From the category archives: privatization
According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, in 2012 85 percent of registered voters 65 and older -- the main beneficiaries of Social Security -- cast ballots compared with about half of voters under 35. It should be no surprise then that a recent AARP survey of Iowa voters, Democrat and Republican caucus goers, showed that the vast majority consider Social Security a key campaign issue.
"When polled on the importance of candidates focusing on Social Security, the survey found that more than nine in 10 Iowa caucus goers think it is important for presidential candidates to have a plan for the future of the program. Regardless of age, more than half of all likely caucus goers think this is 'very important.'
“When asked if they have heard enough about the candidates’ plans for the future of Social Security, 51% of Democratic caucus goers said they’d like to know more about Hillary Clinton’s plans, and 38% would like to know more about Bernie Sanders’ plans. Among Republican caucus goers, 45% would like to know more about Donald Trump’s plans, and 41% would like to know more about Ted Cruz’s and Marco Rubio’s plans.”
Social Security has played a key role in Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign as he continues to draw distinctions between his and Hillary Clinton’s plans. Bloomberg reports:
“Sanders wants to keep the cap on taxable income for Social Security at the current $118,500 a year for those earning up to $250,000 annually, and apply the levy on all earnings above that amount. It would mean the top wage earners would pay more to extend the solvency of the program and expand benefits by $1,300 a year for people making less than $16,000, he said. ‘That is my view, to the best of my knowledge, that is not Secretary Clinton’s view,’ Sanders told reporters on Tuesday after a campaign stop in Des Moines
“I think it’s a mistake to go in and say, ‘Here’s what I want to do,’ sort of in effect hand them your negotiating position,” Clinton told the Des Moines Register editorial board earlier this month. “I think it’s smarter to say, ‘Look, I’m never going to go along with your privatization plan. I will not go along with raising the retirement age as the answer to everything that ails Social Security, but I will work with you to try to figure out how we help those people who are most disadvantaged.”
There are also differences between the two leading GOP candidates in Iowa, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz -- at least on the campaign trail, that is. While Trump has supported privatization and raising the retirement age, in Iowa he promises to protect Social Security and Medicare. Cruz, meanwhile, has stated his plans to cut benefits, privatize Social Security, and convert Medicare into CouponCare very clearly.
The caucuses begin at 7 pm Central time with separate Democratic and Republican events taking place in each of 1,681 precincts across the state. The Des Moines Register will be posting results throughout the night.
You don’t have to agree with his politics to acknowledge that President Obama’s final State of the Union address was, as promised, an aspirational and ambitious look forward. The New York Times summed it up this way:
“In a prime-time televised speech that avoided the usual litany of policy prescriptions, Mr. Obama used his final State of the Union address to paint a hopeful portrait of the nation after seven years of his leadership, with a resurgent economy and better standing in the world despite inequality at home and terrorism abroad.
He acknowledged that many Americans feel frightened and shut out of a political and economic system they view as rigged against their interests, even as he offered an implicit rebuke of Republicans who are playing on those insecurities in the race to succeed him.
‘As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background,’ Mr. Obama said. ‘We can’t afford to go down that path.’ "
In a sweeping speech that touched on issues as diverse as curing cancer to fighting ISIS, retirement security played a small role. However, it did provide the President an opportunity to deliver one of his best one-liners of the night:
“After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber. For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.
That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.”
American families know first-hand what this looming retirement crisis feels like. About half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings
and a third of current workers aged 55 to 64 are likely to be poor or near-poor
in retirement. Unfortunately, the median retirement account balance
is a puny $3,000 for all working-age households and $12,000 for near-retirement households.
However, just as with the climate change debate, many conservatives continue to deny
the retirement crisis even exists. This too often used head-in-the-sand political approach led the President to challenge his Congressional audience:
“How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?
Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.”
Undoubtedly, acknowledging the economic challenges facing average Americans has to be the first step to find solutions; however, equally important is for citizens to hold their elected officials accountable for saying what they mean and meaning what they say. Too often, candidates promise
to “strengthen” Social Security while on the campaign trail when, in truth, they actually support plans to slash benefits. They promise to protect Social Security and Medicare while actually planning to privatize them.
What does the candidate asking for your vote really mean when he/she promises to “strengthen” Social Security and Medicare? For the majority of Americans
of all political parties, strengthen means no cuts
to benefits. A growing movement also supports boosting benefits
; however, voters can't assume the same of candidates on the campaign trail in 2016.
So, our challenge to all voters is to ask each and every candidate who hopes to come to Washington,“What are your true plans to strengthen Social Security?”
There is a lot at stake in the 2016 election because the differences between candidates’ plans for #SocialSecurity, #Medicare and Medicaid are stark. Seniors' votes will make a difference so please help us advocate, educate and keep the candidates accountable for their positions on America's most successful programs!
According to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report private insurers who offer Medicare Advantage plans need tougher oversight.
“Federal investigators have found Medicare officials rarely enforce rules for private insurance plans intended to make sure beneficiaries will be able to see a doctor when they need care.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees Medicare Advantage, requires the plans to have doctors in sufficient numbers and specialties who are near enough — in distance and travel time — so seniors can reach them.
But the GAO found CMS checked the provider networks of less than 1 percent of the plans since 2013 — serving just 2 percent of Medicare Advantage members — and only when the plans expanded to a new county.” ... Kaiser Health News & Conn. Health I-Team
In 2013, United Healthcare, which is the nation’s biggest health insurance company and a provider of private Medicare Advantage in Connecticut, dropped hundreds of health care providers and 1,200 doctors. Medicare Advantage beneficiaries are restricted to a network of providers. If their provider leaves, they cannot change plans during the year. What happened in Connecticut is the perfect example of how MA plans have been allowed to skirt the rules, dropping providers thereby limiting coverage for seniors with little warning and leaving them with few options.
“The GAO report shows Medicare ‘was not verifying network adequacy. That’s their job and they abdicated that responsibility,’ said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, who requested the investigation along with other members of the Connecticut congressional delegation.”
Also this week, a new Brown University study shows that once medical care becomes costly for seniors in Medicare Advantage and no longer meets their needs beneficiaries are leaving the private MA plans.
"Our results raise questions about whether current Medicare Advantage regulations and payment formulas are designed to meet the needs of Medicare Advantage members who use post-acute and long-term care," wrote Momotazur Rahman, assistant professor (research) of health services, policy and practice in the Brown University School of Public Health, and colleagues in the October issue of the journal Health Affairs. "The unidirectional flow of these high-risk and often high-spending patients from Medicare Advantage to traditional Medicare appears to transfer responsibility to traditional Medicare just as patients enter a period of intensive health care needs."
Private Medicare Advantage plans continue to see growth as they promise gym-memberships, limited optometric coverage or zero premium plans. However, as predicted by many healthcare experts and indicated in the Brown study, seniors find that once they actually need help with more costly care, MA plans aren’t providing the coverage they need.
Ultimately, this means that younger and healthier seniors are being lured into private insurers’ plans only to have to switch to traditional Medicare once they need coverage for more serious health issues (and isn’t that why we have health insurance in the first place – to cover when we get sick, not when we’re healthy?). Meanwhile, private insurance companies continue to reap the benefits of annual federal subsidies to provide this limited coverage for healthier seniors – which are tax dollars that could have been used in traditional Medicare to serve all beneficiaries.
Today might be a good day for a financial exercise...
Chances are if your retirement savings are in a 401K or countless other market-based products, you may have seen what the latest Wall Street downturn has done to your balance. If not, go ahead and bite the bullet and check it. After you get over the shock, check your Social Securitystatement. Take some solace in knowing that while your market savings have taken a hit, the good news is your estimated Social Security benefit today is the same it was on Wednesday.
That’s why Social Security exists. That’s why it works. That’s why it’s beyond reason that so many in the GOP still support sending your Social Security to Wall Street and destroying the stable income protection (it’s not an investment) Social Security provides.
“In June, presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that he thinks the next president will have to try to privatize Social Security. Others have gotten behind the idea as well: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) drafted a plan in 2013 that included partial privatization, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is in favor of using private accounts. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has included privatization in his budget blueprints.
The market drop, and ones before, expose the dangers of such a plan, which usually entails diverting some or all of the money workers contribute to Social Security through their paychecks into private investment accounts.” Think Progress
Governor Mike Huckabee also prefers a privatized Social Security system but says he opposes benefit cuts. The problem is benefits would have to be cut to create private accounts. John Kasich has also supported privatizing Social Security.
No doubt, conservatives will remind us that over the long-term the market has been good to us. Maybe so, but as previous market collapses have shown, retirees don’t have the benefit of the long-term to rebuild savings now lost.
“Look at successive 45-year periods, as I did for my 2005 book, "The Plot Against Social Security," and you find huge variability. The average worker who invested $1,000 every year in the stock market starting at age 20 in 1954 would have $470,000 when he or she was ready to retire in 1998. But the worker who started just five years later, in 1959, would end up with only $234,000 at age 65--half as much--despite investing exactly the same sum over the same time span.
Market crashes could destroy a nest egg that took a lifetime to nurture. A near-retiree with, say, a half-million in stock in 2007 had just over $300,000 a year later, following a 37.22% plunge in 2008. Those who held fast managed to recover their losses, but that took five and a half years--and what about those who didn't have the luxury of time?”...Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times
Trading Social Security’s guaranteed benefit for a ride on Wall Street makes no sense for Americans who need to be secure in their retirement. That’s true whether the market is up or down.
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