Posted on 8/6/2015 11:15 AM By NCPSSM
Busting Tonight’s Top 5 GOP Myths – In Advance
You don’t have to be much of a political sooth-sayer to predict that, given the GOP rush to attack what the party calls “entitlements” (and what everyone else knows are actually earned benefits), tonight’s debate will likely touch on the GOP Presidential candidates’ plans for Social Security and Medicare.
Unfortunately, since this debate is being moderated by Fox News that discussion will start from the flawed premise that these programs are “bankrupt,” destroying America’s economy and simply too expensive. It’s likely to go downhill from there as the GOP Presidential contenders have already tried to prove their conservative bona-fides by out tough-talking each other in a rush to cut benefits more than the guys standing next to them. (So far, Mike Huckabee has been the exception to that rule so it will be interesting to see what tonight brings from him.)
As you watch tonight, remember these basic truths:
1. Social Security and Medicare Are NOT Bankrupt and not in Crisis
Medicare solvency remains greatly improved since passage of health care reform with the Hospital Trust Fund paying full benefits until 2030 which is the same as was projected last year. In 2030, payroll taxes alone are estimated to be sufficient to cover 86 percent of HI costs. Solvency has improved by 13 years from the date that was projected before enactment of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, Medicare's actuarial shortfall actually decreased from last year.
Social Security remains well-funded. With the economy in recovery, Social Security's total income will exceed its expenses by over $9.2 billion and annual income will exceed obligations through 2019. There is nearly $2.79 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund, which is $25 billion more than last year and it will continue to grow by payroll contributions, income taxes paid on benefits, and interest on the Trust Fund's assets.
Even if Congress does nothing, and no one believes that will happen, Social Security and Medicare are still not “bankrupt.” The programs will pay reduced benefits once their Trust Fund reserves are depleted. However, a 14% Medicare benefit cut in 2030 and a 21% Social Security cut in 2034 are not options. That’s why we urge Congress to set aside the crisis rhetoric and focus its attention on benefit adequacy and long-term solvency as proposed in the Social Security 2100 Act.
2. Disability “Crisis” Can be Easily Avoided
Congress has known since 1994 that the Disability Trust Fund would be depleted in 2016, meaning only 81 percent of scheduled benefits will be payable after that point. Rather than make a routine administrative reallocation of income across the Social Security Trust Funds, as Congress has done 11 times before (including 4 times during the Reagan administration), the GOP House has blocked that move. Conservatives say they will wait until the 11th hour to force broader changes in the Social Security program, rather than simply fix the issue easily today. So if you hear any hand-wringing tonight about the disability “crisis” from Presidential candidates tonight, understand this is a “crisis” of the GOP Congressional leadership’s making. Also, a subset of this discussion is the myth that the disability program’s solvency issues are due to lazy Americans who are scamming the system. The truth is disability expenditures have increased primarily due to anticipated demographic trends - as the large number of baby boomers age into the disability-prone years (they turned ages 50 to 68 in 2014), more people become disabled and thus receive benefits. The increase in full retirement age from 65 to 66 (and to 67 for those born after 1959) has also contributed to the increase in disability expenditures, as people remain on the disability rolls longer before shifting to retirement. Also, it’s not easy to get disability. 80% of initial disability claims are denied.
3. No One Suggests “Doing Nothing”
Claims that supporters of Social Security & Medicare want to “do nothing” is an absurd straw-man argument designed to hide the real truth that conservatives have long supported a cuts-only approach to addressing long-term solvency with little regard to what those cuts actually mean to American families. From President Bush’s failed privatization campaign to the GOP Budget and many other harmful proposals in between, ensuring that Social Security and Medicare benefits remain adequate for millions of Americans is not the primary goal. The #1 goal is to cut benefits. Rather than address the many solvency proposals which don’t rely solely on benefit cuts, GOP candidates have chosen to pretend these plans simply don’t exist, thus the “do nothing” straw-man argument.
4. Slashing Benefits Isn’t the Only Way to “Save” Social Security and Medicare
When a candidate promises to “save these programs for future generations” by raising the retirement age, raising the Medicare eligibility age, privatizing Social Security, changing the COLA formula and means-testing Social Security while exempting near retirees what they’re actually saying is: “We know seniors vote so we’ll protect them now and slash future benefits for their children and grandchildren instead.” This cynical GOP messaging strategy isn’t new. But it ignores the fact that seniors understand the recession generation will need Social Security and Medicare, particularly as they face high unemployment, wage stagnation and historically high student loan rates.
What You Won't Hear Tonight
Here are a few examples of proposals you won’t hear about tonight: lift the Social Security payroll tax cap so that the wealthy pay their share, allow Medicare to negotiate for prescription drugs in Part D, reinstitute Part D drug rebates from pharmaceutical manufacturers and allow billions in Medicare Advantage overpayments to private insurers to be fully phased out as provided in the ACA. You can be sure none of these proposals will be offered by GOP Presidential candidates tonight, even though they would save billions and spare current and future retirees, survivors and the disabled from devastating benefit cuts. Poll after poll shows the American people of all ages and political parties oppose cutting benefits in Social Security and Medicare. They’re also willing to pay more to strengthen the program for future generations. But you won’t hear that tonight either.
America is the wealthiest nation in the world at the wealthiest point in our history, yet rather than focus on growing income inequality, wage stagnation and the death of the middle-class, conservatives hope to shift voters’ attention away from the true causes of our economic malaise in favor of cutting benefits for “greedy geezers” and “takers” who receive Social Security and Medicare, all the while promising to strengthen the programs by slashing them.
Posted on 7/30/2015 11:16 AM By NCPSSM
At the National Committee, our millions of members and supporters celebrate Medicare everyday. But for this 50th Anniversary it’s only fitting that our celebration has been bigger, broader and designed to educate and advocate for Medicare’s next 50 years.
If you haven’t had a chance yet please stop by our 50th Anniversary party online, where you can send a letter to Congress, test your Medicare knowledge and join the celebration as we look forward to Medicare’s Next 50.
Posted on 7/24/2015 9:48 AM By NCPSSM
We suppose we should at least give Jeb Bush brownie points for honesty since he was actually caught saying out loud what the GOP has been trying to do Medicare for years, without actually admitting it.
MSNBC first reported on Jeb Bush's comments made to a room full of Koch Brothers supporters:
"We need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits," Bush said. "But we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they're not going to have anything."
Promising to protect current beneficiaries (because according to the standard GOP meme “greedy geezers” only care about their own Social Security and Medicare benefits not what’s left for their kids or grandkids) is a tried and true GOP strategy. Attempting to destroy Medicare piece by piece is also a strategy we’ve already seen tried by conservatives in Congress. So it’s likely Bush didn’t even realize he was making news. Vox described it best this way:
“For years now, Republicans in Congress have been unified around a plan to promise continued Medicare benefits to everyone over the age of 55 while phasing out the program for everyone else. This is the famous — or perhaps infamous — Paul Ryan plan for Medicare. But denying that this is what their plan amounts to has been an important part of the political strategy for getting it done. Except Jeb Bush messed up, and in a talk at an Americans for Prosperity event Wednesday night he said that America needs to "phase out" Medicare.
His argument is that once Medicare is phased out, the GOP can offer the 54-and-under set "something," because the alternative will be to get "nothing."
Recall that back in 2011, the GOP whined endlessly about allegations that they wanted to end Medicare, and PolitiFact dubbed the idea that the GOP wants to end Medicare their "lie of the year."
But as Jeb Bush reveals here, it was never a lie of any sort. Conservatives' preferred answer to the challenge of paying for Medicare in the future is to scrap the program, and that idea has gained wider and wider currency in GOP circles in recent years.”
Bush’s comments were chock-full of other seriously flawed assumptions which MSNBC also breaks down including:
- The “left” hasn’t done anything to help Medicare – Uhh, how about this week’s Trustees Report which confirms (yet again) an additional 13 years of Medicare solvency thanks to healthcare reform (which the GOP would repeal).
- Going door-to-door has shown him the American people support phasing out benefits - We’re not sure what doors Bush is knocking on but there’s not a national poll anywhere (legitimate or otherwise) which shows Americans support ending Medicare.
Posted on 7/23/2015 11:10 AM By NCPSSM
Social Security is still fully funded for nearly two decades, a COLA increase unlikely, and health care reform continues to preserve Medicare’s solvency
“No doubt, today’s unsurprising news in the Trustees Reports for Social Security and Medicare will be overshadowed by the same crisis calls we hear each and every year from those determined to cut benefits or privatize the programs. Today’s reports lay out in clear terms how stable Social Security and Medicare remain. Rather than use the disability program’s projected shortfall as a political opportunity to target the entire Social Security program for cuts, Congress can pass a simple reallocation, as has happened without controversy 11 previous times. Or, even better, Congress could pass new legislation, introduced today by Rep. Xavier Becerra, to combine the Social Security Trust Funds. There are ways to avoid a massive benefit cut Americans with disabilities simply cannot afford without targeting the entire Social Security program for cuts.”... Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
Here are some of the key points in the 2015 Trustees Report:
· Trustees project Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until the year 2034, one year longer than projected last year. After that, Social Security will still have sufficient revenue to pay 79% of benefits if no changes are made to the program.
· Social Security remains well-funded. In 2015, as the economy continues to improve, Social Security’s total income is projected to exceed its expenses. In fact, the Trustees estimate that total annual income will exceed program obligations until 2019.
· Trustees project no Cost of Living Adjustment increase.
· The Trustees report there is now nearly $2.79 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund, which is $25 billion more than last year and that it will continue to grow by payroll contributions and interest on the Trust Fund's assets.
With so little bad news to report in this 2015 Trustees report, critics have now shifted their attention to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which faces a more immediate challenge and requires Congress’ action.
· Trustees project the Disability Trust fund will be depleted in 2016, the same year projected in last year’s report. This projected shortfall is not a surprise and Congress should pass legislation that combines the Social Security Trust Funds or at the very least, reallocates income across the Social Security Trust Funds, as it has done 11 times before to cover the anticipated shortfall. Disability expenditures have increased primarily due to demographic trends. When Congress took action in 1994 to address a shortfall in SSDI, it knew that it would have to take action again in 2015 or 2016. Unfortunately, some in Congress have politicized this anticipated shortfall and threatened to delay action in order to force cuts throughout the entire Social Security program.
On Medicare, the 2015 Trustees report shows slowing the growth of health care costs has improved Medicare’s Trust Fund.
· Medicare solvency remains greatly improved thanks to passage of healthcare reform, with the program paying full benefits until 2030, the same as predicted in the 2014 report and 13 years later than was projected in the last report issued prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act.
· HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell reports Medicare Part B premiums are not projected to increase for about 70% of beneficiaries in 2016.
Posted on 7/20/2015 10:30 AM By NCPSSM
A new Kaiser Foundation poll confirms (again) that the vast majority of Americans, of all political stripes, support Medicare and Medicaid and don’t want Washington to replace Medicare with CouponCare. Kaiser reports:
“A strong majority (70%) say that Medicare should continue to ensure all seniors get the same defined set of benefits. Far fewer (26%) say that the program should be changed to instead guarantee each senior a fixed contribution to the cost of their health insurance – a system known as premium support that has been proposed to address Medicare’s long-term financing challenges.
By at least two-to-one margins, majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents favor keeping Medicare as is rather than changing to a premium support program. Adults under 65 years old are somewhat more likely than seniors to favor premium support (28% compared to 18%), though large majorities in all age groups prefer Medicare’s current structure.”
In spite of the American people’s strong support of Medicare, Republicans in Congress continue their campaign to end traditional Medicare and replace it with a voucher program that gives seniors a coupon they then have to use to try and buy their own health coverage. This plan would create a death spiral for traditional Medicare, make it harder for seniors to choose their own doctors while passing more costs to Americans so they’ll pay more for less coverage. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted the Ryan CouponCare Plan could cost seniors $20,000 more each year.
The Kaiser poll also found that Americans support reforms designed to improve Medicare’s long-term financial picture. The most popular reform; however, has consistently been ignored by this Republican controlled Congress.
“By far the most popular change to Medicare is allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies. Overall, 87% of the public supports such an option, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents and across generations.
Smaller majorities favor increasing Medicare premiums for wealthier seniors (58%), which already occurs and was expanded earlier this year as part of Medicare’s physician payment reforms; and reducing payments to Medicare Advantage plans (51%). Fewer support raising Medicare’s age of eligibility from 65 to 67 (39%), raising premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries (31%), or increasing cost-sharing for future Medicare beneficiaries (24%).”
The vast majority of those polled (89%) want Medicare’s funding expanded or at least maintained. Which is in stark contrast to ongoing efforts in Congress to use Medicare as an ATM by cutting the program to pay for other items such as the Trade Agreement.
As we celebrate Medicare and Medicaid’s 50th Anniversary on July 30th it’s important we remain vigilant in support of these vital programs. That means constantly reminding Congress Medicare and Medicaid should be strengthened not cut.