Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s liberal lion in the U.S. Senate, vowed Wednesday to protect Medicare from privatization efforts, either at the hands of a Republican-controlled Congress or by Donald Trump’s recently selected Secretary of Health and Human Services, Georgia Congressman Tom Price, a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act.
In his weekly conference call with Ohio reporters when Congress is in session, Sen. Brown reminded media on the call that Medicare Open Enrollment is ongoing through Dec. 7. He recalled the days before Medicare was signed into law in 1965 by then President Lyndon B. Johnson, as a time when half the nation’s seniors had few or no options for health coverage. Now twice elected and facing another reelection in 2018, Sen. Brown will renew his efforts to protect the program from any efforts to erode the current care Medicare provides to seniors and Ohioans with disabilities.
Throughout his political career, Sen. Brown has been a strong supporter of Medicare and Social Security, offering proposals to help make the programs stronger and better.
Sen. Brown, the ranking minority member on the Senate Banking Committee who is one of 48 Democrats in the upper chamber, sounded a little incredulous that President-elect Trump would announced as one of his first appointments a Republican Congressman so adamantly opposed to the Affordable Care Act. Georgia Congressman Tom Price, who will leave his post as House Budget Committee chairman, was lampooned by Brown as a well-paid doctor turned well-paid lawmaker who wants to privatize Medicare and raise the retirement age.
“We draw good salaries and get good benefits,” Brown said. “When politicians decide to make persons working at a diner or in construction or in retail, to make them work two years longer, that’s morally repugnant, it’s the height of…I’ve said enough.”
In a statement issued after the call, Sen. Brown said, “Congressman Tom Price – who has been nominated as HHS Secretary – has supported Speaker Paul Ryan’s privatization plan that would yank care away from Ohio seniors and our most vulnerable, and replace it with meaningless vouchers that will take money out of the pockets of Ohio seniors and hand it over to Wall Street. This is also the same crowd that has tried to raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Folks like Tom Price and Donald Trump who wear suits and work in this town might be able to work until 67, but tell that to waitresses and nurses and steelworkers who work on their feet all day.”
Asked about some ideas on how to tame rising health care costs, Sen. Brown suggested more buying power by Medicare, like the Veterans Administration has to lower the cost of drugs, is the right recipe. He reminded reporters about a bill he co-sponsored with Arizona Sen. John McCain that would bring down exclusively for drug manufacturers from 12 to 7 years.
Additionally, Sen. Brown has specific proposals to strengthen Medicare, including the Medicare Affordability and Enrollment Act, which would reduce out-of-pocket costs for seniors and provide new support for low-income beneficiaries. Another bill also supports the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act to give Medicare the ability to negotiate better prescription drug prices for seniors.
Brown On Ryan
Earlier in the day, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Niles, lost his bid to unseat Nancy Pelosi from what many thought was a long-shot for the 43-year old who represents working-class communities in parts of Ohio that still haven’t recovered from the recessions of 2000 and 2007. Rep. Ryan, to the surprise of many, did win 63 votes, about a third of the Democratic caucus. Sen. Brown weighed-in lightly on the outcome, saying 63 votes going to Rep. Ryan was “a pretty consequential accomplishment.” Sen. Brown served in the House a couple terms with Rep. Ryan before being first elected in 2006 to the Senate.
As Rep. Ryan mounted his challenge against Minority Leader Pelosi, he called for Democrats to have a new message and new messenger. Sen. Brown said a lot of the recent election was about Donald Trump, who voters cared less about than wanting wholesale change. As national and state-level Democrats figure out where they went wrong this year, and how to course correct going forward, Sen. Brown said his party needs to talk more to working class voters, especially about trade deals that work and tax policy that doesn’t “encourage a company to shut down in Ohio and open up in Beijing [China]”
One of the first battles he’s ready for is the fight over overtime pay rules. “We need the overtime rule, we need to fight for them,” he said.
Commenting on Mr. Trump’s claim without any proof to back it up that millions of illegal votes were cast, that prevented him from winning the popular vote like he won the Electoral College vote, Sen. Brown, a former two-term Ohio Secretary of State, wasn’t having any of it.
“We have an election system in the state that’s second to none,” he said. He called on reporters to contact Ohio’s current Secretary of State, Jon Husted, on the matter before lambasting Trump’s accusations of illegal votes made without any evidence as “despicable and reprehensible.”
He made a call to return to paper ballots as one easy remedy to fix problems inherent with electronic voting.”
Also on the call was Belle Likover, a 97-year old who as a senior activist understands and said in a clear voice how -important Medicare and Social Security have been to her over the last 32 years. Honored for her years as a social worker and community servant in Cleveland, the Shaker Heights resident worked with Seniors for Sherrod, a campaign support group. Likover, who began a career in social work in the mid-1950s and who learned important communication skills on a debate team where she was the only women, chairs the Ohio Department on Aging Advisory Council, serves on the executive committee of Senior Voice and is a member of the Senior Vision Council of the United Way.