Mark Warner had just said that Congress won’t be able to come up with a solution to federal-budget and national-debt issues until both Republicans and Democrats put some “skin in the game” to work toward a compromise solution.
A member of the audience at the Waynesboro YMCA put those words back at the centrist Democrat, challenging Warner on a point about congressional health care that you hear often from Tea Party critics of both parties.
“If y’all participate in Social Security just like we do, if you participate in Medicare, Medicaid, you guys would get it straight probably in about 15 minutes. I really believe that. I don’t understand why you’re exempt from everything that we have to participate in,” said Bob Harris, a local banker.
Warner corrected the misimpression – as a senator, he doesn’t have a gold-plated congressional health plan, but a choice of a couple of private plans, from which he signed on with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, “a plain-old private plan, same kind of plan that other people get.”
So Warner and other members of Congress also pay into Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, “the skin in the game,” as it were. After finishing making that point, he grabbed Kathleen Heatwole, the vice president for planning and development at Augusta Health, to begin making another.
“You really want to know why we have a deficit? You really want to know why we have a debt? It’s not really the Democrats’ fault. It’s not really the Republicans’ fault. You know whose fault it is? It’s the doctors and the hospitals,” Warner said, drawing Heatwole in.
“Let me tell you why. It’s not because they’re overcharging. It’s because, thank goodness, they have allowed us to live longer than we used to live,” Warner said.
In the 1950s, there were 16 workers paying into the Social Security system for every retiree in the system. Today, the ratio is three-to-one.
“We’ve got to make sure there’s Medicare and Social Security for the young people of today. But that means we’re going to have to change things a little bit. Not because anybody did anything wrong, but just because, thank goodness, we’re living longer,” Warner said.