IOWA CITY — Two Eastern Iowa doctors warned that Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley’s support for Obamacare will result in the loss of access to health care for Iowans on Medicare.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Republican challenger Ben Lange’s campaign attacked Braley for not having a plan to keep Medicare solvent.
Braley, speaking in Marshalltown on Tuesday, countered that, saying he has supported measures that extended the solvency of Medicare, closed the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole for seniors and saved Medicare billions of dollars in wasteful spending — all while protecting guaranteed benefits for seniors.
“Truth is, Rep. Braley strengthened and extended the life of Medicare by cutting waste and inefficiencies in the program,” said campaign manager Jeff Giertz. “Rep. Braley will keep working as he has for years to protect the Medicare promise for current and future retirees with no change in benefits.”
Citing the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, a Lange campaign spokesman said Braley’s support for President Obama’s health care reform will reduce Medicare payments — primarily those to Medicare providers — by $716 billion between 2013 and 2022.
“Based on the universal dictionary definition of spending ‘cuts’ as the ‘act of reducing spending,’ and because Obamacare did in fact reduce spending for Medicare it is accurate to conclude that Braley voted to ‘cut’ Medicare,” campaign adviser Cody Brown said.
“It’s amazing that Ben Lange keeps repeating the same lies about Bruce Braley cutting Medicare when one nonpartisan fact-checker after another has called his claim false and misleading,” Giertz said.
Seniors and baby boomers closing in on their retirement years should be concerned about the changes in Medicare, according to Arnold Delbridge, who practiced orthopedic surgery in Cedar Falls for 30-some years.
Older Iowans now have difficulty finding a physician when their long-time family practitioner retires.
“There are many practitioners who do not accept Medicare patients or a limited number of them because they just can’t afford to have them in their practice and still pay their bills,” Delbridge said.
“I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t get more acute with a cut of $716 billion,” he added.
Robert Roof, an emergency room doctor at the Regional Medical Center in Manchester with previous experience at St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids and Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, said the Medicare cuts will make a bad situation worse.
“Most of doctors I talk to on a daily basis are thinking about giving up Medicare patients because they can’t afford it,” he said.
If those patients can’t find a new family practitioner, the emergency room will become their de facto medical home, Roof said.
“The ER already is stressed out,” he said, and predicted ObamaCare “will throw more people into that system.”
Also, the Lange campaign used the release of its special report on reiterate its opposition to Medicare vouchers, a claim made by the Braley campaign.
“Ben Lange will end the Medicare guarantee for thousands of Iowa seniors, opening the door to vouchers,” said Jeff Giertz, Braley’s campaign manager.
“Ben opposes a ‘vouchers’ whereby the government gives seniors essentially a piece of paper which authorizes them to purchase a plan on their own,” according to the Medicare special report.
Braley didn’t mention vouchers, which are a part of plan promoted by GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, in his Marshalltown remarks, but warned against “risky schemes.”
“We need to protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security to ensure they are there to honor the promise for future generations,” Braley said. “We don’t need to buy into risky schemes that would do away with guaranteed benefits for younger workers while undermining current benefits for retirees.”
James Lynch is a reporter for the Cedar Rapids Gazette.