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President Proposes Allowing Medicare to Negotiate for Lower Rx Drug Prices

“It’s long past time for Congress to acknowledge the hard truth that the sky-rocketing cost of prescription drugs is hurting average Americans and our federal budget. Medicare spends billions providing Part D drug coverage each year while beneficiaries including seniors, the disabled and their families also face rising out-of-pocket costs and higher premiums. All the while, drug makers continue to reap the profits of their price gouging. In his budget, President Obama has again proposed lifting the ban preventing Medicare from negotiating prices with the drug companies. Big Pharma has lobbied hard to keep the ban in place but seniors expect, this time, Congress will do the right thing and finally allow Medicare to negotiate for fair prices.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

Among the other budget provisions beneficial to seniors include:

  • closing the Part D donut hole two years earlier
  • additional funding for in-home services
  • reforms for overpayments going to private insurers in Medicare Advantage
  • a 7.44% increase in administrative funding for the Social Security Administration

However, the President’s budget was not all good news.  Once again, the budget proposes shifting even more healthcare costs to seniors by extending Medicare means-testing to the middle class and increasing out-of-pocket costs such as the home health care copayment and the Part B deductible. 

“The average Medicare beneficiary already spends nearly $4,800 per year in out-of-pocket health care costs with half of all people on Medicare having incomes of less than $24,150. People in Medicare simply can’t afford increased cost-sharing year-after-year.  What’s especially worrisome are efforts to portray expanding means-testing in Medicare as impacting only ‘high-income seniors.’  While that may be good political rhetoric the truth is, if passed, further means testing will actually target middle-class individuals”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO 

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Get the Latest Social Security, Medicare & Campaign News on "Morning Read"

Feel like the 2016 Election is already too combative, frustrating and confusing? How can voters sort the fact from the fiction? We can help. 

Be among the first to check out our new daily news update,

Morning Read.  

Sign up and receive the latest news delivered each morning via email.


 

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New Election Website Designed for Seniors Launches Today

As Primary Season Gets Underway, SeniorVote2016

Provides Timely, Comprehensive and Important Resources for Voters

Whose Futures Depend on Social Security & Medicare

The 2016 election for the White House and Congress will be expensive, combative and extremely important for the future of generations of older Americans. Literally millions of American families are impacted by decisions made in Washington on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid yet these issues remain on the back-burner for many political candidates. To help arm voters with the facts, the National Committee has launched SeniorVote2016.org as a one-stop, easy to use source of information on the 2016 campaign. 

SeniorVote2016’s Candidate Watch provides easy-to-use interactive graphics showing the candidates’ campaign positions and plans for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid with links to additional interviews and statements about these vital programs.  The Reading Room offers details of current legislative proposals which would impact American’s retirement and health security including questions voters can ask candidates about where they stand on issues such as: turning Medicare into a voucher program, cutting Medicare to fund other programs, raising the Social Security retirement age, cutting benefits through adoption of the Chained CPI and creation of a cost of living adjustment for seniors (CPI-E).  Visitors to SeniorVote2016 can also Take Action directly from the website by pledging to vote and engaging on social media with other Social Security and Medicare activists. 

In addition to the roll out of SeniorVote2016, the National Committee has launched a daily email news digest, providing readers with the latest media coverage on the campaigns and the issues. “Your Morning Read” will have a summary of the important need-to-know stories voters will value as they determine which candidates are most committed to preserving and strengthening America’s most successful programs. 


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State of the Union 2016 – Will Washington Really Strengthen Social Security?

You don’t have to agree with his politics to acknowledge that President Obama’s final State of the Union address was, as promised, an aspirational and ambitious look forward.  The New York Times summed it up this way:  

“In a prime-time televised speech that avoided the usual litany of policy prescriptions, Mr. Obama used his final State of the Union address to paint a hopeful portrait of the nation after seven years of his leadership, with a resurgent economy and better standing in the world despite inequality at home and terrorism abroad.

He acknowledged that many Americans feel frightened and shut out of a political and economic system they view as rigged against their interests, even as he offered an implicit rebuke of Republicans who are playing on those insecurities in the race to succeed him.

‘As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background,’ Mr. Obama said. ‘We can’t afford to go down that path.’ "

In a sweeping speech that touched on issues as diverse as curing cancer to fighting ISIS, retirement security played a small role.  However, it did provide the President an opportunity to deliver one of his best one-liners of the night:

“After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber. For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.

That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.”

American families know first-hand what this looming retirement crisis feels like. About half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings and a third of current workers aged 55 to 64 are likely to be poor or near-poor in retirement. Unfortunately, the median retirement account balance is a puny $3,000 for all working-age households and $12,000 for near-retirement households. 


However, just as with the climate change debate, many conservatives continue to deny the retirement crisis even exists.  This too often used head-in-the-sand political approach led the President to challenge his Congressional audience: 

“How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?  

Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.”
 
Undoubtedly, acknowledging the economic challenges facing average Americans has to be the first step to find solutions; however, equally important is for citizens to hold their elected officials accountable for saying what they mean and meaning what they say.  Too often, candidates promise to “strengthen” Social Security while on the campaign trail when, in truth, they actually support plans to slash benefits.  They promise to protect Social Security and Medicare while actually planning to privatize them.  

What does the candidate asking for your vote really mean when he/she promises to “strengthen” Social Security and Medicare?  For the majority of Americans of all political parties, strengthen means no cuts to benefits.  A growing movement also supports boosting benefits; however, voters can't assume the same of candidates on the campaign trail in 2016.  

So, our challenge to all voters is to ask each and every candidate who hopes to come to Washington,“What are your true plans to strengthen Social Security?”


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The GOP Poverty Solution...Do Less and the Poor Will Do Better?!?

In 2014, 46.7 million people (14.8%) were living in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. The poverty rate for people aged 65 and older was lower, at 10%, thanks to the success of earned benefit programs like Social Security and Medicare.  In spite of these programs’ undeniable success in providing improved income and health security for older Americas, GOP leaders in Congress and most running for President, continue to target Social Security and Medicare for cuts. They also have supported cuts to other vital safety net programs serving America’s poor.  

While this weekend’s GOP Poverty forum may have signaled a shift to softer rhetoric on poverty (an issue that has seldom been addressed by Republican candidates, so far) there’s no sign that their policy prescriptions have changed at all. 

Robert Greenstein is the founder and President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and provides this Huffington Post analysis of the GOP’s primary poverty proposal:

Our analysis suggests Paul Ryan's "Opportunity Grant" proposal carries substantial risk of increasing poverty, rather than reducing it, for the following reasons:
  • Although Speaker Ryan has described the proposal as maintaining the same overall funding for anti-poverty programs, that would be a practical impossibility. 
  • Funds would likely be shifted away from direct assistance to needy families.
  • The proposal would jeopardize basic nutrition assistance for poor children, which research has shown reduces child malnutrition and improves children's long-term prospects.
  • Not only would food assistance funding likely decline, but total funding to assist low-income families would likely decline as well.
  • History shows that when federal policymakers merge programs into a broad block grant, federal funding typically declines over time, often dramatically.”
Economist Jared Bernstein says: 
“This is merely a gussied up version of “if your only tool is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” The idea, and Ryan’s budgets very much underscore this point, is that we can help the poor more by doing less for them.
The evidence points strongly in the opposite direction. As CBPP’s Arloc Sherman noted yesterday (and Ben Spielberg and I have explained in detail), a large and growing body of high-quality research...shows that the impact of income support and safety net programs like SNAP and Medicaid do not just occur upon receipt and immediately fade away. They have important, positive long-term benefits for children.  Next, the idea that liberal policies have failed is belied by…you know…data.”

Paul Ryan’s long-held and often-expressed Ayn Randian view of every man for himself and claims that federal safety-net programs (including earned benefits in Social Security, Medicare) only provide a “hammock” for the “dependency culture” of “makers and takers” remain as the core value that fuels the GOP approach to poverty.  Although, Speaker Ryan now acknowledges his “maker-taker” rhetoric was a mistake, that clearly hasn’t moderated his policy approach.  

“Under his “Opportunity Grant” proposal, Ryan has proposed converting a number of programs to state block grants, a decision that nonpartisan analysis suggests would reduce families’ ability to access key programs such as nutrition and housing assistance. In crafting this idea, Ryan and other conservatives often point to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program as a model—even though it does very little to mitigate poverty and hardship and is unresponsive to recessions.
Furthermore, in their most recent congressional budgets, Republicans obtained two-thirds of their cuts from programs helping low- and moderate-income families, while channeling additional resources towards tax cuts for the wealthy.” The Nation

The GOP/Ryan budgets have all been characterized by tax cuts for the wealthy, program cuts for the poor and turning Medicare into “Coupon Care.”

“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.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO
The GOP/Ryan Budget: 
  • Ends the Medicaid joint federal/state financing partnership and replacing it with fixed dollar amount block grants, giving states less money than they would receive under current law. 

  • Repeals Medicaid expansion. Since 2014, states have had the option to receive federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage. Over half of the states have expanded their Medicaid programs, and others will likely do so in the future.  Repealing this option would result in at least 14 million people losing their Medicaid coverage and state Medicaid programs would lose a total of $900 billion over 10 years. 

  • Cuts Medicare by $431 billion over ten years.  Over half of Medicare beneficiaries had incomes below $23,500 per year in 2013, and they are already paying 23 percent of their average Social Security check for Medicare cost-sharing in addition to out-of-pocket costs.

Talking about poverty in America is a welcome first step from the Republican candidates; however, talk is cheap if action is just more of the same benefit cuts to pay for tax cuts.  

 

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