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U.S. Congressman John Katko speaks during a naturalization ceremony at The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn.

U.S. Rep. John Katko answered questions about a myriad of issues affecting seniors during an hour-long telephone town hall meeting Friday morning. 

Katko, R-Camillus, mostly served as a facilitator as callers asked about problems they are experiencing with Medicare or Social Security. Experts on both programs joined him to assist with responses to the inquiries. 

One purpose of the telephone town hall was to bring attention to the Medicare open enrollment period, which began in mid-October and concludes Dec. 7. A caller asked if they must re-enroll even if they aren't changing their coverage. (The answer is no.) The open enrollment period allows recipients to change their plans, which could save them money. 

An issue that was raised during the call was the lack of Medicare coverage for hearing aids. This has been mentioned during previous telephone town halls and in other communications with Katko's office. 

According to Medicare's website, the program doesn't cover hearing aids or exams for fitting hearing aids. 

Katko said he cosponsored legislation that would allow Medicare to cover hearing aids and exams. 

"We know it's a very serious issue," he told constituents on the call. "They're very expensive." 

The Social Security cost-of-living adjustment was another issue raised during the telephone town hall. Benefits will increase by 1.6% in 2020, but Katko believes it hasn't been keeping up with the needs of seniors. 

"I think they have an antiquated formula," he said. 

One constituent asked about the so-called "doughnut hole" in Medicare prescription drug coverage. The coverage gap, according to Medicare's website, is a "temporary limit on what the drug plan will cover for drugs." 

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Katko explained that the coverage gap continues to increase. There was an adjustment made in a federal budget bill he supported that would close the donut hole a year earlier than planned. 

"I know it's not perfect, but it's definitely going in the right direction," Katko said. 

While most of the questions were about issues affecting seniors, one constituent — Tom in Skaneateles — asked about the ongoing House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Trump is accused of withholding military from Ukraine and pressuring the country's leader to investigate Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. 

Katko opposes the impeachment investigation and recently voted against rules outlining how the House will proceed with its inquiry. 

During the call, Katko said based on the evidence he's seen he doesn't support the inquiry. 

"I just don't think it's there," he added. 

The main focus of the call, though, was Medicare, Social Security and other senior issues. 

There were some questions that couldn't be answered during the town hall and Katko urged his constituents to contact his office. He highlighted his staff's work on issues ranging from immigration to Social Security. 

His office, he said, handles casework every day. 

"If we can help you, we will," he added. "If we can't, we'll put you in touch with other offices that can." 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.