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Monday July 30, 2012 marks the 47th anniversary of the creation of Medicare.

My mother-in-law, Nanny, spent her working years as a bookkeeper at a medical office in Columbus, Ohio. Like so many Americans, she worked hard and paid into Medicare, knowing that one day she could count on having high-quality health care when she needed it most.

That inevitable day arrived last year when 88-year-old Nanny fell sick with pneumonia. At the time, she was getting by on a modest widow's pension and Social Security. But thanks to Medicare, she was able to focus on her recovery instead of agonizing over how to pay for it.

As we mark the 47th anniversary of Medicare, my thoughts turn to Nanny and the millions of seniors like her who spent their lives paying into the Medicare system they now depend on.

Medicare pays most health care bills for more than 48 million Americans and more than 200,000 people in New Hampshire. From routine hospital visits and prescription drugs, to emergencies and hospice care, Medicare covers the full range of health services that our nation's seniors rely on every single day. It's a remarkable record that speaks to the decency and compassion of our country.

Yet on this anniversary, we can't afford to merely honor that legacy. We have to protect it.

Earlier this year, House Republicans, including my opponent, Congressman Charlie Bass, passed a radical budget that would end Medicare as we know it.

It's a plan that would replace the Medicare guarantee with a private voucher system, pushing tomorrow's seniors into the unfriendly arms of insurance companies and putting them at risk of paying thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to keep up with rising costs.

Even more worrisome is that the Republican plan would drastically cut Medicare and at the same time give massive tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires, Big Oil, and companies that ship jobs overseas. With their votes, House Republicans have said that they would rather cut the Medicare benefits our seniors have earned than ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share in taxes.

That's not right.

We shouldn't be undermining Medicare for those who need it most in order to give more tax cuts to those who need them least.

Make no mistake: I will work with both Democrats and Republicans to cut wasteful spending and reduce our debt in a balanced, responsible way.

We can start by eliminating billions in subsidies to oil companies; ending the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 a year; cutting spending on federal travel and conferences; and reducing health care costs by letting the government directly negotiate prescription drug prices.

We can do these things - and more - while at the same time honoring the promises we've made to our seniors.

What we shouldn't do is sit on our hands as some in Congress try to cut the benefits our seniors have earned in order to make room for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and companies that ship jobs overseas.

That's not who we are. That's not the kind of country we should want to be. And that's not how we'll protect Medicare for the millions of seniors like Nanny who depend on it.

To sign Annie's pledge to protect Medicare, click here:

Ann McLane Kuster is the Democratic congressional candidate in New Hampshire's 2nd District.

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