By Linda Garding
On Friday, March 30 a group of North Dakota citizens protested in front of the Bismarck Civic Center where the ND Republican Convention was being held. The protest was focused on the vote Representative Berg cast in favor of the Ryan Budget Bill in the House of Representatives in Washington, DC.
The citizens held signs saying the vote on the Ryan Budget would hurt North Dakota seniors and bring back the prescription “donut hole”.
The demonstrators handed out “donut holes” to Republican convention delegates to make the point that bringing back the “donut hole” will hurt senior citizens.
There are 14,090 North Dakota senior citizens who would be forced back into the “donut hole” situation. Once a senior’s prescription drug coverage reaches $2,840 the senior citizen will have to pay full cost for prescriptions until their costs reach $6,447. The cost between $2,840 and $6,447 is referred to as the “donut hole”. The protestors said Representative Berg continues to cast votes that will hurt ND citizens and they wanted to make this point to any and all convention delegates who were leaving or arriving at the Civic Center. Since health care reform was signed into law, 14,090 ND seniors saved $8,984,577.10 on prescription drugs.
The protestors were met with varying reactions from convention delegates with only one of them saying he had guns outside in his pick-up truck.
He laughed when he said it, so good humor seemed to be the overall reaction to the protestors. However, good humor is not the result of Berg’s vote on the budget bill.
If the Ryan budget is passed, 96,657 ND seniors would be forced onto vouchers when they retire. Starting in 2023, all ND seniors will receive a voucher to purchase either private insurance or traditional Medicare.
Private insurance plans will aggressively pursue the healthiest, least expensive enrollees, thereby allowing Medicare – currently the lifeline of 108,878 ND seniors – to wither on the vine.
For ND seniors, the Ryan budget will increase out of pocked costs by as much as $5,900 per senior. The budget would cap these vouchers for individuals at growth levels that are lower than the existing increases in health care costs. In other words, seniors could be forced to pay high premiums in order to access the same benefits they would receive under the current system. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the plan increases out of pocket costs by $5,900 and leads to diminished access to quality care.
Finally, 76,685 ND seniors will have to pay more for preventive services the first year the Ryan budget is implemented. The budget will require that seniors pay deductibles, co-insurance, and co-payments for many preventive services currently covered by Medicare; including cancer screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies as well as annual wellness visits. As a result, fewer seniors will access these preventive services, thereby dramatically increasing Medicare spending in the long term. ND seniors, living on fixed retirement incomes, cannot afford the Ryan budget and Representative Berg needs to know how negatively this budget will affect them.