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Slashing Medicare & Medicaid Not the Answer

A senior policy advisor with the McCain campaign says they'll use major cuts in Medicare and Medicaid to pay for the McCain healthcare plan if he's elected President.  According to the Wall Street Journal, independent analysts estimate those cuts at $1.3 trillion over 10 years.  
"It is irresponsible and unrealistic to believe America's poor and elderly could bear the burden of more than a trillion dollars in budget cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, especially in these tough economic times.  You don't have to be an economist to understand how such massive cuts would negatively impact the lives of millions of Americans and their families.  These programs do exactly what they're supposed to do...provide health insurance for millions of seniors and the poor. Cutting these basic safety net programs at a time when even more Americans will need them, as our nation ages and many feel threatened in this slow economy, is short-sighted, misguided and dangerous."...Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO
The National Committee and its millions of members and supporters believe America needs system-wide healthcare reform.  Without it, our nation will continue to face rising and unchecked healthcare costs, which threaten our economy and citizens.   However, cutting the nation's most effective healthcare programs to pay for nationwide healthcare reform is not the answer.    

Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin and Medicare

Conservatives love to quote Ronald Reagan, so Sarah Palin's  reference in Thursday's debate barely caught our attention.   That is until we found the quote is far from what it seems:
"It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don't pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we're going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children's children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free."  Governor Sarah Palin, Vice Presidential Debate 10/2/08
Sounds like a classic cold war era Reaganism, right?  Unfortunately, it's actually a quote from a 1961 anti-Medicare campaign, funded by the AMA and hosted by Ronald Reagan, warning about the threat of "socialized" Medicine.  Please join us on a time travel to an era we thought we'd left behind:  Of course, everything included in this anti-Medicare scare campaign has been proven wrong in the more than four decades since Medicare was adopted.  Medicare did not lead America into ‘socialism' or take away Americans rights to medical care.  In fact, Medicare has provided a lifeline to 44 million Americans with disabilities and seniors who could not get health insurance otherwise.  Before the passage of Medicare, about half of all seniors had no health insurance and 35% were in poverty. Today, only 11% are in poverty. Medicare is an American success story. That's why we find it so incredible that a modern-day Presidential campaign would resuscitate language from a 47-year old industry-backed propaganda promotion, which has clearly been proven so very, very wrong. This combined with an analysis in the Wall Street Journal today which says McCain would pay for his health plan with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid will certainly get seniors' attention. Especially since independent analysts estimate this plan could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to programs providing healthcare to seniors.  Maybe the McCain/Palin views on Medicare aren't so far from 1961afterall.

Medicare Part D Marketing is Underway

Grab a spreadsheet, calculator, and a healthy dose of patience (or a sense of humor) because it's time for Medicare benefiaries to re-evaluate their Part D drug plan...again.  Insurers have begun their annual marketing campaign and open enrollment begins November 15th.  And by all accounts, including CMS', seniors will need to do their homework again this year because plans are changing, premiums are increasing, and some co-payments might be too. One healthcare  analyst, Avalere Health, predicts the average premium will increase 24% to $37 a month for all standalone drug plans, up from $30 this year.  The Wall Street Journal  summarizes the findings this way:
The average monthly premium for Humana Inc.'s basic plan, for example, will rise to $40.83 in 2009 from $25.52 this year and $9.51 in 2006, the cheapest plan that year. The plan is the second largest by enrollment, with 1.5 million participants, and overall, Humana has 3.4 million people enrolled in Medicare drug plans. Monthly premiums can vary from county to county. The nation's most popular plan with 2.7 million participants, UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s AARP "preferred" plan, will raise its average monthly premium to $37, 15.5% more from 2008. Overall, UnitedHealth plans have 5.4 million enrollees.
 The best advice is still...Do Your Homework!  Chicago Tribune's Triage  blog explains why:
Shopping around may help you discover other, less popular plans with lower monthly costs and good benefits.  To compare plans, look at the comprehensive information that will be available on Medicare's Web site as of mid-October. Be sure to analyze other drug plan features, such as which medications they'll cover, with what kinds of co-payments, and under what conditions, says Vicki Gottlich, senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy. 

Mobilizing Seniors for Social Security

We've officially kicked off our national Voter Outreach campaign.  Our goal is to urge seniors and their families to get the facts, ask tough questions and learn where the candidates stand on critical issues such as the privatization of Social Security.  
"Economic, retirement and health security top the list of important issues for American voters especially for seniors who live on fixed incomes and depend on vital programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Given our current economic crisis, and the Wall Street meltdown, it is especially important that retirees, the disabled and their families understand what's at stake in the debate over Social Security and privatization." Barbara B. Kennelly, NCPSSM President and CEO   
Here's our "Ask the Candidates" video emailed to National Committee members and posted on YouTube: Our Radio Ad Campaign will begin in Debate cities this week: Ask the Candidates-Radio Ad The National Committee is also sponsoring:  
  • Grassroots informational events nationwide
  • NPCSSM PAC Congressional endorsement events
  • Congressional Voting Guide exclusively for NCPSSM members
Senior voters will once again play an important role in choosing the new Congress and President.  Voters over age 55 turn out to the polls most consistently and in higher percentages than other any voting bloc and it appears this election year will be no exception.  The National Committee believes better informed citizens make better voters and that is the ultimate goal of this nationwide outreach and education campaign.

Let's Get it Right on Social Security

Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO The Washington Post and made several errors recently in their comments about Social Security privatization.  Let's start with the Post.  Ruth Marcus says the 2005 Bush privatization proposal, which Senator McCain supported, would have reduced annual Social Security benefits for an average earner, retiring in 2045, by only about 16 percent and 28 percent if retiring in 2075. However, the Bush privatization plan cuts Social Security benefits in two ways, one of which was ignored in the Post's coverage. The first benefit reduction, cited by the Post, occurs because of the price indexing of benefits. However, private account holders would also be subjected to an additional cut in traditional Social Security benefits that reduces benefits by the amount contributed to private accounts, plus an interest charge. For the average wage earner, the cut would amount to almost half of their Social Security benefit.  Once you add these cuts together, as Jason Furman at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities did in 2005, the medium wage earner retiring at 65 in 2075 would have a 73 percent cut in benefits. A worker at a higher income, around $60,000 in today's dollars, would see a 97 percent cut in his or her traditional Social Security benefit. Virtually all of this worker's retirement income would depend on a private account and additional savings. Clearly, the events of the last few weeks have shown us, having every dime of your retirement savings subject to the ups and downs of Wall Street is not a good idea.            Meanwhile, calls this statement from Senator Obama in Florida 
"But if my opponent had his way, the millions of Floridians who rely on it would've had their Social Security tied up in the stock market this week"
a "whopper" because the privatization plan that Senator McCain supported would have excluded current seniors.  O.K., so maybe Senator Obama could have thrown in another "would" into his sentence for clarity as in "who would rely" but is that really such a whopper?  Hardly.  While proponents of private investment accounts would exclude people 55 and older from their plans at the time of implementation, people reaching 55 thereafter would not be excluded from private accounts and their consequences.  Workers nearing retirement are particularly vulnerable to drops in the stock market since they have less time to recover from their losses.  Senator Obama was correct  when he said, "if my opponent had his way" - that is, if privatization had been fully in effect - millions of Americans would have had their retirement money tied up in the stock market in Social Security private accounts. If private accounts had been in effect, Americans would have been worrying not only about the future of their money markets and their 401(k)s, but also about the future of their market-based Social Security accounts. Also, participation in private accounts cannot be said to be truly voluntary. Many privatization plans, including the Bush plan, contain features, such as cuts in traditional Social Security benefits, which were so large that Americans would be forced to participate in the account and take market risk in the part of their retirement income that is supposed to be secure. That's the problem with privatization and that's the issue that Senator Obama was raising. All privatization plans have the same problem. Private account plans don't work without huge cuts in future benefits or increases in taxes - more than necessary to just fix Social Security - or trillions of dollars in increased public debt.      We should care about tomorrow's widows as much as we do today's. We should be worried about the retirement security of tomorrow's grandparents as much as today's. Those who retire under a privatized Social Security system, as supported by Senator John McCain, are going to have some unhappy surprises.

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