From the category archives: Max Richtman
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Ricthman reminded the crowd in stark terms exactly what is at stake if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, “despite a lot of the myths that citizens have heard in the past few years.”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 All of that will disappear if the ACA is repealed.”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daughter suffering from incurable cancer could be denied coverage or won’t be able to afford treatment if the ACA is repealed. 73-year old Scott Gledhill said he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two months after signing up for Medicare.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.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare participated today in the delivery of over 1,000,000 petition signatures demanding that Congress “keep its hands off of Medicare.” National Committee President and CEO Max Richtman joined Senators Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic Reps.Ted Deutch, Jan Schakowsky, and Tony Cárdenas in presenting the petitions on Capitol Hill this morning.
Calling GOP plans to privatize a program that 53 million Americans depend on the “War on Medicare,” Richtman warned, “We are going to hear that Medicare needs to be ‘modernized.’ Modernization is a good thing if you are remodeling a kitchen... but not for Medicare.”
The petitions were delivered to the offices of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who wants to privatize Medicare by replacing guaranteed benefits with vouchers. Ryan’s “coupon care” program will result in benefit cuts and higher out of pocket costs for seniors. Equally alarming is President-elect Trump’s pick of a diehard privatizer, Rep. Tom Price, for Health & Human Services Secretary. Richtman summarized the GOP’s message to seniors on Medicare and their families, “You are going to be on your own and good luck… and I’m not even sure about the good luck part.”
Senator Sanders delivered an impassioned message to President-elect Trump, who promised during the campaign not to touch Social Security and Medicare. “Mr. Trump,” he thundered, “We are going to hold you accountable. Millions of us are going to demand that you keep your promise.”
Members of the National Committee’s Capital Action Team came to Capitol Hill in their bright yellow t-shirts to drive home the message that every day Americans won’t tolerate Ryan and Price’s efforts to destroy Medicare.
Richtman handed out red boxing gloves to Reps. Pelosi, Schakowsky and Deutch symbolizing advocates' readiness to take on lawmakers who try to wreck Medicare. He ended the petition delivery event with a strong call to arms. "Now, let's all get to work and win this war."
A National Committee on-line petition drive is underway to continue building a wall of public opposition to any proposals to cut Medicare.
Donald Trump made a lot of promises to the American people during the Presidential campaign. For seniors, who supported him overwhelmingly, none was more important that his promise “not to touch” middle-class benefits in Social Security and Medicare. There’s no doubt his political calculus during this campaign accurately tapped in to a core middle-class value:
"As Republicans, if you think you are going to change very substantially for the worse Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in any substantial way, and at the same time you think you are going to win elections, it just really is not going to happen."...Donald Trump, 2013 CPAC speech, Washington Times
The problem for President-elect Trump is that the American people fully expect his administration to now keep that campaign promise. Unfortunately, preserving Medicare and Social Security benefits could be among the first of his promises to go. Trump and Republican leaders in Congress have vowed the repeal of the Affordable Care Act will be one of their first acts. For seniors, that means billions in lost Medicare benefits, the return of the Part D prescription drug donut hole and years of solvency taken from Medicare. Millions of seniors will immediately feel the effects of these Medicare cuts which will weaken the program itself.
“The Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare's financing by increasing efforts to reduce waste, fraud and abuse; slowing the rate of increase in payments to providers; improving quality of care and phasing out overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans, plans that are continuing to increase their enrollments each year. The impact of these provisions has already resulted in extending the solvency of the Medicare Part A Trust Fund by more than a decade and lowering Part B out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries.
In addition to Medicare beneficiaries, the Affordable Care Act is very important to millions of adults ages 50-64 who are uninsured because they do not have access to affordable private insurance. Many of these individuals are now able to purchase private insurance even if they have pre-existing medical conditions, and costs are more affordable due to the law's limits on age rating and the subsidies available for lower-income beneficiaries.
The number of uninsured “young seniors,” aged 50-64, would increase, leaving them in poorer health by the time they are eligible for Medicare – thereby increasing Medicare’s costs.”...NCPSSM, 2015 ACA Repeal Letter to Congress
In addition to the immediate Medicare cuts that come with the repeal of Obamacare, the Republican Congress has made it clear another top priority is to turn Medicare into CouponCare. In fact, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPac), has already announced it will include analysis of the GOP’s Medicare privatization plan in its annual report next year. The Republican plans for Medicare, passed in GOP budgets over many years was most recently described in the “A Better Way” campaign led by House Speaker Paul Ryan. It has already been embraced by Vice President-elect Mike Pence:
“What’s so inspiring to me is how much consistency there is between Donald Trump and the agenda House Republicans have put forward with a ‘Better Way.'”...Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Again, President-elect Trump won’t be able to have it both ways on this issue. If he wants to preserve seniors’ benefits in Medicare, as promised during the campaign, then adopting a voucher plan designed to shift costs to seniors fundamentally violates that pledge. Privatizing Medicare with a voucher plan, will leave seniors and people with disabilities – some of our most vulnerable Americans – hostage to the whims of private insurance companies and making it even harder for seniors to choose their own doctors. Beneficiaries will pay more money for less coverage because vouchers will not keep up with the increasing cost of health insurance. That is how the program saves money – at seniors’ expense. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office predicted the CouponCare proposal in the GOP’s 2011 budget would cost seniors $20,000 more each year. Over time, this proposal will create a death-spiral ending traditional Medicare. This scheme is, by definition, the antithesis of “not touching” seniors’ benefits.
This conundrum for the Trump administration doesn’t end there. On Social Security, unfortunately, the warning signs for seniors are just as alarming. Trump advisors and the Republican platform have made it clear that “entitlements” will very likely be on the agenda of a Trump presidency.
“After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. We’ll start taking a hard look at those to start seeing what we can do in a bipartisan way.”
“...I think that whoever [is] the next president is going to have a horrible time in dealing with this, because those entitlements will race to the front of all the economic issues we have in this country.” Sam Clovis, Trump campaign Chief Policy Advisor, May 2016
"I think you're going to see him do it across the board on entitlements."
"He's not making the case because it's a political suicide to make this case. If you go up and start saying I'm going to attack Social Security, I'm going to attack Medicaid...there goes those votes. So no smart politician is going to step into this milieu."
"At the end of the day, somebody's gotta say you've got to move the retirement age up two years."...Tom Barrack, Trump Economic Advisor, August 2016
The American people have spoken. They said they wanted change – they got it. And yet...they’ve also made it clear they don’t support cutting middle-class benefits for millions of American families who depend on Social Security and Medicare. Time will tell whether President Trump will keep the promises candidate Trump has made and what this “change” election will actually mean to workers who’ve earned their Social Security and Medicare benefits and expect them to be protected, as promised.
As a 2106 Influencer in Aging honoree, NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, answered the question: “What is the one thing you would like to change about aging in America?” Max’s answer can be found in Forbes, Next Avenue and we’ve reposted it here:
Why We Must Combat Ageism In America
By Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
(Next Avenue invited all our 2016 Influencers in Aging to write essays about the one thing they would like to change about aging in America. This is the first of the essays.)
Bette Davis famously said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” If you or someone you love has been there, you’ll likely agree.
Thankfully, Americans have Social Security and Medicare to help ease their transition into retirement and improve the likelihood they’ll age financially and medically secure. Social Security keeps 22 million Americans out of poverty, while Medicare provides universal health care for 55 million seniors and people with disabilities.
Pitting Young vs. Old
Social Security and Medicare are among our nation’s most successful federal programs, touching the lives of virtually every American family. In spite of this, these programs continue to be political targets by those who have tried to pit young vs. old, creating a generational battle over limited budget resources.
Portraying America’s parents and grandparents as “greedy geezers” who care only about their own benefits (which they’ve earned after a lifetime) at the expense of future generations is one of the most pernicious examples of the ageism that is all too common in our nation. We see it in the workplace, in public debate, between generations and in social policy.
Time for Government Leaders to Address Ageism
If I could change one thing about aging in the U.S., it would be how our government leaders address ageism through public law. They must ensure that all retirees and their families, present and future, have ample and easy access to health, income and job security, community supports and a robust aging network that offers choice, independence and dignity.
The retirement of America’s Baby Boom generation has provided us with a unique opportunity to create innovative and responsive aging policies that would serve our nation well for generations to come. Unfortunately, we have not done enough to modernize and revolutionize our aging policies.
It’s not like we didn’t know the boomers would retire someday. America built schools when this growing demographic was young, houses as it matured and large surpluses in the Social Security Trust Fund in anticipation of its retirement. However, now that 10,000 boomers turn 65 each day, the graying of America is too often presented as simply a drain on our national resources and — even worse — used as an opportunity to pit generations against each other.
How Ageism Hurts America
Ageism, sadly, pervades our policy discourse, squandering this unique opportunity in our history to create policies, systems and programs that tap into the wealth of experience, knowledge and opportunities that our aging community provides.
The 14 percent of America that is now over 65 should be at the heart of public policies to improve our nation’s health care system and to increase employment opportunities, fair housing, and economic equity that can stretch across all generations.
Let’s remember these words of former Vice President Hubert Humphrey: “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
We must fight back against ageism, which ignores the reality that America is strongest when the young, old and everyone in between are economically empowered, healthy and secure.
Have a Social Security or Medicare question?