Community Commentary-Marking Medicare’s Birthday

Community Commentary
Senate Candidates David Watters and Richard Leonard

Legislative Takeover of Medicare

We visited Strafford County’s Riverside Rest Home to mark Medicare’s 47th birthday on July 27, 2012. The people of Strafford County take great pride in knowing our senior citizens receive compassionate and professional care at Riverside rest home. As Senate candidates, we strongly oppose a Republican plan for a state legislative takeover of Medicare. This plan would threaten health care for seniors, people with disabilities, and children now covered by Medicare.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith both support a plan called the Interstate Health Compact, a version of which passed the House last year (House Bill 1560), calling on the federal government to let the state legislature run Medicare. This proposal dovetails with a national Republican plan, supported by Mitt Romney, which would turn Medicare into a voucher program, increase the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and increase health care costs for seniors by more than $6,400. The last state legislative session made deep cuts in nursing home funding and health care for people with disabilities and children. Now New Hampshire Republican legislators now want to do the same to Medicare.

The Republican plan in Congress needs 40 states to pass the Interstate Health Care Compact so that Congress can act to dismantle Medicare. This is why we will fight as state senators to protect Medicare in New Hampshire by defeating this reckless plan supported by Speaker O’Brien.

The Interstate Health Care Compact is part of an effort to undermine the national commitment to healthcare reform by sending care back to the states, creating a patchwork of plans that would leave seniors at the mercy of legislative funding cuts. The state would have the authority to eliminate federal regulations that ensure coverage for procedures, medicine, and nursing home care. New Hampshire would receive a Medicaid block grant, instead of being a 50-50 split of costs, and turn Medicare into a block grant, equivalent to what was received in 2010, adjusted for inflation and other costs.

This is a terrible plan for New Hampshire seniors. With the aging of New Hampshire, and population growth, the block grant might not keep up with costs. Under the current plan, when there is an economic downturn, federal assistance increases because caseloads increase, but New Hampshire might not be eligible. The state legislature could decide to raise the age of eligibility or decide not to cover needed services. And the costs of management would fall on the state. The state reimbursement rate for care at the Riverside Rest Home is already too low, downshifting costs to the local taxpayer. A Medicare voucher system could put a huge new tax burden on Strafford County.

Medicare is part of our community values, since it ensures that seniors who have paid into Medicare all their working lives will have the basic human dignity of healthcare when retired. The Republican program ends that guarantee and breaks a promise of each generation to respect and value its elders. Workers would still pay the federal Medicare insurance, but under House

Bill 1560, there is no requirement for insurance at age 65, just the shaky promises of a legislature like the one lead by Speaker O’Brien.

This is a personal as well as a political issue for us as senate candidates. David’s grandmother, after a heart attack and a stroke, spent the last months of her life in the Rockingham County Nursing Home. She received loving care and new treatments for stroke recovery, and no one had to worry whether her voucher would cover her care. Rich fills prescriptions every day for seniors on Medicare who can get needed medications without worrying whether the legislature might decide not to cover their needs.

As reported in the Concord Monitor, the Chair of the State Committee on Aging says the Interstate Health Care Compact “would have a major and potentially destructive impact on health care for seniors.” We agree. In this election, we will not abandon the state’s commitment to seniors, and we will fight to protecting Medicare.

Representative David Watters
Senate Candidate District 4

Richard Leonard
Senate Candidate District 6

For Immediate Release:  July 26th, 2012

Marking Medicare’s Birthday
Senate Candidates David Watters and Richard Leonard Oppose Lamontagne/O’Brien’s Plan for Legislative Takeover of Medicare

Contact: Richard Leonard


DOVER, NH: In a visit to Strafford County Riverside Rest Home today marking Medicare’s upcoming 47th birthday, Senate candidates David Watters and Rich Leonard made clear their opposition to a Republican plan for a state legislative takeover of Medicare.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Ovide Lamontagne and Kevin Smith both support a plan – which passed the House last year – calling on the federal government to let the state legislature run Medicare. This proposal dovetails with a national Republican plan, supported by Mitt Romney, which would turn Medicare into a voucher program, increase the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and increase health care costs for seniors by more than $6,400.

“Ovide Lamontagne, Kevin Smith and members of the legislature are promoting a devastating plan for a state takeover of Medicare. After slashing funding for nursing homes and health care for people with disabilities and children, they now want to do the same to Medicare,” said David Watters, a candidate for State Senate in District 4.

The New Hampshire Committee on Aging has come out in opposition to the proposal to create an Interstate Health Care Compact. The Committee said the scheme could be devastating to Medicare and to seniors.

“Seniors pay their whole working lives for Medicare. This risky scheme would take away the guarantee of Medicare. Under this dangerous scheme, workers would still pay a tax for Medicare health insurance – but now they would not be guaranteed Medicare coverage once they reached 65,” said Senate candidate Rich Leonard. “Seniors would be put at the mercy of the legislature for their health care – the same legislature that has already cut health care for tens of thousands of New Hampshire citizens.”

David Watters
Senate Candidate District 4

David Watters was educated at Dartmouth College and Brown University. He has worked as an English professor of American literature, New England studies, and New Hampshire literature and culture at the University of New Hampshire since 1978, where he has served on the executive committee of the UNH faculty union. Watters was co-editor of the Encyclopedia of New England.

David has been active in community service since moving from Dover to Newmarket in 1984. He has been a tutor at the Dover Adult Learning Center, a selectman in Dover Ward 1, and chair of the Strafford County Democratic Committee. David is frequently heard on New Hampshire Public Radio as a consultant for Granite State Stories and the Immigration Project. His deep interest in preserving New Hampshire’s history, culture, arts, and environment has lead to him serving eight years as a trustee of the New Hampshire Historical Society.

David lives with his wife, Jan, in Dover, and his son, Harper, is a Corps member at Houston Ballet.

Will Represent: Barrington, Dover, Rollinsford, and Somersworth

Contact Information:
19 Maple St.
Dover, NH 03820
(603) 969-9224

Richard Leonard
Senate Candidate District 6

A former 26 year resident of Rochester Richard currently resides in New Durham. He is the oldest of eight siblings. His father was a WW-2 Navy Veteran; a retired US Postal Carrier, and a retired Boston Globe employee, mother was a Domestic Engineer.

Richard graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy Boston in 1975 and has practiced pharmacy in both hospital and community settings ever since. He is employed at Hannaford Pharmacy, Alton NH as the Pharmacy Manager.

Richard also owns, operates, and resides at the Miller Farm in New Durham. Miller Farm is a small farm that produces Maple Syrup, Apples, and Peaches. He has provided the Farmington School district with tree fruit for the past 3 years. The NH Farms to Schools Program was the link that connected Miller Farm with Farmington schools.

Richard currently serves as a member of the Advisory Council for Strafford County Cooperative Extension Service. The Council’s function is to oversee the budget for the UNH Extension Service in Strafford County.

He has 4 children and 7 grandchildren and two of his sons are Veterans.

Will Represent:  Alton, Barnstead, Farmington, Gilmanton, New Durham, and Rochester

Contact Information:
51 Miller Rd
New Durham, NH 03855

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