Sen. Charles E. Schumer is joined by local senior citizens...

Sen. Charles E. Schumer is joined by local senior citizens at a Manhattan news conference about Medicare on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. Credit: Charles Eckert

Sen. Chuck Schumer said that Medicare as we know it is in grave danger, just two days after Tom Price’s confirmation as Health and Human Services Secretary.

At a Sunday news conference, Schumer pledged to use his new role as Senate Democratic Leader to block “efforts to weaken, wound and destroy Medicare.”

“Medicare is enormously popular because it works, it delivers affordable and vital health care to our seniors and it needs to be strengthened, not put on the chopping block,” Schumer said. “Our country must keep its promise to seniors by ensuring they have access to health care and economic security in their aging years.”

Price’s Friday confirmation testimony suggests that under his administration, Medicare might be converted to a fixed amount voucher-based program, instead of the more flexible “modest, earned benefits for dignity and health security” that these seniors currently collect, Schumer said.

Senate Democrats have pointed to Price’s track record; during his tenure as a Republican congressman representing Georgia, he supported cuts to Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Schumer’s office fielded a “high volume” of calls from constituents opposing Price, said spokesman Angelo Roefaro.

Price has said he can’t rule out cuts to the Medicaid and Medicare but in a Jan. 18 hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee, he said: “Nobody’s interested in pulling the rug out from under anybody.”

More than three million New Yorkers were enrolled in Medicare last year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. On Long Island, nearly 500,000 seniors are signed up with the program. In both Nassau and Suffolk Counties, more than 16 percent of the population is over 65 years old, according to the 2015 American Community Survey.

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