Over the past few weeks, there's been a lot of talk about how Congress is going to reform Medicare.
Frankly, there's been a lot of misinformation, too.
Let me clear things up right now:
If you're 55 years of age or older, you can stop worrying. You can hang up on the scary phone calls.
If you're 55 years of age or older, your Medicare benefits are not going to be touched.
You've earned those benefits, and I will keep fighting in Washington to make sure you continue to receive them. Some of my colleagues in Washington proposed a plan that would have cut Medicare benefits for near-retirees - and I voted against that measure, and it was defeated.
Other colleagues proposed a plan that would have prevented any type of Medicare reform, and I voted against that, too.
What I did and do support is Medicare reform that guarantees benefits for those 55 years old and up, and provides a new benefit structure for those under 55.
Political opponents have already gone back to the same old tactics - they're scaring our senior citizens by lying to them. They call them up and tell them that they will lose their Medicare. They send them mail pieces to make them worry that they will not receive health care coverage.
Those are reprehensible lies.
Folks on the other side of this reform argument have said that the plan passed by Congress last week will "end Medicare as we know it."
What they don't tell you is that Medicare will end as we know it anyway - because the program will be broke within about a decade. Those under 55 will never receive Medicare benefits unless we initiate serious and substantial reforms.
That's why we have to fix Medicare for younger Americans.
The plan I voted for on Friday, April 15, does not take one dime away from current Medicare recipients or those 55 and older.
That's the simple truth about the Medicare reform proposal.
So if you're 55 and up, you can stop reading right now. This Medicare reform plan doesn't apply to you. Your benefits are safe.
If you're under 55, beginning in 2022, you will have access to the same health insurance plan as members of Congress. Wealthier beneficiaries will receive a lower subsidy, the sick will receive a higher payment if their condition worsens, and lower-income seniors will receive additional assistance to cover their out-of-pocket costs.
These simple but necessary changes protect the benefits of today's seniors and near-retirees, and they reform the Medicare program before it goes broke. Medicare reform also ensures that the program exists for future generations.
When Medicare was created in the 1960s, men lived to be about 66, women lived to be about 72, healthcare costs were half of what they are today, and Baby Boomers were just that - Baby Boomers.
Today, men and women are living an average of a decade longer, healthcare costs have skyrocketed, and Baby Boomers are retiring and taking their well-earned benefits.
The Medicare program is based on an outdated model, and unless it is reformed, it will go broke by 2022.
We must adapt Medicare to the 21st Century in a way that protects benefits today's senior citizens and near-retirees while preserving a level of benefits for future generations.
The Medicare reform plan I support does just that.
Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.
(Lou Barletta represents the 11th District of Pennsylvania. The former mayor of Hazleton, Pa., he was elected to Congress in November 2010.)