Anyone who has the opportunity to chat with Rep. Joe Kennedy III about Americans’ health and retirement security should jump at the chance. This week, we had the honor of interviewing him on Facebook Live from his office on Capitol Hill.
Now in his third term representing Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional district, Rep. Kennedy is much more than a member of one America’s most famous political families. (He is grandson of Ethel and Robert Kennedy, and grand-nephew of President John F. Kennedy).
He is a thoughtful, persuasive policy expert on health care, and a champion of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He sits on the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee – which has jurisdiction over federal healthcare programs, mental health, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Interviewed by National Committee president and CEO Max Richtman, Rep. Kennedy affirmed his reputation as an eloquent advocate for America’s current and future retirees.
Rep. Kennedy wants to see greater access to Medicaid services, and higher reimbursements for doctors and other providers who currently don’t find it worthwhile to participate. He excoriates Republicans for demonstrating an “extraordinary level of cynicism” in trying to gut Medicaid by repealing Obamacare. After numerous GOP efforts to undermine Medicaid since President Trump took office, Rep. Kennedy insists the program is more popular than ever.
“The Republicans did something that Democrats have been trying to do for a long time, but couldn’t. They have made Medicaid popular. We’ve actually seen far more Americans understand the integrity, the importance of what Medicaid actually does, and how it forms a backbone of our health care infrastructure across the country.”
TRUMP/GOP TAX LAW
The Congressman is intensely critical of the tax law enacted by Republicans and signed by the President last December, which showers the wealthy and big corporations with tax breaks while blowing a $1.5 trillion hole in the federal debt. Rep. Kennedy believes the gaping deficit caused by the tax law will invite deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
“This bill is going to bankrupt the United States of America. With the GOP leadership racking up deficits, those of us who care about the stability of these programs are going to have to do something to make sure that they are there for families when they need them.”
“[The Republicans’] long-term goal has always been to gut… these programs. We need to make sure American families understand: 1) How important these programs are; 2) What they actually do.”
The pending retirement of Speaker Paul Ryan notwithstanding, Rep. Kennedy remains concerned that the political right will continue to try to undermine Social Security and Medicare – by privatizing, cutting, and raising eligibility ages – even after Ryan departs the Hill. He argues that now is the time for awareness and vigilance to protect Americans’ earned benefits.
“No one gets rich off of Social Security. It’s something that you pay into your entire life to make sure that you can afford the basic necessities in retirement. That’s not something that should be targeted. That’s something that should be expanded so that we are preserving economic dignity for seniors in the golden years of life.”
“The education part of it is a critical first step: making sure American families understand just how important these programs are. They have paid into them during the course of their working lives and they should be able to depend on them as a foundation on which they can build their retirement.”
Watch Rep. Kennedy’s entire conversation with Max Richtman on Facebook Live here.