” But the Democratic Party and its fellow-travelers already did so-back in 2009 when they supported ObamaCare. And now, once again, it is up to Republicans to save a program that they supposedly abhor and want to eliminate. The GOP cannot now make the Democrats lie a truth by failing to take proper action to save Medicare.

As a nation, we can and must honor our elder citizens for their decades of service to family and country. Republicans promised to do so during the campaign, stating repeatedly that they would restore payments to healthcare providers so that access to care for all seniors could be restored.  Restoring these cuts will enable payments to healthcare providers.

Our healthcare system should be built on a new era of consumer-friendly technology innovations and more productive delivery systems, which must include less paperwork with reduced costs. Access to care for a growing community of seniors, including those in rural areas will become a reality and we must do all we can to prepare for that reality.

I hope the Congress will help us keep our commitment to America’s seniors.

 James L. Martin serves as founder and chairman of The 60 Plus Association an organization that advocates for free-market solutions to senior issues. Martin has also helped organize and direct several advocacy groups and previously served for six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman, then Senator, the late Edward J. Gurney (R-Fla.), 1964-69.

This article originally appeared at http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/healthcare/317408-republicans-can-save-medicare-again