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Budget Breakdown for Seniors

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.”

Fast-track Commission Derailed in Senate

... Seniors Applaud today's Senate Vote Defeating Conrad/Gregg's Fast Track Commission 

Following is our press statement after the vote:  

“America’s seniors understand what this commission proposal has been all about from the beginning—finding a way to balance the budget on the back of Social Security. For too long, fiscal hawks have tried to blame Social Security for the nation’s fiscal problems even though the program has not contributed one dime to our nation’s bleak debt and deficit picture.  We are thankful the Senate saw through this political fiction. They are to be commended for refusing to turn over their legislative responsibilities to a fast-tracked process that would cut benefits absolutely essential to millions who depend on Social Security.” ...Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO  National Committee members have been calling, writing, and emailing Congress expressing their opposition to the Conrad/Gregg Commission. The National Committee ran radio, print and internet ads this week and joined other seniors’ advocates to flood the Senate with thousands of letters and phone calls against the Conrad-Gregg Fast Track Commission proposal.  They are strongly opposed to any efforts to reduce Social Security benefits in order to balance the federal budget. Social Security represents the bedrock retirement income of nearly every American providing a modest benefit of only $13,800 a year for the average retiree. It is the only source of retirement income for nearly 20 percent of retirees and represents over half the income of nearly two-thirds of beneficiaries.  Next up...White House proposals to create it's own version of the "Debt" Commission, expected to be announced in the State of the Union address tomorrow night.  More on that to follow!

Should Middle Class workers and Seniors Pay America’s Debt Bill?

A USA Today’s editorial tells us they should.  
 “Yet whenever someone says the popular programs need to be trimmed, the "don't-touch-my-Medicare" and "don't-touch-my Social Security" lobbies come out in full force. As long as Democrats refuse to curb benefits and Republicans refuse to raise taxes, the country slips ever closer to disaster. To be sure, there's bloat in the federal bureaucracy and defense spending. But the real drivers of looming deficits are Medicare, projected to grow from $516 billion this year to $932 billion in 2018, and Social Security, forecast to grow from $581 billion this year to $966 in 2018 as Baby Boomers retire.” 
Unfortunately, USA Today follows the “lump it all together” strategy popularized first by the Bush administration and continued today by anti-entitlement foes.  The vast majority of the “looming deficits” we face are in Medicare which is suffering from the same skyrocketing health care costs seen system wide.  Refusing to pass health care reform is a far bigger threat to our debt and deficit picture than Medicare singularly. And while Social Security will payout more over the next decade as baby boomers retire, this isn’t news to anyone.  Workers have been paying extra payroll taxes for decades to build up a trust fund to cover this demographic bulge.  Of course, Congress has already spent that money elsewhere. USA Today doesn’t even touch on that issue.     Our President/CEO, Barbara Kennelly, provided the Opposing View to today’s editorial.  Her response focuses on plans to create a commission to target just the kind of cuts USA Today champions:   
“Creating a commission that places a big red target on Social Security is an incredibly bad idea because Social Security is not the problem.   Shifting blame onto social programs for the economic collapse caused by Wall Street excess, tax cuts during two wars and a housing bust ignores one basic fact:  Social Security hasn’t contributed one dime to our nation’s bleak deficit and debt picture. In fact, the extra contributions made by American workers to build up the Social Security trust fund surplus have been used for decades to cover up our true budget picture. In classic Washington style, so-called fiscal hawks have selectively redefined our debt and deficit problem in order to fit their preconceived solution -- cutting Social Security.  And the political cover of a commission is just what they need to do their dirty work.     America’s seniors want fiscal accountability to return to Washington. However, they understand that creating a commission to target deep cuts in a program that has kept millions of American afloat, while at the same time Wall Street executives claim million dollar bonuses thanks to a government bailout, is not fiscal responsibility.  They are strongly opposed to the budget cutters’ strategy to use Social Security as a piggy bank to pay down the debt and balance our federal ledgers.    The political fiction underlying the creation of this commission consists of misleading claims that Social Security is an “entitlement monster” that is “bankrupting” our nation. Fiscal hawks have argued, even in times of budget surpluses, that our nation can’t afford a Social Security program which provides an average retirement benefit of $13,800 per year. In fact, as this economic collapse has proven once again, we can’t afford not to preserve and strengthen this basic retirement income for Americans. Slowing the rate of growth in healthcare spending nationwide, revisiting our tax priorities, and closing the long-term Social Security shortfall are judicious strategies that can bolster the economic picture for our country.  However, these are not the stated goals of commission proponents.     Our elected officials must understand what millions of seniors, the disabled, and their families already know; a commission is a predefined solution to a misdiagnosed problem putting a target squarely on middle class America, young and old alike. " 
The Senate will vote on its fast-track entitlement Commission proposal tomorrow.  Already,  our members have sent Congress thousands of emails and phone calls urging them to vote NO on plans to sub-contract Congress' work to a commission with one goal in mind...cutting Social Security and Medicare. Take a minute and use our Legislative Action Center to send an email or our Legislative Hotline  1-800-998-0180 to call your Senator.

The Status Quo is Not an Option for Seniors in Medicare

Capitol There’s been plenty of hand-wringing, Monday morning quarterbacking and fortune telling about what the Democrats’ loss of 60 votes in the Senate really means for health care reform

Any way you cut it...it can’t be good.  The current system doesn’t work and we simply can’t allow political tide shifts to stop vital health care reforms.  American seniors, especially, have a lot at stake in this health care reform debate.  The Medicare provisions included in health care reform bills being debated now are among the most beneficial reforms for seniors since Medicare’s creation.  Closing the Part D doughnut hole, allowing government negotiation of drug prices in Part D, and eliminating billions of dollars of wasteful subsidies to private insurers in Medicare are dollars-and-cents and common sense reforms.  We’ll continue to work hard to mobilize support for Medicare proposals that would improve efficiency and care for millions of Medicare beneficiaries while also providing savings for system-wide health care reform efforts.  We’ll also work to defeat provisions which don’t benefit seniors in Medicare such as the Medicare Commission provision being debated. Contrary to the rhetoric heard from opponents, these bills don’t cut Medicare; rather they includes provisions to ensure that seniors receive high-quality care and the best value for our Medicare dollars.  Without system wide health care reform, the skyrocketing costs of health care will continue to climb unchecked making Medicare unsustainable.   That’s why inaction is the true threat facing Medicare.

National Call-In Day Underway

 

Tomorrow the Senate will consider a proposal to create a fast-track commission targeting Social Security and Medicare for cuts. Fiscal hawks in Congress have selectively redefined our debt and deficit problem in order to fit their preconceived solutions -- cutting Social Security and Medicare – and they see this commission as the best political way to get that job done. Rather than address the real causes of our national debt including; a decade of borrow and spend policies, skyrocketing health care costs, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and two unfunded wars some in Congress are intent on making Social Security and Medicare pay the price. 

Of course, this makes no sense especially for the millions of Americans and their families who know that without Social Security and Medicare, this economic collapse would have been even more devastating for so many. That why today is the National Call-In Day for Americans to tell their members of Congress…Vote NO on this undemocratic commission proposal. 

Take a moment and join the Call In by dialing 

800-998-0180

 There’s also a new video, produced by OWL, we recommend you watch and share.   

 

Don’t have time to call…send Congress a quick email and our Legislative Action Center will connect you directly. 




Questions?

Have a Social Security or Medicare question?

 

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Pamela Causey
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Causeyp@ncpssm.org(202) 216-8378
(202) 236-2123 cell

Kim Wright
Assistant Director of Communications
Wrightk@ncpssm.org
(202) 216-8414

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