U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, [Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)] had sympathetic ears when he championed a better Medicare plan for senior citizens on a visit Saturday to Akron.
His trip was part of a national effort by congressional Democrats to host town hall meetings across the country on prescription drug coverage.
Brown brought the complicated and contentious issue of Medicare to the Belcher Apartments on Locust Street, where about 30 people, mostly senior citizens, had gathered.
``We are here (Saturday) because the reliable, cost-efficient program that Americans know as Medicare is under siege in Congress,'' Brown said, criticizing a Republican Medicare proposal.
``My Republican colleagues tout their Medicare bill as the largest expansion of Medicare since the program's inception. My Republican colleagues aren't expanding Medicare. They are investing $400 billion in the insurance industry, and they are eliminating Medicare. The Republican bill isn't Medicare. It's Mediscam.
``If this bill becomes law, the nation will remember 2003 as the year Republicans undermined Medicare under the guise of `expanding,' '' Brown said.
Under the Republican plan, those in Medicare would be required to pay more out-of-pocket costs. They would required to decide between staying with the traditional fee-for-service Medicare or joining private insurance plans within Medicare.
Republicans say their proposal would provide better coverage for senior citizens and that drug prices would drop because of competition.
Brown dislikes the Republican prescription plan, particularly its inclusion of private insurance plans.
He argued that the Republican plan would require senior citizens to spend $4,000 to get $5,000 in prescription benefits. ``That's not generous. That's not even insurance,'' he said.
Brown was joined Saturday by Ruben Burks, the national secretary-treasurer of the Alliance for Retired Americans, an organization based in Washington, D.C., that represents 3 million retirees. Burks said the organization wholeheartedly supports Brown on the issue.
``We need help today, not tomorrow,'' said Burks, who is a senior citizen. `We have some major, major concerns with this Republican bill. It is a bad bill that doesn't take care of the problem of senior citizens.''
One 83-year-old Belcher Apartment resident, who didn't want to be identified, said she has often had to choose between food and getting her prescriptions filled. Often, she just doesn't take her medicine.
Living off a small income from Social Security makes even the slightest increase in medical costs difficult, she said.
``It's been rough,'' she said. ``The first part of the year, I faced it every day... whether to buy medicine or food. But sometimes my doctor would help me with free samples.''