I recently sent a letter to Sen. Susan Collins, urging her to resist efforts by her party to tamper with Medicare. She is one of a handful of Senate Republicans who could serve as a firewall against harmful changes to a program that 306,000 Maine seniors and people with disabilities rely upon.

The majority in Congress has proposed to privatize Medicare, raise the eligibility age from 65 to 67 and repeal the Affordable Care Act, which made important improvements to Medicare. These actions will reduce health care coverage and increase out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries already struggling to make ends meet.

Maine’s Medicare beneficiaries have a lot to lose if the ACA’s improvements to Medicare are repealed. The ACA provided Medicare beneficiaries with annual wellness visits and preventive screenings with no out-of-pocket costs. In 2016, 70 percent of Maine seniors took advantage of these free screenings.

The ACA also shrank the Part D prescription drug “doughnut hole.” Repealing that provision will cost seniors an average $1,000 per year. A new study by our foundation revealed that raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 would result in 1.9 million more uninsured seniors nationwide.

Sen. Collins should also oppose plans to privatize Medicare, which would provide seniors with vouchers to buy private insurance. While healthier seniors might opt for private coverage, older and sicker beneficiaries would likely remain in traditional Medicare – resulting in a death spiral for the program.

Seniors only need three Senate Republicans to vote against these harmful changes. Sen. Collins has stood up to her party in the past, when the interests of working Americans were at stake. In Maine, 306,000 seniors and people with disabilities are counting on her to have the courage to do that once again.

Max Richtman

president and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

Washington, D.C.