Congressman Duffy meets protestsMedicare dominated the discussion among community members and their congressman Monday morning.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Medicare dominated the discussion among community members and their congressman Monday morning.
Rep. Sean Duffy, the freshman Republican from Ashland representing Wisconsin’s 7th District, was met with protests during a stop at the Superior-Douglas County Senior Center.
“We’re here to save Medicare,” said Gilbert Davidson of Superior as he held up a sign along Tower Avenue before the meeting. “They’re robbing it; taking it away from us.”
Duffy said there is consensus among legislators that something has to be done to fix the ailing program.
“This is not a Republican issue,” he told the crowd.
Last year, the program ran a deficit for the first time, Duffy said, and current estimates indicate Medicare could be broke in 10 to 12 years.
“President Obama agrees the system needs to be fixed; Bill Clinton agrees the system needs to be fixed,” the congressman said. But they differ with GOP leaders on how to do it.
The president’s health care law would reduce Medicare reimbursement to providers for current seniors, Duffy said, as well as raid Medicare money to fund the new health plan. The plan lofted by Republican Sen. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin would provide premium subsidies for participants to purchase private insurance. It would not apply to anyone 55 or older.
“Medicare has been created because insurance companies didn’t want old, sick people,” said Philip Anderson, a Douglas County resident. He feared those younger than 55 now would be unable to find coverage, even with the subsidies.
Jenice Meyer, a lifelong Superior resident, worried about how the change could affect her mother, who is 54. Under the Republican plan, she said, her mother and others under age 55 would receive about $9,750 a year in premium subsidies when they qualify for Medicare. But the insurance would cost more, Meyer said, roughly $30,000. That price tag could push tomorrow’s seniors back into the workplace or cause them to utilize other government programs like food stamps.
But if nothing is done to fix Medicare it won’t be there for any of us, said Dan Conrad, who lives in Douglas County.
“It’s a solution to the problem as compared with doing nothing,” he said of the Ryan plan, adding that it hinges on driving up competition and offers more of a subsidy for those who earned less over their career.
“As opposed to Obamacare, it’s way better,” Conrad said.
Taxes were also touched on during the occasionally boisterous meeting.
“I don’t believe in raising taxes,” Duffy told the crowd. He wants to foster a business-friendly environment. He stood by his vote to push the top tax rate — currently at 35 percent — down to 25 percent.
“I want people to start getting paychecks as opposed to unemployment checks,” Duffy said.
He also backed efforts to rein in spending and balance the budget. The current $14.3 trillion debt is equivalent to $46,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States, Duffy said, and 42 cents of every dollar the government spends is borrowed.
“No one is saying we can balance this budget by snapping our fingers,” the congressman said. But he doesn’t want to leave a massive debt to the next generation.
That struck a chord with David Franks of Superior. The U.S. Navy veteran said his military retirement has been frozen for the past two years, and he has learned to stretch every dollar to care for his family. Government leaders have run amok with spending, he said, and they need to start pinching pennies.
“Our kids are going to pay for it if we don’t start taking care of it,” Franks said.
While the presentation was supposed to be for seniors, protestors joined the crowd. There were a few moments when comments hurled from audience members derailed the dialog.
Some constituents left unsatisfied.
“I wish that he would have listened to me more,” Meyer said. She felt the answers she got from Duffy were scripted.
Kathleen Gates asked Duffy why he voted to repeal President Obama’s health care act without bringing forward any other plan to replace it, something he promised not to do while campaigning for the seat. He told her it was his understanding that a GOP proposal was expected to be lofted this spring. Gates felt that his reply had “a lot of spin.”
Others were happy with the outcome of the meeting.
“I feel there are so many lies going around that Medicare is going to be taken away and it’s not,” said Bonnie Baker of Superior. She appreciated that the facts about the Health Care Act and Ryan’s proposal were brought out. Conrad, too, noted that the problems can’t be solved unless the facts are brought out.
He said Duffy did a good job answering questions with a challenging crowd. The congressman’s predecessor, Dave Obey, typically did not invite crowds with mixed political viewpoints. Duffy said he holds these events throughout the district to talk to everyone, both those who agree with him and those who don’t.
“I think it’s important we have a good dialog about what’s taking place (in Washington D.C.),” Duffy said, “and unless I set myself up to hear from all of you I don’t think I get necessarily the best perspective.”
During his visit to Superior, Duffy also hosted a Coffee with your Congressman event at Perkins Restaurant and toured the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus. He also met with Mayor Bruce Hagen to discuss how the two could work together to better Superior.