Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today sounded the alarm on an imminent crisis for Medicare – the program’s trust fund will be insolvent in fiscal year 2024. That means Medicare may only be able to pay for a fraction of the earned benefits that seniors count on.
“Whoever wins the next presidential election will be in charge during the biggest crisis Medicare has ever faced,” Wyden said. “You cannot trust Donald Trump to protect Medicare, so you have to protect Medicare from Donald Trump.”
Early this month, the Congressional Budget Office released a report indicating the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will become insolvent in fiscal year 2024, years earlier than expected thanks to the economic crisis caused by Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wyden’s full remarks as prepared for delivery can be found below:
The election is only weeks away. Voting has already begun in some places. I know people in Oregon and around the country will have a lot on their minds when they fill out their ballot – hopefully very early. A raging pandemic, catastrophic fires in Oregon and across the West, a president who’s reveling in political violence.
But I’ve got to sound an alarm about another issue that’s not getting nearly the attention it deserves – not even close. A Medicare crisis is headed our way – and fast. Whoever wins the next presidential election will be in charge during the biggest crisis Medicare has ever faced.
And I want to warn the public, particularly older Americans, to something I believe they already know. You cannot trust Donald Trump to protect Medicare, so you have to protect Medicare from Donald Trump.
He has proposed extreme budget cuts to Medicare for three straight years. In 2018 he proposed cutting $500 billion. In 2019, more than $800 billion.
In 2020, he proposed cutting $450 billion. Democrats blocked him from making those cuts. But in the next presidential term, he can undermine Medicare all on his own.
Here’s how this situation came to be. Our economy melted down this year because the president downplayed the coronavirus until it was too late. Millions out of work. Businesses shuttered. Whole sectors of our economy, mothballed.
That economic collapse has been devastating to Medicare’s finances. According to the nonpartisan experts in charge of Medicare’s books the Medicare trust fund will be insolvent in just over 4 years. These funds are essential to Medicare as we know it – they pay for basic services that millions of seniors need every day. Treatment for heart attacks and strokes. Care for a broken bone or a bout of the flu that lands an older person in the emergency room. Access to skilled nursing care.
So once you reach insolvency, you’re sending this country’s seniors out into no-man’s land. Whether Medicare will continue to function the way it does today is a big unknown.
There’s only one certainty: If Donald Trump is in charge, it’ll be the end of the Medicare guarantee of defined, secure, and high-quality health benefits for American seniors. Older Americans may have to figure out some other way to pay for their health care and their prescription drug bill. That includes the millions and millions of Americans who have very little income, many just scraping by on Social Security.
They may be at the mercy of insurance companies, stuck with huge premiums and bills they can’t afford to pay.
This is not some far off crisis that people can afford to ignore. If you’re on Medicare now – or if you plan on getting Medicare anytime soon – this is a direct threat to your health care. Whoever is sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office on January 21st – they’re going to be in charge when this crisis hits.
Everybody should understand, the special interests who want to see Medicare crumble have an advantage this time around. This is not like repealing the ACA or slashing Medicaid, where Trump can’t act without Congress.
If Trump wins reelection, he won’t need Congress to help him undermine Medicare. He can just sit back in front of the television, forget about his obligation to protect the Medicare guarantee, and let Medicare drift into crisis on its own. Any attempt to fix it will have to happen on his terms.
The Trump administration has spent years doing the bidding of the health care special interests. In my view, there’s no question they’d seize on this Medicare crisis as a way to make a buck. And there will be no way for Americans to know what kind of financial interest Trump and his cronies have in undermining this program that tens of millions of American seniors rely on every day.
Now, if you were to ask the president about it, he’d probably tell one of his bald-faced whoppers. He might even say he’s the only person who can fix it, and he’d mislead the public about the Democratic agenda to uphold and expand on the Medicare guarantee. But the fact is, whether it’s prescription drugs, Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act, Donald Trump just does not tell the truth about health care. He never has, and the American people know it.
For example, during the last presidential campaign, Trump swore he was running as a different kind of Republican who didn’t have it out for our health care programs. He tweeted in May, 2015, that he was the only Republican candidate who wouldn’t cut Medicare or Medicaid. How did that promise hold up?
Flash forward two years to May, 2017. House Republicans passed a cruel and destructive bill that would have hit Medicaid like a wrecking ball and decimated the ACA. Trump literally threw a party in the Rose Garden to celebrate it.
Donald Trump has promised a new, comprehensive health care plan more times than he can count. All his administration has done – since day one – is work tirelessly to make health care worse and more expensive. They’ve gutted the Affordable Care Act through regulations. They brought back junk insurance and set scammers loose on the American public. They cut access to women’s health care.
And when I say that Trump would attack Medicare in a second term, nobody has to take my word for it. He said it earlier this year!
He was asked in Davos, Switzerland whether he would cut programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and he said yes.
Bottom line, for anybody following along. A giant Medicare crisis is headed our way. It’ll be here before you know it – whoever gets elected president in November is going to be in charge when it arrives. I’ll repeat what I said at the outset. You cannot trust Donald Trump to protect Medicare, so you have to protect Medicare from Donald Trump.