By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Kilmer, a first-term Congressman and Port Angeles native, said his 104-year-old grandmother is among the tens of millions of Americans who rely on Social Security and Medicare.
“She has depended on what I believe are two of the most successful public policy programs in the history of this country,” said Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, in a forum at the Port Angeles Senior Center on Friday.
“Those have been her key to being able to live with dignity.”
Social Security benefits, which average $1,264 per month, are the single largest source of income for the vast majority of seniors, said Kilmer, whose 6th Congressional District includes the North Olympic Peninsula.
“And so with that in mind, I am very strongly committed to making sure we do everything we can to protect Social Security for today's retirees, and for future retirees, too,” Kilmer said.
Speaking before an audience of about 50, Kilmer explained why he voted against Republican Congressman Paul Ryan's alternative budget plan, which passed only with House Republicans in April.
“The [Ryan] budget, according to one think tank, is expected to kill 3 million jobs next year alone if it were passed into law,” Kilmer said.
“Probably my primary concern was what it meant in terms of continuing to provide important services to our most vulnerable Americans and to our seniors.”
The Ryan budget would end the Medicare guarantee and turn it into a voucher program that would affect seniors disproportionately, Kilmer said.
“It would allow insurance companies to cherry-pick, so they could pick the youngest and healthiest,” he said.
“So the consequence is that traditional Medicare would end up in sort of a death spiral.”
Furthermore, the Ryan plan would repeal the Affordable Care Act, which became law before Kilmer defeated Republican Bill Driscoll of Tacoma in 2012 to succeed longtime Congressman Norm Dicks, who retired.
Affordable Care Act
“There's parts of [the Affordable Care Act] that I like,” Kilmer said. “And there's parts that I think we ought to fix.”
By repealing the entire Affordable Care Act, he said, “you lose a number of the key consumer protections — the provision requiring insurance companies, for example, to provide coverage to people regardless of whether or not they have a pre-existing condition,” he said.
Kilmer said the health care law includes a provision that limits age rating, “where if you're older or sicker, they can charge you higher premiums,” he said.
Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more than 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, he added.
“The repeal would also mean an end to the provision that provides preventative care — care for mammograms and cancer screenings and even annual wellness visits — without a co-pay,” Kilmer said.
“Since the passage of that law, over 37 million Americans with Medicare had at least one preventive service without any out-of-pocket cost. That's a good thing, right? We shouldn't repeal that provision.”
Kilmer closed his remarks by touting his economic development initiative and commitment to a health care system that is “focused more on wellness than on just procedures.”
During the question-and-answer period, Kilmer was asked about the effects of pesticides in bee pollination and toxic cloud formations over Port Angeles.
“I take very seriously my responsibility as your representative when it comes to basic public health issues,” Kilmer said.
“I say this as a dad: Our kids are only as safe as the air they breathe and the water they drink and the Earth that we pass on to them. And frankly, that's a role that Congress does and ought to play in terms of protecting those things.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.