Elections are too often a flurry of talking points based on focus group data that are short on the details. During the Republican National Convention this week, I expect to hear a lot of speeches that have a lot of rhetoric but not a lot of facts.
One major concern for me and every American is the future of our nation’s health care system. The quality of that system affects us all, and we need details about the candidates’ approach to health care, not high-level talking points.
I write this as a lifelong Republican and registered nurse. The foremost priority for me and my colleagues is providing the best care possible to our patients.
We are deeply concerned that Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, share a prescription for our nation’s health care system grounded in partisan politics that are holding our country back – instead of the reality nurses face in hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms across the country.
Earlier this year, Romney embraced Ryan’s budget proposal. This plan is very clear. It would end Medicare as we know it, drastically cut Medicaid – a lifeline for seniors, people with disabilities and children – and end the benefits and insurance protections of the Affordable Care Act.
Here is who the Romney-Ryan prescription would hurt: everyone who is counting on Medicare to be there when they retire,
seniorswho rely on nursing home care, people with disabilities, children living below the poverty line, working families struggling to afford health insurance, people with pre-existing conditions and the list goes on. In short, most of the patients my fellow nurses and I treat on a daily basis.
Romney and Ryan would replace Medicare with a private-market plan that gives seniors a voucher toward the cost of care. The really bad news is the value of the voucher would not increase with the cost of care, leaving seniors faced with mounting premiums.
Both Romney and Ryan have said they support repealing the Affordable Care Act. This means all of the ways the law is strengthening Medicare for the long haul and saving seniors money would be wiped out. The law is currently saving older Americans who fall into the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” $635 a year.
Under Romney and Ryan, those savings would be gone. Smart investments in preventive care, including free annual wellness visits and screenings, also would be gone. Stopping waste, fraud and abuse among Medicare providers intent on swindling seniors – no more. And guaranteeing Medicare benefits to every American at age 65 – a thing of the past.
This is no small matter. These benefits already have changed the lives of patients I have treated, such as Tom, who had a mild heart attack and was diagnosed with diabetes. Doctors prescribed medication to control his high blood pressure and blood sugar. Tom initially skipped scheduled doctor appointments and rationed his medication because he simply couldn’t afford it.
Last year, thanks to the health care law, he had a free wellness visit and his prescriptions cost less. Today, Tom makes it to all of his appointments and takes his medication as prescribed. Medicare recipients such as Tom may not know that these improvements are due to the law, but nurses do know and it matters.
Romney and Ryan also would cut $810 billion from Medicaid and put the quality of health care of the very young and the very old at grave risk. Medicaid provides health care for many working families, and it pays for just under half of all births each year.
While Medicaid is often thought of as a program for the very poor, it funds health care for nearly two-thirds of all older Americans in nursing homes, including many elderly veterans. Cutting Medicaid so drastically would mean that many seniors would lose nursing home care or lose the choice to remain at home and receive care.
The presidential election should be filled with facts – especially when it comes to health care. Romney has embraced Ryan’s plan for our nation’s health care system, but nurses know firsthand it would leave patients with too few choices, greater risks and higher costs.
I would ask Romney and Ryan to think about the care nurses deliver and how wrong their prescription is for the health and future of America. Patients’ lives are at stake.