Written by Denise Nash Friday, 17 July 2009 08:18
In an effort to remain connected to his constituents, Congressman Steve Israel, who has been spending most of his time in Washington D.C. after admitting this has been a very busy month, conducted his first telephone town hall meeting, which was geared toward those over 55 years of age.
Residents had the opportunity to dial in and listen to Congressman Israel discuss broad topics such as the new healthcare plan that was released by house Democrats Tuesday night, and local issues on how this plan will impact his constituents. Residents had the opportunity to interact with Israel as well as William Stoner, associate state director AARP, who was also available to answer questions.
Congressman Israel briefly discussed the new bill, dubbed “America’s Affordable Health Choice Act,” which was drafted to provide quality affordable healthcare for all Americans. The bill states that it also was designed to control health care cost growth. Under the House Democrats’ plan, the federal government would be responsible for ensuring that every person, regardless of their income or health status, would have access to an affordable insurance plan.
The bill aims to tax the wealthy to fund the estimated cost of $1.5 trillion over the next ten years. Under the House legislation, families earning between $350,000 and $500,000 and individuals earning over $280,000 annually would pay an additional 1 percent in income tax. The new tax would increase with higher salaries so that families earning more than $1 million would pay an additional 5.4 percent.
Congressman Israel stated that he has not yet had time to read the entire 1,000+ page bill and once he and his staff review it, he will be able to make a formal comment on everything that it contains, but he did state that, “the system is broken and I am interested in a fix that does not ask middle class and working families to pay for it.”
Stoner said that AARP believes all Americans should have affordable healthcare and said that this bill eliminates the Medicare donut hole that many seniors currently fall into.
According to the bill, the Medicare Part D program will be improved by creating new consumer protections for Medicare Advantage Plans, eliminating the donut hole and improving low-income subsidy programs so that Medicare is affordable for all seniors and other eligible individuals.
Residents with Medicare Part D may be at risk of falling into the coverage gap, or “doughnut hole.” Stoner said the website Doughnuthole.aarp.org can help residents understand where they stand.
Israel said that health care reform is such a big priority because “we don’t have health care, we have sick care,” he said explaining that once we are sick, we are entitled to medical coverage, but preventative care is generally not covered.
According to calculations, 5,000 people were reached during this telephone town hall and Israel hopes to host more in the future as he stated it was a great way to stay in touch with his constituents. To sign up for e-newsletter updates, visit isreal.house.gov. Israel’s office can also be reached at 631-951-2210.