U.S. lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with seniors and activists on Wednesday delivered more than one million petition signatures demanding that President-elect Donald Trump does not gut Medicare.
"You told the seniors of this country you were on their side, you told working people you were on their side," Sanders said in a press conference marking the petition delivery. "You said you would not cut Social Security, you would not cut Medicare...millions of us are going to demand that you keep your promise."
On the campaign trail, Trump explicitly said he would not cut the program that provides government-subsidized health insurance to Americans 65 and older. But many fear that with Trump's rise to power, and the reelection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to House Majority Leader, Republican control over the government may put Medicare on the chopping block.
As Common Dreams recently reported, Trump's transition website states that the administration will "modernize" Medicare—a code word for privatization, something Ryan has outspokenly supported, as Huffington Post's Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young explain.
Meanwhile, Trump has also nominated Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for Health and Human Services Secretary, further indicating that the program is at risk. Price is not only a Medicare opponent, but also a close ally of Ryan's, as Social Security Works pointed out in a statement Wednesday.
Sanders was joined by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and senior members of organizations like MoveOn.org and National Nurses United (NNU).
"The November election results did not give anyone a mandate to dismantle one of the most popular public programs in U.S. history, Medicare," said NNU co-president Jean Ross in a statement Tuesday. " As nurses we are absolutely opposed to Rep. Paul Ryan's schemes to destroy it by converting it into a program that further enriches the insurance industry and denies care to seniors because they can't afford it."
"Medicare works and that's why we think it should be expanded so that everyone in our nation has access to quality care regardless of their ability to pay," Ross said. "Nurses will make our voices heard across the country in the face of the threat of privatization and profiteering off sickness which is at the heart of the Ryan proposal."
The threat to Medicare comes amid Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) once Trump enters office.