Pinellas seniors to David Jolly: Hands off my Medicare

02/05/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: David Jolly, Alex Sink, Lucas Overby, CD 13, Bill Young, Pinellas County, Medicare, seniors


Pinellas County Medicare recipients are asking congressional candidate David Jolly to keep his hands off Medicare if he's elected in March.

photo by Janelle Irwin

A dozen Pinellas County Medicare recipients are asking congressional candidate David Jolly to keep his hands off their healthcare. During a protest Wednesday at Jolly’s campaign headquarters across from St. Pete-Clearwater Airport the group waved signs at passing motorists cautioning them against what they see as a plan that would gut Medicare. Dave Dovar, a retired computer programmer, said if Jolly had his way, the senior safety net would be hawked off to the private sector.

“Anytime someone talks about putting a voucher into a government program, it’s really just designed to weaken it or end it. Whether it’s a school voucher, Medicare voucher, Social Security voucher, the whole purpose is to put business into the loop; someone who is going to take a profit from it. It doesn’t add any value to it.”

Jolly critics are claiming he supports Republican Paul Ryan’s House budget plan that would raise the minimum age for Medicare recipients and shift the program from a guaranteed benefit to a program that would give seniors a voucher to either stay in Medicare or purchase private insurance. That budget would also keep open the so-called doughnut hole that causes some seniors, like Mary Freeman, to pay out of pocket for costly medications.

“I have an auto-immune deficiency disease and if I have a flare, my medication is very expensive – out of my pocket it’s $95. So then if again, maybe in August, if it happens again, I’m already in the doughnut hole and it will cost me over $1,000 and I don’t have that kind of money. So, I just pray all the time that I don’t get sick while I’m in the doughnut hole because I can’t afford the medication.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, which Jolly says he would vote to repeal, the doughnut hole would be phased out by 2020. During a segment on Bay News 9’s Political Connections, Jolly was asked if he would have voted in favor of the Ryan Budget. He stammered over the question, never really answering it.

However, during campaigning Jolly has said he would guarantee Medicare for those already enrolled and transition to a system comparable to life insurance for younger people. Kovar, the retired computer programmer, said that simply pits age groups against one another.

“The folks on that side say, ‘Oh, you can vote for me because you’re covered – we’re going to do it to them.’ What’s that line? Tax the man behind the tree. It’s us against them. Well, we’ve got you covered, vote for me. I find that to be, actually un-American. You can be no more un-American than to try and split people apart with their own tax money.”

The group delivered a symbolic Medicare voucher to Jolly’s headquarters, but they were met with hostility. A man with a thick accent blocked members of the media from entering the room, though activists held the door open for camera crews standing just outside. The staff member, who did not identify himself, followed Medicare supporters into the parking lot.

“You do not understand. The Washington, DC [Democrats] pick up somebody from [another] county to [get a] Congressman for you. You have lost the most important vote. You have lost the most important step for democracy.”

He’s referring to Jolly’s Democratic opponent, Alex Sink. She moved to Clearwater from her home in Hillsborough County to run for the Pinellas congressional seat. Jolly’s campaign did not respond to an interview request and staff members at the office would not allow members of the media to go inside. Edwin Enciso is with the progressive group Awake Pinellas. He’s the man who was forcibly pushed from Jolly’s campaign office by a staff member.

“I’ve walked with people into candidates offices expressing complaints or concerns and I have never had a member of their staff literally grab me and shove me by the neck simply because he was trying to give us an instruction. What I’m used to is having professional staff who say, ‘we don’t want cameras in the building’ and that’s fine, you can say that, but you don’t have to grab me or my equipment. You have to just give me an instruction and I can follow that instruction.”

Supporters of Medicare reform argue the current program will become insolvent. But Tim Heberlein, political director for the Florida Consumer Action Network, disagrees.

“I think the argument made by the right is that we’re broke as a country and I don’t believe that. I believe that, here, over the last several decades the wealthier, special interests, they vote to protect their interests through folks like Jolly [who] will go up to Washington and lobby for them and he has a history of it. He was a lobbyist. He got paid to do that and now I’d rather the taxpayers not pay him to do the same thing up there.”

In addition to Alex Sink, Jolly will face Libertarian Lucas Overby on the March 11 ballot. Write-in candidate Michael Levinson is also vying for the congressional seat. They’re running in a special election to replace late Republican Bill Young who passed away in October after 43-years in office. Jolly used to work for Young.

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