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Medicare Cuts To Affect Latino Seniors Most

Aired 9/21/11 on KPBS News.

Elderly Latinos in Southwestern states would have the most to lose from potential cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits.

— According to the latest U.S. Census data on poverty rates, 90 percent of Latino and African-American seniors are considered financially vulnerable. Typically, these groups cannot save as much money for retirement. And Latinos in particular, are also the least likely group to have health insurance coverage and they rely heavily on Medicare benefits.

In response to some of these trends, 10 leading Latino advocacy groups are launching a new campaign meant to educate the Latino community about the importance of Medicare and Medicaid.

The group is opposed to the proposal to raise the Medicare age to 67, claiming that this would cost Latinos more than $2.4 billion in the first year alone. Making cuts to Medicare benefits, they say, would drive up health care costs for everyone--a $5.5 billion cut to Medicare could mean a $10 billion increase in costs for non-Medicare recipients.

"What the government does, is it shifts these costs to seniors, to employers, to state and local governments," said Jeff Cruz, Executive Director of Latinos for a Secure Retirement, one of the members of the new Latino coalition. "By making cuts to Medicare, the government shifts it to current workers, to younger people. So it doubles the costs and just shifts it off."

In a new report, the coalition of Latino organizations suggests that the creation of a Medicare offered prescription drug benefit with negotiated prices would cut spending by more than three times the amount cut from increasing the Medicare eligibility age.

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