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Bush Will Veto Medicare Bill Tomorrow

The majority of Congress, including loyal Republicans, America's seniors and their physicians will be told once again where this administration's priorities lie...with the insurance industry. Congressional Quarterly reports this afternoon:

President Bush will veto the recently cleared Medicare bill Tuesday, a senior administration official said Monday on a conference call arranged by the White House. The administration is unhappy with the Republican senators who voted for the bill July 9, but appears to hold out little hope of being able to sustain the veto, or flip back GOP senators who deserted the president on the controversial measure. “If everyone votes as they did, we would not be able to sustain this veto,” said Tevi Troy, deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Speaking of the likely override, Troy said, “That is a real problem, but it’s not the Democrats who put us in that position. It’s the nine Republicans” who changed their votes in support of the bill.

They changed their vote in support of a bill which would prevent scheduled pay cuts for Medicare doctors, 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. Of course, private insurers will lose some of their billions in government subsidies too and that's where the President will draw a line with his veto pen. However, this time it appears his allies in Congress won't be following his lead:

Both chambers have more than enough votes to override the president, assuming no members change their votes. In the case of a veto override, the House would vote first. A House vote on overriding the president’s veto could occur as early as Tuesday, with the Senate acting rapidly afterwards.

Sen. McCain Spins Social Security Comment

You know it’s bad when even the “clarification” gets it wrong. Senator McCain’s explanation of his ‘Social Security is a disgrace’ comment shows he either doesn’t understand the system’s long-term financial picture or he’s just picking up where the President’s privatization campaign left off. Here is his clarification from The Trail:
McCain sought to clarify his remarks this afternoon on the Straight Talk Express. Young people, he said, "are paying so much that they are paying into a system that they won't receive benefits from on its present track that its on, that's the point."The Social Security trustees "have clearly stated its going to go bankrupt," he said, adding that this is what he meant when he called the system a disgrace. "I don't think that's right," he said. "I don't think it's fair, and I think it's terrible to ask people to pay in to a system that they won't receive benefits from. That's why we have to fix it."

And yet, the Social Security Trustees report actually shows young people are on track to receive 78% of current benefits, even if not a single thing is done to modify funding in the out years (and no one believes that will happen). Beneficiaries will receive full benefits for another 33 years! Let's not forget that the “Social Security is bankrupt” myth and this intergenerational warfare strategy were also the heart of President Bush’s failed attempt to scare the American people into privatizing Social Security 3 years ago. That campaign failed largely because the American people didn’t Buy the Lie.

Unfortunately, it appears Senator McCain is ready to begin that same privatization debate all over again. The Straight Talk Express is beginning to feel more like a time machine transporting us back to 2005.

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.

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