January 11. 2014 6:21PM

Shea-Porter meeting with seniors criticized by GOP official

Sunday News Correspondent

DOVER — Social Security and Medicare issues dominated the discussion Saturday, as U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter spent about an hour at Maple Suites taking questions from seniors about issues that affect them.

But not everyone in attendance felt they were heard in the town hall-style forum.

Matthew Mowers, a Manchester resident and executive director of the New Hampshire State Republican Committee, said Shea-Porter had brought D.C.-style politics to New Hampshire by hosting a staged production of filtered questions.

Mowers said he submitted a question asking why Shea-Porter had not apologized for the failures of the Affordable Care Act, as President Barack Obama did shortly after the unveiling of the website and subsequent inability for most people to use it, but it was not asked.

"The idea in New Hampshire, if you are in elected office, is to take questions from all constituents, not just the ones you agree with," Mowers said.

A Shea-Porter spokesperson later said the question had not been received or submitted.

"Of course that's not true. Even though he recently moved here from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office, I recognized Matt Mowers as the top paid staffer at the New Hampshire Republican Party, so when he came in late, I invited him to ask a question, and he said 'No.'" said Ben Wakana, of Shea-Porter's communications director.

Representatives from the Region 1 office of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and from the Social Security Administration were on hand to also answer questions fro participants.

Some felt satisfied with the information provided by Shea-Porter and her efforts to protect Social Security and Medicare.

Joan Valentine of Madbury said she has been a long-time supporter of Shea-Porter and appreciates her efforts to protect both Medicare and Social Security. Valentine said she also would support Shea-Porter's efforts to raise or eliminate the Social Security cap.

Shea-Porter said everyone in Congress knows what steps need to be taken to address taxes and the national debt, but it needs to be done without breaking the moral and social contract made with seniors through Social Security.

Ray Hurd, Region 1 and 2 administrator for CMS, said Medicare continues to get stronger each year.

He said it has been strengthened in other ways as well, thanks to the ACA, including the addition of free preventive services.

Shea-Porter said there will be problems if Congress does not address long-term issues associated with Social Security - namely the certainty that funds will run out by 2030 if no changes are made.

Shea-Porter said she is in favor of raising the cap, so those who make less money are not paying more on every dollar than those who make more. She said raising the cap will make the taxing system more fair for everyone. She said it will also provide more funds for the Social Security system, allowing the program to extend longer.

A Rochester resident expressed concern with the narrow network being offered by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield under the New Hampshire Health Insurance Exchange, including limiting the number of hospitals in the network. His local hospital, Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester, is not included.

Shea-Porter said she also believes the network is too narrow and believes it is wrong to be so limited.

She said by 2015, there should be more competition in the New Hampshire health insurance marketplace, which should help.

"There should have been a public option. They should not have been allowed to create such a narrow network," Shea-Porter said.

She said all Anthem has to do is prove it is adequate in the numbers and types of providers to meet the full range of health care service needs, but she does not believe they have done so.

Another question pertained to November notices that went out to 22,000 private Anthem customers who were notified they would be losing their health insurance.

Shea-Porter said Anthem has since reversed its decision, at least for this year, and those 22,000 people are not going to lose coverage.

Shea-Porter said a good way to strengthen Medicare would be to negotiate the price of prescription drugs under Medicare, Part D, which she said would lower the costs and save a significant amount of money.