Font Size

From the category archives: healthcare

Chatting with Rep. Joe Kennedy, Eloquent Advocate for Working Americans

Anyone who has the opportunity to chat with Rep. Joe Kennedy III about Americans’ health and retirement security should jump at the chance.  This week, we had the honor of interviewing him on Facebook Live from his office on Capitol Hill. 

Now in his third term representing Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional district, Rep. Kennedy is much more than a member of one America’s most famous political families. (He is grandson of Ethel and Robert Kennedy, and grand-nephew of President John F. Kennedy).  

He is a thoughtful, persuasive policy expert on health care, and a champion of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  He sits on the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee – which has jurisdiction over federal healthcare programs, mental health, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Interviewed by National Committee president and CEO Max Richtman, Rep. Kennedy affirmed his reputation as an eloquent advocate for America’s current and future retirees.

MEDICAID 

Rep. Kennedy wants to see greater access to Medicaid services, and higher reimbursements for doctors and other providers who currently don’t find it worthwhile to participate. He excoriates Republicans for demonstrating an “extraordinary level of cynicism” in trying to gut Medicaid by repealing Obamacare.  After numerous GOP efforts to undermine Medicaid since President Trump took office, Rep. Kennedy insists the program is more popular than ever.

“The Republicans did something that Democrats have been trying to do for a long time, but couldn’t. They have made Medicaid popular. We’ve actually seen far more Americans understand the integrity, the importance of what Medicaid actually does, and how it forms a backbone of our health care infrastructure across the country.”

TRUMP/GOP TAX LAW

The Congressman is intensely critical of the tax law enacted by Republicans and signed by the President last December, which showers the wealthy and big corporations with tax breaks while blowing a $1.5 trillion hole in the federal debt.  Rep. Kennedy believes the gaping deficit caused by the tax law will invite deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

“This bill is going to bankrupt the United States of America.  With the GOP leadership racking up deficits, those of us who care about the stability of these programs are going to have to do something to make sure that they are there for families when they need them.” 

“[The Republicans’] long-term goal has always been to gut… these programs.  We need to make sure American families understand:  1) How important these programs are; 2) What they actually do.”

SOCIAL SECURITY

The pending retirement of Speaker Paul Ryan notwithstanding, Rep. Kennedy remains concerned that the political right will continue to try to undermine Social Security and Medicare – by privatizing, cutting, and raising eligibility ages – even after Ryan departs the Hill.  He argues that now is the time for awareness and vigilance to protect Americans’ earned benefits.

“No one gets rich off of Social Security. It’s something that you pay into your entire life to make sure that you can afford the basic necessities in retirement.  That’s not something that should be targeted.  That’s something that should be expanded so that we are preserving economic dignity for seniors in the golden years of life.”

“The education part of it is a critical first step:  making sure American families understand just how important these programs are.  They have paid into them during the course of their working lives and they should be able to depend on them as a foundation on which they can build their retirement.”  

Watch Rep. Kennedy’s entire conversation with Max Richtman on Facebook Live here.

Trump 2019 Budget Shortchanges Seniors, Poor, Disabled

President Trump released an FY 2019 budget today proposing deep spending reductions for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and myriad other federal programs that help older Americans, the poor, and people with disabilities.

“This budget once again lays bare the Trump administration’s terribly misguided priorities.  In the wake of massive tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable corporations, President Trump proposes to slash programs that help retirees and working Americans attain proper medical care and make ends meet.  Not only is this budget callous toward society’s most vulnerable, it breaks explicit promises that candidate Trump made to the American people ‘not to touch’ Medicare and Medicaid.” -  Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. 

Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights) of the President’s proposed FY 2019 budget that impact society’s most vulnerable:

*Some $500 billion in Medicare spending reductions over ten years, most of which would affect providers and suppliers, but could potentially impact beneficiaries, too.

*$1.4 trillion in cuts to Medicaid (which covers long-term care for millions of seniors).   

*Some $700 billion in spending reductions from “repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

*$64 million in cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

*Reduces the Social Security Administration’s request for administrative funding by $90 million from FY 2017 levels, which would further exacerbate SSA's customer service issues.

*Defunds the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps low income seniors pay their heating bills.

In stark contrast to the Trump budget, Congress last week struck a bipartisan deal to lift spending caps on non-defense discretionary spending, making billions of dollars available to many of the domestic programs that the White House proposes to cut. 

“We strongly favor the bipartisan budget agreement in Congress, which recognizes the real and growing needs of working class Americans. To the extent that the president’s budget is mostly a ‘messaging document,’ we roundly reject the administration’s message that federal taxation and spending policy should favor the wealthy and powerful --- at the expense of the elderly, poor, and the disabled.” - Max Richtman
Click here for a more detailed analysis of the President's 2019 budget.

President Trump and the State of Prescription Drug Prices: More Talk, No Action?

Some of President Trump’s pronouncements in last night’s State of the Union address were outright falsehoods.  Others were simply misleading.  Some, like his pledge to lower prescription drug prices, were likely hollow promises.  Here is what he told assembled lawmakers and television viewers around the country: 

One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States. That is why I have directed my Administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down.” – President Trump, 1/30/18

Like many of the President’s promises – to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, to bring back manufacturing jobs, and to protect Social Security and Medicare – this one seems dubious.  His administration has been in place for an entire year and so far… hasn’t taken any serious action to bring down the cost of prescription drugs.  The United States still pays more for prescription drugs than most other nations. 

In fact, as Stat News points out, the President made an identical pledge a year ago:

“[Trump] met with pharmaceutical industry executives and said that ‘we have to get prices down for a lot of reasons.’ Just a few weeks before, he said that the industry is ‘getting away with murder.’” – STAT News, 1/29/18  

Trump’s previous Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, seemed more concerned with undermining Obamacare than lowering drug prices --- until he left office under a cloud of scandal.

Alex Azar, who was just sworn-in this week as Trump’s new Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, is a former executive at Eli Lilly, Inc.  As a Big Pharma exec, Azar presided over prescription drug cost increases --- and the company was scrutinized for allegedly fixing the price of insulin on his watch.  He seems hardly the ideal candidate to lead a crusade against overcharging.  Yet, Azar promised after his swearing-in to bring down prescription drug prices, echoing the President’s so-far empty pledges.

Seniors (especially those on fixed incomes) have a special stake in the Trump administration making good on its word. Soaring drug prices drive medical costs (and Medicare costs) ever upward.   However, Medicare is expressly forbidden from directly negotiating lower prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers.  We have long argued that Medicare should have that prerogative.  It could save the government – and patients – billions.

Allowing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada would also ease the financial pain we all feel when we reach the pharmacy counter. If the President were serious about reducing drug prices, he could get behind Senator Bernie Sanders’ Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Act.  The legislation would allow pharmacists and individuals to import drugs from Canada while empowering the FDA to ensure the safety of those imports.

There are several bi-partisan proposals in Congress to facilitate the approval and production of generic alternatives for pricey prescription drugs.  Where is the Trump administration in all this? On the sidelines, mostly.  Bottom line: There are many steps the administration could take to make prescription drugs cheaper.  The question is whether the President and HHS will truly take action --- or simply say the right thing, and then do nothing. 

Hollow Victory for Trump & GOP is a Loss for Seniors, Working Americans

National Committee President and CEO Max Richtman issued the following statement after passage of the Trump/GOP tax plan.

“Congressional Republicans have just pulled off the biggest heist in American history – transferring trillions of dollars of wealth to the rich and profitable corporations at the expense of working and middle class Americans.  By ramming this ill-considered legislation through Congress in a reckless manner, GOP members of Congress put partisanship over people and donors over constituents.  Last-minute revisions designed to woo holdout Senators – including a change benefitting real estate moguls like President Trump – tilted the bill even further toward wealthy elites.  

It is wrong to ask the poor, the working class, and elderly to pay for tax breaks for the rich and powerful, which is exactly what the Trump/GOP tax bill will do.  The tax cuts will explode the federal debt by at least $1.5 trillion, laying the groundwork for an all-out effort to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  House Speaker Paul Ryan and Florida Senator Marco Rubio have already promised as much in recent public statements.  Blowing up the debt for tax cuts, then claiming that there’s no choice but to cut benefits for seniors is the height of hypocrisy. As proof of Republicans’ intent, the 2018 GOP budget resolution slashes nearly $500 billion from Medicare and more than $1 trillion from Medicaid. 

The bill’s repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate will result in 13 million Americans losing coverage, and an average $1,500 hike in health insurance premiums for older adults aged 50-64.  Adopting the miserly “Chained CPI” inflation index for calculating tax brackets and deductions could easily creep into the formula for determining Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), which would cost retirees thousands of dollars in the long run.  Unfortunately, the pleas of advocates and everyday Americans demanding that Congress abandon this cynical legislation has fallen on deaf ears. But it’s a hollow victory for the GOP. While the perpetrators of the tax scam may be popping the champagne today, next November they surely will see that voters have declared the party’s over.” 

National Committee President, House Dems Decry GOP Tax Plan’s "Dire" Impact on Seniors

As Republicans remain indifferent – or in denial – about the impact of the Trump/GOP tax scam on older Americans, seniors’ defenders are sounding the alarm.  National Committee president and CEO Max Richtman joined House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic representatives in front of the U.S. Capitol today to warn of the dangers the tax plan poses to seniors’ retirement and health security. Richtman called the tax bill a “con game that should be called the ‘Washington two-step.’”

“Step one is cutting taxes for top-earning households and profitable corporations. Step two:  use the higher deficits the tax bill will create to cut critical programs, like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.” – Max Richtman, NCPSSM president and CEO, 12/6/17

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) let the cat out of the bag when he acknowledged that Republicans will come after seniors’ earned benefit programs as soon as the tax cut passes.  In fact, the tax bill will trigger an immediate $25 billion cut to Medicare unless Congress quickly waives the PAYGO provision of federal budget law. (Both Medicare and Medicaid – which helps seniors afford long-term care – are targeted for deep cuts in the GOP budget plan.) The tax scam also hurts older Americans by zeroing out the Obamacare coverage mandate penalty (which could result in higher premiums for 50-64 year-olds).  It also imposes the paltry “Chained CPI” as an inflation index for taxes, which could later bleed over into Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and shrink badly needed increases in retirees’ checks. 

Speaking on this chilly December afternoon in the nation’s capital, Leader Pelosi said, “It’s a cold day for seniors because of this GOP tax scam. It is an assault on the older Americans who built this country.  Seniors are among the biggest losers in this legislation.”

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) called the tax bill “the first step in the Republican plan to undermine the financial and health security of older Americans.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) observed that the threat to seniors from the GOP tax legislation “keeps getting worse and worse” and said the bill would have “cruel and dire” consequences.  She slammed the House bill’s repeal of the medical expense deduction, which millions of seniors use to mitigate high out-of-pocket medical and long-term care costs.

Republican members of a House-Senate conference committee are currently meeting behind closed doors to work out the differences between each chamber’s version of the tax bill.  Leadership hopes to pass a final bill and send it to President Trump for signature before Christmas – perhaps the worst holiday gift Congress could possibly give to the American people.  Seniors and their advocates are right to be concerned about this legislation, which is deeply unpopular with the public (only 29% of Americans support it in the most recent polling).  But after years of dreaming about slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, Republicans are now in a position to carry out their craven plans - without apparent regard for public opinion, fairness, or decency. 

Pages: Prev1234567...35NextReturn Top



   

Questions?

Have a Social Security or Medicare question?




 

Archives
Media Contacts

Pamela Causey
Communications Director
causeyp@ncpssm.org
(202) 216-8378
(202) 236-2123 cell

Walter Gottlieb
Assistant Communications Director 
gottliebw@ncpssm.org
(202) 216-8414

Entitled to Know

            

 

Copyright © 2018 by NCPSSM
Login  |