Policy analysts all over town are pouring over the President’s budget searching for answers about funding levels for their issues and programs.  What’s up, what down?  The President summed up the budget challenges this morning...                            Of course, seniors want to know about Social Security and Medicare. Here is what the White House has to say in it’s Fact Sheet for Seniors:
To support our Nation’s seniors, the Budget will: Protect Social Security.  The President recognizes that Social Security is indispensable to workers, people with disabilities, seniors, and survivors and is probably the most important and most successful program that our country has ever established. Based on current forecasts, Social Security can pay full benefits until 2037.  The President is committed to making sure that Social Security is solvent and viable for the American people, now and in the future.  He is strongly opposed to privatizing Social Security and looks forward to working in a bipartisan way to preserve it for future generations. Protect  and Improve Medicare. The President recognizes that Medicare is a sacred trust with America’s seniors and supports policies that will strengthen the Medicare program and extend the life of the Medicare trust fund. The Budget includes new Medicare and Medicaid demonstration projects that evaluate reforms to provide higher quality care at lower costs, improve beneficiary education and understanding of benefits offered, and better align provider payments with costs and outcomes.  Special emphasis will be placed on demonstrations that improve care coordination for beneficiaries with chronic conditions, that better integrate Medicare and Medicaid benefits for beneficiaries enrolled in both programs, and that provide higher value for dollars spent.  Reduce Social Security Backlogs, Improve Customer Service, and Cut Waste.  The Budget proposes $12.5 billion for the Social Security Administration (SSA), an increase of $925 million, or 8 percent, above the 2010 enacted level of $11.6 billion. This amount includes resources to increase staffing in 2011 and will allow SSA to provide services faster with a focus on key service delivery areas, such as processing initial retirement and disability claims, and disability appeals. It will enable SSA to lower the initial disability claims backlog and the appeals hearing backlog. The Budget also dedicates a significant amount of funds to Social Security program integrity efforts so that the right amounts are paid to the right person at the right time. Fight Waste and Abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.  Reducing fraud, waste, and abuse is an important part of restraining spending growth and providing quality service delivery to beneficiaries.  In November 2009, the President signed an Executive Order to reduce improper payments by boosting transparency, holding agencies accountable, and creating incentives for compliance. This Budget puts forward a robust set of proposals to strengthen Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP program integrity efforts, including proposals aimed at preventing fraud and abuse before they occur, detecting it as early as possible when it does occur, and vigorously enforcing all penalties and recourses available when fraud is identified.  It proposes $250 million in additional resources that, among other things, will help expand the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, a joint effort by the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice.  As a result, the Administration will be better able to minimize inappropriate payments, close loopholes, and provide greater value for beneficiaries and taxpayers. In addition, to help those most affected by the recession, the Budget will extend emergency assistance to seniors and families with children, Unemployment Insurance benefits, COBRA tax credits, and relief to states and localities to prevent layoffs.
The emergency assistance referenced here is a one-time payment of $250 to seniors who did not receive a Social Security cost-of-living increase for the first time since its creation. This is something seniors desperately need as they continue to struggle thru this economic recession. Tribune’s Swampland blog has a concise ‘Winners and Losers’ description.  Of course, now it’s Congress’ turn to craft budget resolutions of its own.  Or as CBS  News puts it:
“Staffers all over the Capitol are pouring over each proposed cut and each spending proposal carefully to start picking which battles need to be fought.”