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West Qns. reps rally to keep health benefits

Two western Queens congressional members denounced the House Republicans’ proposed budget plan at two separate events last week, saying the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would be an unfair burden on senior citizens.

“We need to pay our bills, but not balance the budget on the backs of our seniors,” U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) said.

Maloney and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) held their rallies at Queens spots to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the creation of the Medicare and Medicaid plans. Crowley had a rally last Thursday at Make the Road New York, at 92-10 Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights, and Maloney held hers Friday at the HANAC Senior Center at 27-40 Hoyt Ave. South in Astoria.

The rallies elicited strong reactions in both neighborhoods. Visitors to Make the Road chanted “Si se puede,” a Spanish phrase that translates to, “Yes, it can be done.” Seniors at HANAC applauded when Maloney said she would be committed to saving Medicare and gasped in horror when she described the Republican budget plan.

Both lawmakers said the plan, alternatively called the “Ryan Plan” after House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) or “The Path to Prosperity,” makes changes to Medicare and Medicaid that would shift the high cost of health care onto seniors. The GOP proposal passed the House by a 235-193 vote in April, but was defeated in the Senate.

“It’s hard to believe that Republicans want to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors,” said Leni Juca, a small business owner who attended Crowley’s rally.

The Ryan budget would repeal a part of the Affordable Care Act aimed at to closing the prescription drug coverage gap, in which drug costs between $2,700 and $6,154 need to be paid out of pocket under Medicare Plan Part D, and change the Medicare system over the course of 10 years. By 2022, Medicare would be replaced with a type of voucher system known as a “premium support payment” that seniors could take to private insurance companies.

“These private plans are going to cost more than the entire Medicare system does today,” Crowley said.

The Medicare plan would also eliminate preventive care and begin increasing the retirement age by two months each year so it becomes 67 by 2033.

“This is the wrong path to take,” Maloney said.

Both members of Congress said that while they understood the country has a debt problem, cutting these programs was not the way to solve it. They also said raising the debt ceiling is necessary to keep market confidence in the United States around the world.

Crowley said he wanted to see Congress push for measures that require a shared sacrifice instead of continuing to give tax cuts to the wealthy. He also called for a bill to create jobs.

“It is six months and we have yet to pass a single jobs bill,” he said.

Maloney urged action to promote job creation, and said ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would save the country money.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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