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Congress Trades Bad Deal for Doctors for Bad Deal for Seniors in Medicare

The House has passed the so-called "doc fix" legislation replacing the flawed reimbursement formula Congress itself created years ago to cut pay to doctors in Medicare.  The formula has never worked and Congress has had to vote to replace it year after year.  We've supported the permanent replacement of this flawed formula and still do.  Unfortunately, the legislation that passed the House today merely trades one bad deal for another.  And this time it's seniors who take the hit. 

 “Contrary to claims by supporters, on both sides of the aisle, this ‘doc fix’ does not impact only ‘wealthy seniors’. Millions of beneficiaries who depend on a Medigap plan to help pay their health care bills – no matter their income -- will be hit with higher costs. Given that 46% of all Medigap policy holders had incomes of $30,000 or less, it’s clear this deal impacts far more than the wealthy, as the bill’s proponents have claimed.  What’s more, Medicare beneficiaries will be forced to contribute nearly $60 billion in premiums over the next decade to replace the SGR.

No doubt, we’ll hear today that this ‘compromise’ Medicare doc-fix plan must be a success because there are concessions from all sides.  Unfortunately, that political trope is just as flawed as the SGR itself because it ignores the financial reality facing Medicare beneficiaries just as the SGR ignored the reality facing doctors. Trading a bad deal for doctors for a bad deal for seniors is not a legislative victory and it is a surprising move from some in Congress who have previously vowed to protect Medicare from cuts and seniors from cost-shifting.

 It’s no surprise that anti-“entitlement” lobbyists on Capitol Hill and their allies in Congress are celebrating this deal for the benefit cuts they know will ‘grow like an avalanche over time’.  That avalanche will be headed straight for American retirees, current and future, as Congress continues to push Medicare down the slippery slope of means testing, raising costs for more and more seniors, including the middle-class.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

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See the GOP's Plans for Medicare - In One Picture

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GOP Budget: Doubling-Down on Their Strategy to Destroy Medicare

Well, the GOP Budget Has Defined its Fiscal Priorities For America Alright...Middle-class Americans, Retirees, Children, People with Disabilities, and the Poor Foot the Bill So That Huge Corporations and the Wealthy Keep Tax Giveaways and Loopholes

Budget plans are about setting priorities and in a grander sense defining the nation’s values.  By the look of next year’s proposed GOP House Budget, that means conservatives in Washington intend to double-down on an economic vision in which our dwindling middle-class, America’s retirees, people with disabilities, the poor and their families continue to do the heavy-lifting so that the richest 1% can keep their tax breaks and loopholes. 

Here's our reaction from NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman:

“Once again, the House GOP’s budget would privatize Medicare with a voucher plan, leaving seniors and the disabled – some of our most vulnerable Americans – hostage to the whims of private insurance companies.  Over time, this will end traditional Medicare and make it harder for seniors to choose their own doctor.  Vouchers will not keep up with the increasing cost of health insurance… that is why seniors will pay more.  Incredibly, the GOP budget also tries to have it both ways by counting the savings in Medicare since the passage of health care reform and then repealing the law that delivered those same savings. Seniors need to pay careful attention to this next fact: if the GOP isn’t stopped from repealing healthcare reform, Medicare beneficiaries would immediately lose billions in prescription drug savings, wellness visits and preventative services with no out-of-pocket costs, and years of solvency will be lost to the Medicare program. 

Social Security disability beneficiaries are also targeted by the GOP’s refusal to allow a routine and temporary reallocation of part of the 6.2 percent Social Security tax rate to the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.  Instead, Republicans in the House would allow a 20% benefit cut for millions of disabled Americans unless there are broader Social Security benefit cuts or tax increases improving the solvency of the combined trust funds.  This GOP budget also call for the creation of commission to study what Republicans claim are ‘structural deficiencies’ in Social Security, even though the program has never missed a payment and currently has $2.8 trillion in its trust fund. 

No doubt, Congressional conservatives feel emboldened by the 2014 elections; however, I suggest the message voters sent wasn’t the message the GOP is touting in this new budget.  The American people do not support gutting Social Security and Medicare and targeting the middle-class to pay for tax cuts and loopholes for corporations and the wealthy – which is the foundation the House GOP budget plan is built upon.” ... Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

 

 

 

 

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Americans Push Back as Threat to Social Security & Medicare Grows

National Committee grassroots activists were on Capitol Hill today to deliver 2 million signatures to the Senate urging Congress to reject ongoing efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.  Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) received the petitions and vowed to continue leading the fight to protect these vital programs. 

 

 

 

 

The timing for today’s impressive show of grassroots action couldn’t have been better because according the The Hill newspaper, some in the Senate are looking at crafting yet another attack on middle-class benefits known as the so-called “Grand Bargain”. 

You’ll probably remember that this flawed fiscal plan was first offered by chairmen of the failed fiscal commission, Erskin Bowles and Alan Simpson, who had to issue their own report after they couldn’t get enough support by their own Commission.  They took their Bowles/Simpson report (BS for short) on the road, backed by the billion dollar Wall Street anti-“entitlement” lobby, hoping to sell the idea that cutting middle class earned benefits and raising middle class taxes while also lowering taxes (even more) for the richest Americans was the path to fiscal sanity.   No one was buying it then but that was before the GOP took control of the Senate.

Now, it appears corporatists of both parties in Senate hope to revive the BS “grand bargain”.

 “He (Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said he was willing to close “loopholes” in the tax code if Democrats were willing to make concessions on entitlements. That’s the ideological problem for some Republicans, but not for me. I would generate some revenue by capping deductions in the tax code if Democrats help me make some small entitlement changes that buy it back…a mini Simpson-Bowles,’ he said.”

We’ve already seen this “let’s make a deal” gamesmanship many times before.  The problem is those “loopholes” Republicans are willing to close are the tax breaks that impact average Americans like the mortgage interest deduction and targeting retirement savings and health insurance.  They’re not interested in going after the trillions lost to corporations sending jobs overseas or gaming the system to avoid taxes entirely or lifting the payroll tax cap or instituting a financial transactions tax. 

You can see why this plan is truly a “grand bargain” for America’s billionaires, the Business Roundtable and their supporters in Congress.  It’s just a raw deal for everyone else.

 

 

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Washington Fiction & Hollywood Fiction – More Political Lies about Social Security

Several years ago, we asked the question “What Will a Billion dollars Buy You?”  At that time, we were covering the billion dollar Wall Street campaign to cut Social Security and Medicare by those who want to protect tax breaks and the income inequality which has lined the pockets of America’s corporations and wealthy.  This week it appears the anti-Social Security propaganda favored by these Wall Street lobbyists has also now found a home in the popular political drama “House of Cards.”  Turns out that the show’s consultant runs one of the many groups funded by former Wall Streeter and anti-Social Security scold, Pete Peterson, who’s invested his own personal fortune to a national campaign to cut back benefits in Social Security and Medicare.

Richard Eskow at Campaign for America’s Future details the connection: 

“Episode One’s credits list Jim Kessler as a consultant. Kessler is, as his IMDB biography notes, the co-founder of Third Way. That’s a Wall Street-funded, so-called “centrist” Democratic organization with a mission: to promote neoliberal economics and make the world safe (at least financially) for its wealthy patrons.

Third Way has consistently misrepresented the financial condition of Social Security, misdirected the public debate about Medicare, and generally promoted the socially liberal but fiscally conservative worldview of its patrons.

Kessler and co-founder Jon Cowan carefully tiptoed their way through the minefield of public opinion for years, pretending to be technocrats rather than de facto lobbyists for powerful interests. They finally lost their balance last year. When confronted with the rise of Elizabeth Warren and the populist wing of the Democratic Party, they lashed out at Sen. Warren with an intemperate Wall Street Journal op-ed.”

We highly recommend you read Eskow’s entire post to see just how perfectly the Third Way, Pete Peterson propaganda is scripted into the characters of “House of Cards”.  Here’s just a sample:

“Underwood continues: “This (the number $32,781, displayed on a flip chart) is what the average senior gets in one year from entitlements …This money is a job we could be giving to a single mother or a student just out of school. Now at the moment, 44 cents of every tax dollar goes to pay for these programs. By 2030, it’ll be over half, 62 cents.”

“Entitlements are bankrupting us,” he concludes.

Except that they’re not. Social Security accounts for 24 percent of the federal budget, but it is forbidden by law from adding to the overall deficit. What’s more, its trust fund is currently holding $2.8 trillion dollars in reserves. The statement is meaningless.

In Episode Two, Underwood gives a “bold” speech outlining his plan. It begins:

“For too long, we in Washington have been lying to you. We say we’re here to serve you, when in fact, we’re serving ourselves. And why? We are driven by our own desire to get reelected …”

That’s another favored trope: that the corporate politicians are courageous (as if it’s brave to serve the wealthy and powerful!), while their opponents are cravenly pandering to the voters – by representing them.

“That ends tonight,” says Underwood. “Tonight, I give you the truth.”

There’s that idea again, that the corporate version of reality is “fact” or “truth.” We’re told that “the root of the problem” is “entitlements” – a favorite word in the corporate crowd because it has negative connotations. (We’ve written about that before.)

“Let me be clear,” adds Underwood. “You are entitled to nothing …”

Just like real-life Third Way types, Underwood is trying to cancel our nation’s social contract.

It’s easy enough to say “don’t worry, this is just fiction” but the problem is that a growing number of Americans don’t get their news from independent news sources anymore...they get it from everywhere else.  Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart continues to be among the nation’s most trusted “news sources” even as he hosts a comedy show.  It’s not that big of a stretch to believe that viewers hearing the fictional politician, Frank Underwood, recite the same propaganda they also hear constantly from the billion dollar anti-Social Security lobby and their real-world political allies on Capitol Hill only helps to validate this factually flawed view

This type of Wall Street messaging fits the very definition of propaganda and how best to use it in the real world of politics, not just the made-for-television variety:                        

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.”...Joseph Goebbels

 

 

 

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