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Medicare Victory for Seniors and Their Doctors

HR 6331 Stops Medicare Physician’s Payment Cuts and Trims Wasteful Insurance Industry Subsidies.
Reaction from National Committee President/CEO, Barbara B. Kennelly:

“Today’s vote provided a clear choice between sound policy to improve healthcare for seniors or funding massive giveaways to private Medicare insurers. We thank those Senators who made the right choice. We only hope President Bush will also put the needs of seniors and their physicians ahead of insurance industry profits. Make no mistake about it, Medicare beneficiaries, low income seniors and their physicians need this legislation. However, President Bush has threatened a veto in order to preserve billions in subsidies to private insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans which will put the healthcare of America’s seniors in jeopardy. The National Committee’s members and supporters nationwide urge the President to set aside privatization politics in favor of doing what’s best for seniors and their caregivers."

In addition to preventing the scheduled cuts for Medicare doctors, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (H.R. 6331) will improve access to prevention and mental health services for all beneficiaries, and decrease the cost-sharing burden for low-income seniors who often forgo services because of expense.

John McCain Says Social Security is a “Disgrace”

Hard to imagine, right? Even the most hard-core, anti-Social Security flame throwers in town generally use less inflammatory (and fundamentally flawed) language to describe America’s most popular government program. Why then would Senator McCain go there? Good question.

Now, you might be thinking “he probably didn’t mean what he said...or it was just a slip of the tongue” (honestly, that was our first thought too). However, when a politician delivers basically the same message twice in 24 hours the “he didn’t mean it” theory just doesn’t work. Specifically, here is what Senator McCain has said about Social Security in the past two days, first at his Denver Economic Town Hall on Monday:
“Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed.” John McCain, Denver Economic Town Hall, July 7, 2008
Well...Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system but that’s certainly not news, at least it shouldn’t be to someone who's been in Congress for more than 25 years. And while conservatives do want to fundamentally change the program through privatization, does that really make Social Security an absolute disgrace? Hardly.

Here’s the Senator’s second pass at the same message, pitting young versus old in an attempt to convince us Social Security is broken, this time on CNN.

“On the privatization of accounts, which you just mentioned, I would like to respond to that. I want young workers to be able to, if they choose, to take part of their own money which is their taxes and put it in an account which has their name on it. Now, that's a voluntary thing, it's for younger people, it would not affect any present-day retirees or the system as necessary. So let's describe it for what it is. They pay their taxes and right now their taxes are going to pay the retirement of present-day retirees. That's why it's broken, that's why we can fix it." John McCain, CNN American Morning, July 8, 2008
So, Senator McCain, not just once but twice this week, has objected to the very definition of Social Security. This is a very different argument than what has been posted on his website or presented to the American public during his campaign to date (which has been confusing enough as it is).

Our President, Barbara Kennelly, summed up our reaction this way:

“Since its inception, Social Security has been a pay-as-you-go system. That’s not new and it’s certainly not a disgrace. To suggest that Social Security is fundamentally ‘broken’ because of this fact, shows a lack of understanding of the program, its traditional role and and the need to preserve and strengthen it for the future. Social Security is a successful intergenerational program that has served this country well. If Senator McCain wants to entirely restructure Social Security’s funding, through privatization or some other means, now is the time to say it directly. Calling Social Security a disgrace is anything but straight talk.”...Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO

Improved Medicare Patient Care or Higher Insurer Profits?

Sounds like an easy choice, right? Apparently, not for Republican Senators who voted against the Medicare bill last month. By all accounts, that Medicare vote, which preserved billions in insurance industry subsidies while requiring cuts in doctors’ payments, made for a tough July 4th recess for some Senators. You can certainly see why... casting a vote to protect billions in industry overpayments while cutting pay for doctors in Medicare has to be a tough sell to seniors, their families, and the doctors serving them. Especially as they're all feeling the pinch of this current economy.

The bill will come up again this week and National Committee members have added their voices to the debate by urging the Senate to cast the right vote this time around. We’re launching an internet ad campaign and have emailed our new :30 Medicare spot to our members urging them to contact their Senators before the mid-week vote:

As Finance Committee Chairman, Senator Max Baucus told reporters today:

“It’s not often we get a second chance to do the right thing... This bill will do a lot more for seniors and that’s the point. Our job is to legislate good policy...that’s what we’re doing. “

Find out how your Senators voted and then use our Legislative Hotline at (800) 998-0180 to connect to them directly with one toll-free call. Ask them to support HR 6331-the Medicare mprovements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008.

Statement from National Committee President on Senate vote against Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008

Barbara B. Kennelly, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, issued the following message to NCPSSM members and supporters today:

“Once again we’ve seen the profits of the insurance industry take precedence over a call for help from America’s seniors and their doctors. The Administration’s allies in the Senate last night rejected HR 6331, a bill that would have preserved Medicare beneficiaries’ access to their doctors by averting a physician fee cut. Instead of approving important beneficiary improvements for the more than 44 million seniors and people with disabilities served by Medicare, a minority in the Senate once again blocked action on legislation that would have begun to reduce the overpayment of billions of tax payer dollars to Medicare Advantage insurers.

H.R. 6331 would have improved access to prevention and mental health services for all beneficiaries, and decreased the cost-sharing burden for low-income seniors who often forgo services because of expense. In addition, the bill would have preserved access to needed physical, occupational and speech-language therapy and prohibit many of the abusive marketing practices used to enroll beneficiaries in private Medicare Advantage plans and Part D prescription drug plans.

The momentum of the on-going privatization of Medicare continues to worsen the economic and healthcare outlook for the elderly. How ironic as the Presidential candidates discuss improvements to our nation’s healthcare system, the Congress continues to weaken our one universal healthcare plan – Medicare.”

John McCain and Social Security

So whatever happened to the Straight Talk Express?

Watching John McCain parse words over Social Security private accounts during the past few months has left more than few people bewildered. Last week’s pronouncement that he is...

‘not for, quote, privatizing Social Security. I never have been, I never will be’

was the ultimate proof the straight talk express has jumped the track. Here’s Senator McCain on Friday:



But wait a minute, just 3 months ago conservatives were relieved to see Senator McCain promise the Wall Street Journal he still supports President Bush’s failed privatization plan, in spite of what his campaign website said at the time.

“Asked about the apparent change in position in the interview, Sen.McCain said he hadn't made one. 'I'm totally in favor of personal savings accounts,' he says. When reminded that his Web site says something different, he says he will change the Web site. (As of Sunday night, he hadn't.) 'As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it -- along the lines that President Bush proposed.' "
In fact, here’s John McCain promoting the privatization of Social Security in 2004. So much for never have, never will:


While the American people overwhelmingly rejected President Bush’s plan to turn Social Security over to Wall Street, the privatization campaign did succeed in one way...most people now understand what private accounts and the privatization of Social Security really means. Senator McCain’s attempts now to redefine what privatization is in order to hide his past and present support for a failed and wholly unpopular strategy tells seniors and their families a lot about John McCain’s priorities.

They will, no doubt, have a lot to say in return come November.


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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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