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New Report Shows Ethnic Discrepancies in Medicare Advantage

For the first time, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released data on the racial disparities reported by Medicare Advantage patients. 

Despite advances in healthcare access, increases in spending, and improvements in quality over the last decade, there is well-documented evidence that members of racial and ethnic minority groups continue to experience worse health outcomes, CMS said.

The data in disparity of care for eight patient experience measures shows that in seven areas, Asians and Pacific Islanders rated their experience in scores worse than that of whites, compared to five areas for Hispanics, three areas for blacks and only two areas for American Indians and Alaska natives...Healthcare Finance News

The CMS report surveyed customer service responses in a variety of categories. In categories of how easy it is to get needed care; getting needed prescription drugs; and getting information from their health plan about prescription drugs, whites gave the highest ratings, according to the survey.

In a question of getting appointments and care quickly; getting customer service from a health plan; and care coordination, American Indians/Alaska natives gave the highest scores. Blacks gave the highest score when asked how well doctors communicate with them. Asians and Pacific Islanders gave the highest score in a question of getting an annual flu vaccine.

"These data are a good first step in understanding disparities in Medicare Advantage," said Sean Cavanaugh, CMS deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare. "We look forward to working with plans in closing the differences in the quality of care that people with Medicare Advantage receive." 

Achieving Health Equity will also be the topic of a Congressional forum later this week, hosted by House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). 

Unequal Pay’s Lasting Legacy: Lost Income from Your 1st day at Work until the Day You Die

Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEOMax Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

It’s certainly not news that American women continue to earn less than men for the same work, typically 79 cents on the dollar.  But what’s less understood is the devastating impact those lost wages have over time.  In fact, over a working woman’s career, that pay gap could accumulate to a half million dollars in lost income and even more for women of color.  A comprehensive analysis of gender pay inequality, released by the Joint Economic Committee’s Democratic staff, shows how the gender pay gap grows over time.  It’s not just an issue for working women because this inequality can also have a compounding and devastating impact on retired women.

The thought of running out of money in retirement keeps 57% of women awake at night. That’s not a surprise when you consider the many combined factors which make retirement especially challenging for American women. Women earn less than men even when doing the same jobs, they more often work part-time or in jobs that do not offer retirement savings plans, and they tend to spend more time out of the workforce as a consequence of their caregiving responsibilities. Women could lose $430,480 in earnings over the course of a 40-year career due to the wage gap alone.  For Latinas the career losses mount to $1,007,080, and for African American women the losses are $877,480. Lower career earnings also translate to fewer savings for many women in retirement. At the same time, their longer lifespan and higher chances of disability means that they will have higher retirement costs, both for everyday expenses and necessary medical care.

These financial obstacles facing older women explain why women are 80% more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and over. The median income of women age 65 and older is 44% lower than the median income of men of the same age and that poverty gap widens over time due to decreasing income for women at older ages. Women aged 75 to 79 are three times as likely and those over the age of 80 are twice as likely to live in poverty compared to men. While it’s self-evident that working women must be aware of the unique challenges they could face in retirement, simply understanding these issues won’t be enough to bridge the very real gap created by systemic and demographic forces far beyond their control.  That’s why the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare launched our Eleanor’s Hope initiative.  We’re not only educating but also advocating for legislation that addresses the inequities threatening millions of retired women while also working to elect lawmakers who share our vision of retirement equity for women. 

There are a number of proposals which, if adopted, could significantly level the playing field for women and reduce the threat of poverty in their old age: 

Gender Pay Equity. Eliminating the wage gap that limits women’s earnings is essential to helping our daughters and granddaughters save for their own retirement. Congress should strengthen and reform the “Equal Pay Act” by putting an end to pay secrecy, strengthening workers’ ability to challenge discrimination and bringing equal pay law into line with other civil rights laws.  

Caregiver Credit. Compute the Social Security benefit by giving an annual caregiver credit for each year of caregiving so that total earnings for the year would equal 50 percent of that year’s average annual wage. Caregiving service years would be those in which an individual provides care to children under the age of six or to elderly or disabled family members. Up to five family service years could be granted to any worker.

Improve Survivor Benefits. Increase the benefit paid to a surviving spouse to an amount that is equal to 75 percent of the total combined benefits that were paid to the couple prior to the spouse’s death, capped at the benefit level of a lifelong average earner.

Consumer Price Index for the Elderly. Adopt the Consumer Price Index for The Elderly (CPI-E) for the purpose of determining the amount of the cost-of living adjustment (COLA) adjustment for Social Security benefits. This is especially important for women who tend to receive benefits longer because they live longer.

It’s been more than 50 years since our nation acknowledged and attempted to address, with passage of the Equal Pay Act, the gender wage gap which unfairly targets half of our population with billions in lost wages.   Yet, at the current rate of change, it will take another 40 years to close that gap.   That’s simply not an option for generations of American women who will continue to face the consequences of income inequality from their very first day on the job until they die.  

Equal Pay -- Needed for Workers Old and Young Alike

The Retirement Security Gap Between America’s Rich and Poor Continues to Grow

New GAO Report Provides Startling Details on Disparities and Their Impact 

on Social Security Benefits


Growing disparities in life expectancy between America’s rich and poor are eroding the progressive nature of Social Security. A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, requested by Senator Bernie Sanders, shows that low-income American men will lose 11%-14% of their lifetime Social Security benefits while high-income men will see a 16%-18% benefit boost due to this growing gap.

“This report is especially important when you consider the political push to raise Social Security’s retirement age to reduce benefits.  Forcing average Americans to delay retirement until 70, as suggested by some in Washington, would mean even smaller benefits for lower-income groups.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has long opposed increasing the Social Security retirement age as nothing but a cruel cut in benefits, and this GAO report shows exactly how cruel it would be.  Instead of cutting Social Security, Congress should boost benefits so that Social Security can continue to fulfill its promise providing an adequate base of income for America’s seniors.  Our thanks to Senator Sanders for his strong leadership in requesting this important report. It’s a must-read for any candidate who truly cares about keeping America’s promise of retirement security.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

America’s wealthiest are not only living longer and collecting more Social Security benefits, they are also contributing less to the program than at any time in recent history. In the past, the Social Security tax cap has been set at a level that covered about 90 percent of all earnings. Currently, however, only about 83 percent of earnings are subject to the Social Security payroll tax. This means the wealthy, who’ve benefited from disproportionate wage growth, have also been exempt from paying into Social Security on those gains above the $118,500 cap.

The National Committee supports legislation, including Senator Sanders’ “Social Security Expansion Act”, which would lift the payroll tax cap, boost benefits and adopt a cost of living formula for seniors. 

You can read the GAO report here.

What do GOP “Affluenza,” Social Security and Average Americans have in Common?

Believe it or not...it’s Donald Trump. 

While the Republican Party in Washington continues its search for a solution to “the Donald problem,” a number of analysts have offered insight into how Donald Trump has continued to convince voters that he’s qualified to be President. In the immortal words of James Carville, President Bill Clinton’s iconic campaign advisor:  “It’s (still) the economy, stupid.”

“...the Re­pub­lic­ans were so busy fight­ing Obama­care, push­ing to cut taxes and the size of gov­ern­ment, and fight­ing cul­ture wars that they didn’t see that their party had changed and along with it their base’s needs. Much of what Re­pub­lic­ans were talk­ing about didn’t res­on­ate with work­ing-class people who didn’t have the lux­ury to weigh ab­stract is­sues when they had to worry about how to feed, clothe, and house their kids, and how to make it to the next paycheck.”...Charlie Cook, National Journal Political Analyst

The New York Times also describes how the GOP elite lost its voters to Donald Trump:

“...the story is also one of a party elite that abandoned its most faithful voters, blue-collar white Americans, who faced economic pain and uncertainty over the past decade as the party’s donors, lawmakers and lobbyists prospered. From mobile home parks in Florida and factory towns in Michigan, to Virginia’s coal country, where as many as one in five adults live on Social Security disability payments, disenchanted Republican voters lost faith in the agenda of their party’s leaders.

In dozens of interviews, Republican lawmakers, donors, activists and others described — some with resignation, some with anger — a party that paved the way for a Trump-like figure to steal its base, as it lost touch with less affluent voters and misunderstood their growing anguish.

While wages declined and workers grew anxious about retirement, Republicans offered an economic program still centered on tax cuts for the affluent and the curtailing of popular entitlements like Medicare and Social Security.”

We all remember the incongruence of Tea Party protestors bashing the federal government while also holding signs in support of America’s most successful federal programs, Social Security and Medicare. However, that conflicting message isn’t hard to understand once you acknowledge the fact that while wealthy GOP donors remain the nation’s most vociferous supporters of privatizing and cutting these programs (they have the most to gain financially) average Americans of all political persuasions do not support destroying our nation’s retirement and healthcare safety net.

“In Washington, Republicans read Tea Party anger over Mr. Obama’s health care law as a principled rejection of social welfare programs, despite evidence that those voters broadly supported spending they believed they deserved, like Social Security and Medicare. Amid intense anger at Wall Street, Republicans urged voters to blame the recession on excessively generous federal home-lending policies, while moving to roll back regulation of one of their biggest sources of campaign money, the financial industry.”

“During a recent interview with CNBC, Mr. Ryan was asked if Republicans needed to respond to less-affluent voters who believed that Republicans were tending only to the interests of those at the top. Mr. Ryan, who during the same interview called again for the overhaul of entitlements and the reduction of debt, rejected that idea. “People don’t think like that,” he said. “People want to know the deck is fair. Bernie Sanders talks about that stuff. That’s not who we are.”...The New York Times.

Paul Ryan is right, that’s not who the modern Republican Party is – and that’s where Donald Trump comes in.  Unlike the GOP leadership in Washington, he recognized the massive disconnect between conservative elites and voters.  He even warned conservatives at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference:

"As Republicans, if you think you are going to change very substantially for the worse Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in any substantial way, and at the same time you think you are going to win elections, it just really is not going to happen," Mr. Trump said, adding that polls show that tea partyers are among those who don't want their entitlements changed." ...Donald Trump, 2013 CPAC speech, Washington Times

However, let’s not confuse political astuteness with policy conviction.  Donald Trump version 2.0 is very different than the Donald Trump who’s called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme,” advocated for raising the retirement age to 70 and privatizing Social Security. Even this newly-minted candidate Trump has yet to offer a plan for Social Security other than the classic conservative canard of getting rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which is very small:

  • Since 1989, SSA’s annual administrative costs have been about 1%
  • Fraud in SSI is less than 1% with underpayments more likely than overpayments.
  • There are Social Security numbers linked to people that should have been closed; however, it has not led to significant overpayments 

It’s no wonder the Republican Party is in a panic. Re­pub­lic­an strategist Steve Schmidt on MS­N­BC’s Morn­ing Joe called the Republican Party, “disconnected and decapitated” as they, to this day, continue to ignore the economic reality (and the effect of their trickle-down economic policies) on average Americans.

“The Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment in Wash­ing­ton has a case of af­flu­enza. You have six of the 10 wealth­i­est counties in the coun­try sur­round D.C. You have a real-es­tate mar­ket that took a nar­row down­turn but re­boun­ded very quickly. You have a city that’s in­su­lated from eco­nom­ic dis­tress; it’s re­ces­sion-proof to some de­gree. So this Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment, the con­sult­ing class in Wash­ing­ton, these are not liv­ing-wage jobs. And at the end of the day, I think they totally miss the psych­ic im­pact, the eco­nom­ic im­pact of the Great Re­ces­sion, of the       eco­nom­ic col­lapse.

It was such a seismic event in the modern history of the country that even eight years later it's the defining issue of the 2016 campaign as it was the defining issue of the 2008 fall campaign. And they just don't get it. They don't understand the impact for blue-collar wage workers in this country over a 20 year basis and you're seeing this now all play out in this general election.”

Not surprisingly, all of the GOP’s preferred candidates for President (those already gone and still remaining) support cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Proving, once again, they still don’t get it.





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