Negotiated costs for health care, and better coordinated care are two things that need to be fixed to save Medicare, according to Raul Ruiz (D-Coachella).
The congressional candidate drew approximately 60 people to a town-hall style meeting in Palm Springs this afternoon, focusing on health care and the future of Medicare.
The crowd, seeming mostly to be current Medicare recipients, told Ruiz health care stories ranging from problems with HMOs, to a need for better auditing of hospital bills.
"The number one reason people said they have problems getting health care is health care costs," Ruiz said to the crowd. "Seniors have told me they have had to go days without eating in order to pay for their medications. We need to prevent that from happening now, and forever."
Ruiz added that one of the keys to lowering Medicare costs are for Medicare to be able to negotiate costs with providers, much as the Veterans Administration does with VA Hospitals.
"My idea is to make prescription drugs more affordable. The VA system provides medication at low cost for veterans," he said. "They can do that because they can negotiate drugs costs with companies. Let Medicare do that, and we can save $20 billion over the next 10 years. It would make Medicare more sustainable."
Another participant told stories of having one doctor perform a test, then being referred to a second doctor who performed the same test. Ruiz countered that lack of communication and coordinated care is a major problem.
Ruiz says that coordinated care will ultimately mean healthier patients, and a lessened dependence on Medicare, also saving money.
"There's no reason that should happen in this country... by promoting the exchange of information, we lower costs. That's how Medicare can save 700 million dollars.. that's not a cut to Medicare."
Near the end of the session, Ruiz went after the Republican plan to issue vouchers in lieu of Medicare payments, allowing recipients to make independent choices for doctors and insurance.
"With Medicare, if you get sick, we're there. It's a promise," Ruiz said. "With a voucher, its 'here's 8 thousand dollars, you're on your own'."
In ending, the democrat challenged Washington to fix health care costs without putting the cuts on those who use it most.
"We need to cut this deficit before we go bankrupt," Ruiz said. "Yes, we have to be fiscally responsible, but its the way we go about it that matters. When you want to put that burden of deficit on the seniors, the middle class and the ones who cant afford it, while protecting big business, and corporations that ship jobs overseas... that's not my value system."