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Saving Medicare and Contacting Congress


EDITORIAL NOTE: This is a nuts-and-bolts post pulling together some information we are going to need before long. I know some readers don't want any more politics, but emboldened Republicans are hard bent on killing Medicare and they want to do it right after the New Year.

Discussion of Medicare privatization may come up sooner than we expect; Congress reconvenes today, none of the Republicans are shy about pressing their political advantage.

I spent some time over the long weekend, locking down details of one way we can make our voices heard. There will be others, but contacting your representatives is basic to the effort, and there is a right way to do it. Maybe you will want to bookmark some of these links for future use.

* * *

As I wrote here last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has been pushing a plan to privatize Medicare for at least half a dozen years and is willing to lie to the American public to accomplish it:

”What people don't realize,” Ryan told [Fox News host Brent] Baier, “is because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke, medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, Medicaid is in fiscal straits.

“You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare.”

This is exactly opposite of what is true which you can read about on my most recent Medicare post here.

As it looks now, Ryan's new, private Medicare coverage would compete against traditional Medicare. New York Times reporter, Robert Pear, who has closely followed Medicare and Social Security for many years, wrote about Ryan's plan last week and noted this about how it would work:

“'Beneficiaries would have to pay much more to stay in traditional fee-for-service Medicare,' said John K. Gorman, a former Medicare official who is now a consultant to many insurers. 'Regular Medicare would become the province of affluent beneficiaries who can buy their way out of' private plans.”

According to many reports (but who knows what applies in a * administration), Ryan intends to push Medicare privatization (also called voucher plan) legislation as soon as the 115th Congress convenes in January.

Last Friday, in response to the Republican Medicare threat, Senate Minority Leader-elect, Chuck Schumer (D-New York) issued a defiant statement reminiscent of actor Clint Eastwood in a certain movie [emphasis is mine]:

“Medicare is one of the most successful government programs ever created – it’s been a success story for decades. The Republicans’ ideological and visceral hatred of government could deny millions of senior citizens across the country the care they need and deserve.

“To our Republican colleagues considering this path, Democrats say: make our day. Your effort will fail, and this attack on our seniors will not stand.”

I hope Senator Schumer is right but with a Republican-controlled Senate, he will need a lot of backup from the people of the United States and it is we, elders, who best understand the consequences of Medicare privatization.

For when that time comes – and it may be as soon as early January – I have collected some information about how to take our message to Congress and make it as effective as possible. Having this information now will keep future posts on the issue much shorter.

I found instructions from a former six-year Congressional staffer, Emily Ellsworth, with an excellent list of what does and does not make the biggest impact.

Twitter and Facebook do not work. Staffers hardly ever check them.

Emailing your representatives is better, but the staffers get so many emails and are so busy, they just use an algorithm to “batch them” and send out form letters in response. (Snailmail is, apparently, dead.)

At Lifehacker where I found this information, the reporter notes that Ms. Ellsworth specifically recommends phone calls:

”...phone calls have to be dealt with when they occur and they can’t be ignored. A large volume of phone calls can be overwhelming for office staffers, but that means that their bosses hear about it.

“Which office you target also matters. Members of Congress have offices in DC, but they also have offices in their home district that they represent. Target your letters and phone calls to your local office and you’ll have an easier time getting their attention.”

Also, says Ms. Ellsworth, “If you want to talk to your rep, show up at [local] town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can't ignore. Pack that place and ask questions.”

These and other instructions are included in Ellsworth's (irony alert) Twitter chain that is reproduced in full at Lifehacker.

U.S. Senate contacts including D.C. and home district offices: You might have to search around to find the state office contacts but with a few exceptions, they are somewhere on the main page.

U.S. House of Representatives contacts including D.C. and home district offices – the latter sometimes called satellite offices: Although I have not looked at the web pages of all 435 Congress people, listings for district offices were on the pages I spot checked.

Over the years here, I've recommended other websites that list Congressional phone numbers but after my latest scrutiny, these appear to be the most thorough and best organized. New members of both the House and the Senate are sworn in on 3 January 2017. Obviously, newly-elected representatives may not have web pages yet on day one.

Congressional staffers – at home and in Washington – are busy people. Another excellent suggestion is to prepare a short, to-the-point script you can read when you telephone your representatives.

A Google Doc by Kara Waite is messy but is packed with great information – especially this page of scripts (click on "Calling Scripts" at the top of the page). And in the future, I will create some sample scripts as a starting point you can personalize.


Good-to-have information, Ronni.

We best return to the possible perils in the long view.

I'm really angry that I have to do this, at this age and that my children are concerned about our welfare as well. Not being in high-paying (tech) jobs, they have their own economic struggles.

Of course, we hear nothing about cutting the defense/offense/Pentagon costs. Sheesh.

Thank you!

The battle is on. Remember, if we are organized and fight back there are thousands of us and we vote.

Thanks for all this info!! I HATE doing this kind of work, but we MUST do it, the wait-and-see way is very dangerous. Elders are a huge voting block that is not going away, so we have power. Making phone calls and sending political e-mails needs to now be another daily chore. I too feel anger around having to do this, but let's express our anger energy to the right places!!! Oh yeah!

And yet many seniors still vote Republican. Go figure. Anyway, thanks for assembling this important information.

Such valuable info. Thank you for pulling all this together so the rest of us can focus on doing. We would likely not find the best advice or cut short our search out of frustration and weariness.

I agree with Darlene and Salinda. We still have our voices, and together they are power.

This is the issue that will activate elders like no other. And it's first on the reactionary agenda!

I'm going to send this info to every senior I know. Thank you so much.


Thanks Ronni - just forwarded this to everyone I know and asked that they read and pass on to everyone they know. It's so very important that the GOP and the new administration realize they're not going to achieve anything on their wish list without a fight!

Especially not this particular "wish list" item!

Thanks Ronni for all the good info. We also need to get to the newspapers with voices people will listen too. If only we could march!! I'll get this info to as many as I can. Dee:)

Thank you. It's good to have all this helpful information all in one place.

So that you know: I received a notice from Tammy Baldwin (my Senator) with the opportunity to sign a petition she is authoring re: Medicare. I was very pleased to sign it. While she likely cannot accept (I don't know this for sure) signatures for persons who are not in her constituency, you still might like to see what she is up to.

I contacted all my Democratic reps - Feinstein, Harris, Boxer, and local ones, and asked what they are doing about Medicare and *policies. Getting ahead of the game is important.

Adding my voice to the thanks here. Since the election, I've been doing a lot of phoning and petition signing, to the point that I don't remember them all. This gives me a focus--among other important things!

I am still gob smacked by how so many of us thought this election would wreck the Republican party as it has become, when in fact it's the Democrats--having to learn how to fight this awful wave--the Right Wing bad guys swarming our shores in full force, strengthened!

Thanks big time, Ronni!

Friends say " don't worry about this issue. It's the 3rd rail". But I do worry. It preys on my mind and has since * was elected.

I realize that it's a big thing to dismantle but it has become more and more obvious as * continues to tweet and spout inane garbage that he does not give a $hit about any if we elders. Why should he? He's rich. I'm not so I have no influence.

I will call my local senate and house reps. I wrote to AARP and the only response I received was asking me to take a survey about how well AARP dealt with my issue. Since they never responded to my plea fir them to fulfill their mission statement and lobby as only a large organization can.

I hope others will also write AARP and encourage them to take action such as they can towards saving Medicare and social security.

Thanks all

But you don't understand...the Republicans need these $$ for their tax cut for the wealthy!

I have already called Peolsi and Boxer and shared this information on Facebook, Twitter and my own blog. Cutting insurance for millions of people should wake people up to the catastrophe ready to crash down upon us. At 72 and with only a small next egg, i can't afford any kind of insurance that will actually help me out. Somebody should point out that the Republicans are going to be responsible for the murder of millions of people.

You can bet your ass that all those elder Republicans who voted for * will protest any effort to privatize Medicare or Social Security. Remember the Tea Party types with their "Keep your government hands off my Medicare" signs? I am feeling a form of survivor's guilt because, due to a brief window of opportunity in my State University system, I was able to opt to stay on basic insurance at 65 rather than sign onto Medicare. Of course there are frequent threats about the posibility of budget shortfalls affecting State retiree benefits, but I continue to believe optimistically that they won't dare touch something that affects such a large and organized voting bloc. I will still phone my representatives to lobby against any effort to privatize SS or Medicare. Unfortunately now that * has named Rep. Tom Price as his HHS Secretary, these pillars of the Great Society are in even more danger. In fact, * is deliberately building his proposed cabinet into a demolition crew to destroy every progressive benefit achieved since the 1930s.

Hello Tom Price . . . .

" . . . one of the original House Tea Party Caucus members, has been selected by President-elect Donald Trump to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services."

". . . . Price was chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of the most conservative members in the U.S. House, in 2009 and 2010. In May 2015, he proposed a bill to replace Obamacare that focused on tax credits, expanding health savings accounts and revising laws governing medical malpractice."

"Trump's HHS secretary likely will have to manage an overhaul of Medicare, the health care system for the elderly and disabled, that's planned by Republican lawmakers. . . ."

- Bloomberg News (TNS)

I have called Ryans office and emailed (only way to contact that I could find) Trumps campaign office, shared on Facebook and forwarded the contact information to those that I know will call. Thanks for this information.

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