From the category archives: Max Richtman
National Committee President Max Richtman has rightly called the GOP Obamacare replacement “a triple whammy for seniors” because of its impacts on the private insurance market, Medicare, and Medicaid. Yesterday’s report from the Congressional Budget Office confirms this grim assessment. Of the 24 million Americans who will lose health coverage over the next decade, many will be seniors and “near-seniors” aged 50-64 who can least afford to go without much needed medical care.
PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE
On the private health insurance front, the CBO projects that premiums will rise by more than 20% for older Americans. This is mainly because the bill allows insurers to charge older customers up to 5 times more than younger ones. At the same time, the GOP legislation yanks the financial rug from underneath older enrollees by replacing generous Obamacare subsidies with meager tax credits. According to today’s New York Times:
“The CBO estimates that the [net] price an average 64-year-old earning $26,500 would need to pay… would increase to $14,600 under the Republican plan.” – New York Times, 3/14/17
The Times reports that older American’s out-of-pocket insurance costs would also rise:
“The hypothetical older customer who could pony up $14,600 for insurance under the GOP plan would also pay substantially more out of pocket for any health care services. And changes to the requirements for health plans mean that, across the board, deductibles and cost-sharing will increase.” – New York Times, 3/14/17
The reason for the word “hypothetical” is that most older Americans would not be able to afford $14,000 in premiums, let alone rising deductibles and co-pays. Unable to pay these exorbitant prices, millions of “near seniors” (aged 50-64) will simply have to drop their health insurance during those crucial years before they are eligible for Medicare and need it most.
The GOP phase-out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion will also hit near seniors in the lower income brackets particularly hard. As a result of these changes, the CBO finds that people between 50 and 64 years old earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level would make up a larger share of the uninsured, from just over 10% under Obamacare to nearly 30% under the Republican replacement. To re-iterate: 30% of near seniors earning a modest income will lose healthcare coverage from Medicaid. That’s nearly one third of the lower income seniors who benefited from the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.
The GOP bill also radically restructures Medicaid by ending guaranteed federal matching funds to the states and effectively cutting $880 billion from the program over ten years. Cash-strapped states will be compelled to compensate for this shortfall by cutting benefits and eligibility for Medicaid. The CBO estimates that 14 million people will be forced off of Medicaid rolls by 2026. This is particularly bad news for seniors who rely on Medicaid to pay for long term care services and supports when their personal savings are depleted. Those seniors will either have to rely on their financially-squeezed families to pay for long term care, or be forced to forgo the care they need.
According to the CBO report, the Republican health plan achieves most of its budget savings by rescinding taxes on higher-income Americans. Unfortunately for current and future retirees, those tax revenues were helping to keep the Medicare program on a sound financial footing. By repealing a $117 billion tax on income above $200,000 a year, the GOP bill reduces the solvency of Medicare by 3 years.
In a perversely self-fulfilling prophecy, the very budget hawks who insist that Medicare needs to be “reformed” because of its solvency problems are now making the program even less financially sound. This opens the door for the “reformers” to argue even more vehemently for privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher program, which will hurt seniors with low or modest incomes.
REVERSE ROBIN HOOD
In reviewing the CBO analysis, a theme quickly emerges. The Republican plan rips benefits away from lower income and older Americans while rewarding upper income earners with billions of dollars in tax breaks. It achieves federal budget savings on the backs of the people who can least afford to sacrifice. The young, healthy and wealthy do better under the GOP plan. With the triple assault on Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare, seniors and near seniors are left in the cold. As National Committee president Max Richtman likes to say, the Republicans’ message to older Americans seems to be, “You are going to be on your own and good luck… and I'm not even sure about the ‘good luck’ part.”
We discussed Trumpcare's impact on older Americans on Facebook Live "Behind the Headlines." Watch here.
Read the National Committee's response to the CBO report here.
Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter DeFazio introduced landmark legislation yesterday to keep Social Security solvent for the next six decades --- without cutting anyone’s benefits. The National Committee endorses the bill, titled the Social Security Expansion Act, introduced on the day when the average millionaire reaches the payroll tax income cap of $127,000 per year.
National Committee President Max Richtman joined Senator Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Rep DeFazio and other dignitaries and advocacy groups on Capitol Hill to mark the day and support the new legislation, which would require high-earners to pay Social Security taxes on annual income over $250,000.
The bill doesn’t “scrap the cap” right away; but for now only income between $127,000 and $250,000 would be exempt from payroll taxes. Eventually the cap would phased out and completely scrapped. The expanded payroll taxes (which only affect the top 1.5% of earners) would keep the Social Security Trust Fund flush until at least 2078.
"We can expand the life of Social Security for 61 years, if we have the guts to tell millionaires and billionaires they’re going to have to pay more in taxes.” – Sen. Bernie Sanders
Senator Warren passionately defended the bill, saying it is necessary because, under current law:
"...Once [the wealthy] hit the cap, they can earn and earn and earn without paying into the system. We want a Social Security system that works of all America, not just the millionaires and billionaires.” – Sen. Elizabeth Warren
NCPSSM President Max Richtman referred to a favorite metaphor involving a high-earning NBA superstar paying into Social Security. “He’s already hit the cap and is done contributing before the first quarter of the first game of the season is over.” On a more serious note, he continued, “We are here today to say that for those who have so much, it is only right that they pay their fair share into the Social Security program.”
Richtman used the occasion to recall the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who started the Social Security system:
"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little." - FDR
In addition to lifting the cap, the Sanders-DeFazio bill increases Social Security benefits by an estimated $65 a month, improves the Special Minimum Benefit by making it easier for low-income workers to qualify for benefits, and links the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) formula to a new Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) to factor in costs seniors traditionally face such as prescription drugs, utility bills and property taxes.
Speaker Paul Ryan and the House GOP are on a tear to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), without being any closer to agreement on a replacement plan. The House will likely introduce a budget reconciliation bill to effectively repeal the ACA in the next two weeks… with no immediate replacement. Ryan and his troops hope to have a replacement plan by April, but Max Richtman, the President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is skeptical:
"Given the potential political risk of displacing 20 million Americans who now have health coverage through the ACA, the legislative battle will probably take longer than they think."
Republicans meeting in Philadelphia this week to strategize about replacements for the Affordable Care Act were unable to come to a consensus. The disarray in the GOP caucus made for an alarming headline in this morning’s Los Angeles Times: Republicans divided over whether millions of Americans should lose government-subsidized health coverage.
In the meantime, if Congress repeals the ACA soon but blows past April struggling to replace it, says Richtman, that could destabilize the health insurance market and endanger ACA policyholders’ coverage.
"If key parts of the ACA are repealed now, and insurance companies think the situation is too unpredictable, you have an immediate de facto loss of coverage for more than 20 million Americans."
The nearly 60 million seniors and disabled on Medicare are also at risk of losing benefits that the ACA mandated, including annual wellness visits and preventative screenings with no out of pocket costs, and will have to pay an average $1,000 per year more for prescription drugs unless those parts of Obamacare are retained. Of course, at this point no one knows which of the ACA’s benefits will stay or be shredded, including House Republicans.
In a related development, the Washington Post reports the White House is pulling ads for ACA enrollments in advance of the 2017 enrollment deadline.
Max Richtman, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, joined other advocates, politicians, and everyday Americans at a Day of Action rally in Richmond, Virginia Sunday. The Day of Action was an opportunity for people across the country to stand up for the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid. The Richmond rally – attended by Richtman, Senator Tim Kaine, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Governor Terry McAulife – was one of more than 40 protests nationwide.
Some one thousand people gathered on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol to make their voices heard. Max Richtman rallied the crowd early on with a reminder of the struggle to defend Social Security in 2005. “We had a president (George W. Bush) whose top agenda item was to privatize Social Security. Even with a GOP House and Senate, we were able to kill it. Not a single bill reached the floor. And that’s what we can do today. We can defeat any changes to the ACA which will endanger Medicare.”
Ricthman reminded the crowd in stark terms exactly what is at stake if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, “despite a lot of the myths that citizens have heard in the past few years.” Medicare beneficiaries, in particular, would lose the valuable improvements that the ACA provided. “Here is the truth,” Richtman said from the podium, “For the first time ever, Medicare beneficiaries were able to get annual wellness exams with no out of pocket costs under the ACA. For the first time ever, they could get preventative screenings with no out of pocket costs, including mammograms, colon cancer screenings, and diabetes screenings. All of that will disappear if the ACA is repealed.” He warned that the Part D Prescription Drug “donut hole” – which the ACA was rapidly closing – would return with repeal, costing the average beneficiary more than $1000 a year.
As the Washington Post reports, the Day of Action was the brainchild of Senator Bernie Sanders and other democratic leaders in Congress. At rallies across the country, crowds heard poignant testimonials from Americans who benefitted from the Affordable Care Act. Kate Barrett of Richmond worried that her daughter suffering from incurable cancer could be denied coverage or won’t be able to afford treatment if the ACA is repealed. 73-year old Scott Gledhill said he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two months after signing up for Medicare. “My bill would have been half a million dollars. I would have lost everything I had, after a whole lifetime of work and saving.”
Day of Action organizers want Republicans in Congress to feel public pressure against ACA repeal, and urged attendees to contact their elected representatives right away. “Don’t agonize. Organize!” was the rallying cry of the day, said Richtman. “As we've learned from our past battles,” he explained, “Once politicians feel the heat, they begin to see the light.”
We’ve written a lot about how pay inequity has hurt generations of working women, not just while they’re on the job, but lasting throughout their retirement. The economic challenges facing American women in retirement is the heart of our “Eleanor’s Hope” project, designed to raise awareness and advocate for legislation to address the inequities threatening millions of retired women.
“Over a working woman’s career, that pay gap could accumulate to a half million dollars in lost income and even more for women of color. A comprehensive analysis of gender pay inequality, released by the Joint Economic Committee’s Democratic staff, shows how the gender pay gap grows over time. It’s not just an issue for working women because this inequality can also have a compounding and devastating impact on retired women.
The thought of running out of money in retirement keeps 57% of women awake at night. That’s not a surprise when you consider the many combined factors which make retirement especially challenging for American women. Women earn less than men even when doing the same jobs, they more often work part-time or in jobs that do not offer retirement savings plans, and they tend to spend more time out of the workforce as a consequence of their caregiving responsibilities. Women could lose $430,480 in earnings over the course of a 40-year career due to the wage gap alone.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
That is a staggering number. But what does it really mean to you?
A new tool created by the Economic Policy Institute allows women workers to calculate how much you could be earning, in an equal pay world. Remember, that equal pay would have also meant a more equal retirement benefit.
Have a Social Security or Medicare question?