Rep. McDermott: Thanks to Medicare, 'My Brothers and Sisters and I Did Nothing for' Our Parents

By Susan Jones | February 6, 2013 | 11:03am EST

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) says Democrats will not allow any cut in Medicare benefits. (AP Photo)

( - It's the job of government, not families, to take care of grandma, says Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

McDermott, appearing on C-SPAN Tuesday, said he opposes cuts to Medicare, the government program that paid his own parents' medical bills: "Now we have a Medicare program, where my father -- and my father lived to 93, my mother to 97 -- and my brothers and sisters and I did nothing for them, except pay their taxes."

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McDermott said there is no reason to cut Medicare benefits for senior citizens, even though spending will escalate as millions of Baby Boomers come into the program: "So we simply have got to deal with the fact that the population is going to mean more spending," he said. "It's not that spending is out of control."

He said Republicans want to raise the retirement age to save taxpayer dollars.  And what would seniors do then? They would do what they did before Medicare -- which is "turn to their children" to pay their medical bills.

McDermott pointed to his own grandmother as an example:

"When I grew up, my grandmother had four daughters, and she spent three months with each one of them. And she had no Medicare, she had no Social Security. And she lived with her daughters. And we took care of her. I mean, I got thrown out of my bedroom. My bedroom became grandma's bedroom, I slept on the couch in the living room, because that's the way families took care of their seniors before 1964.

"Now we have a Medidare program, where my father -- and my father lived to 93, my mother to 97 -- and my brothers and sisters and I did nothing for them, except pay their taxes.

"One year, we gave my mom a Christmas gift, a hearing aid. A hearing aid cost about $800, a lot of money. So all  of us chipped in and we bought my ma a hearing aid. That was her Christmas gift...Medicare doesn't cover that.

"And so as you get older and lose your hearing, good luck, you're on your own. That's what we say to seniors with their hearing problems. And my view is, that we're a better country than that. We can find a way to do it and make the system more efficient."

McDermott says Democrats are "going to find the money to cover all the senior citizens in this country under the Medicare program at 65." He said there are "all kinds of ways" to save money in the Medicare program, "but it doesn't mean taking benefits away from senior citizens."

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