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updated: 4/20/2011 12:57 PM

Hultgren says retirees shouldn't fear proposed Medicare changes

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  • Congressman Randy Hultgren

    Congressman Randy Hultgren


Congressman Randy Hultgren said Tuesday he doesn't believe projections by a nonpartisan panel that say the House Republican budget plan will increase medical costs for retirees. In fact, Hultgren believes the so-called Paul Ryan budget goes a long way to shore up the future of Medicare.

The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis last week indicating people who are 54 years old and younger will pay more for health care through Medicare than their parents and grandparents starting in the year 2022. The Ryan budget calls for retirees to get a fixed amount of money from the federal government, which some deem a voucher, to purchase private insurance. Poorer retirees and those who see their health status worsen could receive a larger voucher.

The CBO believes the Medicare changes will result in higher costs for future retirees because private insurance plans typically have higher administrative costs and the amount of the vouchers is not expected to keep pace with the rising costs of health care. However, the Ryan budget changes almost nothing about Medicare for people who are already 55 and older. That's the part of the plan the 14th District representative said he feels the strongest about.

"I know people think the CBO is unbiased, but I know that isn't true," Hultgren said. "It all depends on what numbers you're using. I've seen both sides use the CBO to create the projections they want. The reality is this really does shore up Medicare."

Hultgren did say the rising cost of health care is an overall problem Congress still has not addressed to his liking. His votes show he does not believe President Barack Obama's health care plan offers any fixes either. Hultgren voted last week to block funding for the president's health care package, a move promptly rejected by the Senate.

Hultgren said he fully expects the House Republican budget will likewise be chopped up by the Senate. Despite some heat from local tea party members who don't believe freshmen House members have done enough to cut the federal deficit so far, Hultgren said he has no specific number in mind for how deep cuts must go to win his vote.

"There is a huge expectation," Hultgren said. "It's got to be significant. I just don't know what significant is."

Hultgren said he also wants to see significant changes in the tax code. He said it's "not right" that companies such as General Electric end up with no tax bill. Addressing effective tax rates is the likely solution, Hultgren said.

"I think there are very few real tax loopholes out there," Hultgren said. "The problem is one year we pass something that's called a tax incentive, and the next year it's called a tax loophole."

Hultgren said he recently filed his taxes, but could not immediately recall what his effective tax rate was.

"Our system does not treat people fairly," Hultgren said. "I'm a Republican, but I think it's true that many times the people with the most money are able to hire experts to help them pay the least."