by Max Richtman, NCPSSM Executive Vice President

That simple sentiment sums up my trip to Iowa this week perfectly. I met with National Committee members and supporters who are organizing for the Iowa Presidential Caucuses,which are just a month away. We have more than 38-thousand supporters in Iowa and these seniors want to be sure that the Presidential candidates don’t ignore issues critical to retirees and their families.

We talked about so many different issues of concern to seniors including, the continuing preoccupation by some in Washington with privatizing Social Security and the inadequacy of the Medicare drug benefit. But nothing raised the hackles of this group of National Committee activists as much as our discussion about the Medicare Advantage Program or, as one participant characterized it, the Medicare Disadvantage Program.

They resent the fact that all Medicare beneficiaries, including the 81% of beneficiaries who have not signed up for Medicare Advantage, are paying more in premiums ($2 per month) to help finance this outrageous subsidy of the insurance companies selling Medicare Advantage Plans.

They were outraged that $149 billion dollars will be spent, or more accurately wasted, over the next 10 years on government subsidies to these plans while so many health care needs of seniors go unmet – supposedly due to lack of money in the Medicare budget.

The participant who said, “I thought Medicare was for seniors – not the insurance industry”, summed up the tone of our meeting perfectly. The Medicare law passed nearly 4 years ago had a different set of priorities and forgot that Medicare is for seniors. The National Committee is doing every thing we can to change this and is urging the Congress to eliminate this wasteful spending on subsides to the insurance companies.

It is time to get our priorities in order. It is time to devote theses precious resources to those in need -- not those motivated by greed.