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Telling the Truth about Social Security's Funding isn't "Nasty" it's Just Reality

OK...we're just 18 days until election day and the final debate has come and gone.  Thank goodness.  

While Social Security and Medicare finally got their 90 seconds of fame last night, as expected, the question was framed exactly how Washington's well-funded fiscal hawks had hoped -- America can't afford "entitlements," (wrong), the programs are the biggest drivers of our debt (nope), are going bankrupt (actually no, they're not) and then the real heart of the question:  How are you going to cut benefits? 

Unfortunately, this approach guaranteed there would be no real conversation about the benefits millions of seniors depend on.  Here is NCPSSM's President/CEO, Max Richtman's reaction: 

“Rather than focusing on the candidate’s plans for improving Social Security and Medicare’s long-term solvency, strengthening benefits and tackling the retirement crisis looming for millions of workers and retirees, last night’s viewers were stuck with the same old crisis calls that ‘entitlements’ are bankrupting America.  No doubt, Washington’s billion dollar anti-Social Security lobby was happy to have some life pumped back into their middle-class killing campaign to cut benefits; however, America’s voters deserved far more from this debate.

Make no mistake about it, the choices between Clinton and Trump couldn’t be starker.  Donald Trump’s Social Security shape-shifting leaves voters with no idea of how he plans to improve solvency and benefit adequacy.  Doing nothing isn’t an option.  Contrary to his insult last night, hearing Hillary Clinton tell the truth about how to strengthen Social Security's funding isn't ‘nasty,’ it's just reality.  As long as America's wealthiest are allowed to avoid paying their share of payroll taxes, Social Security suffers. Period.  While Clinton supports expanding benefits, Trump’s only policy promise last night was to repeal Obamacare. That cuts years from Medicare’s solvency and billions in preventive care, prescription drugs and cost-reducing benefits to seniors.

Most Americans know that our nation faces a retirement crisis. Our economy depends on strong Social Security and Medicare programs and improving benefits is vital to keeping millions from poverty. Too bad voters weren’t allowed to hear any of that debated last night.”...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO


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How to Talk About Social Security (& Medicare) Without Really Talking About It

News that Social Security and Medicare might finally be topics discussed in the last Presidential debate on Wednesday night should be welcome news for those of us who’ve worked hard all year to try and get Presidential candidates to talk specifics about their plans for the nation’s most important government programs.  It should be...but unfortunately, it’s not.

Why?  Because, debate moderator Chris Wallace says “entitlements” will be discussed as part of a debt discussion.  This framing follows the talking points crafted by the billion dollar Wall Street/corporate funded anti-Social Security and Medicare lobby that’s worked for decades to cut benefits.  Framing benefits cuts as a way to “save” Social Security and Medicare while reducing the debt has long been the poll-tested language used to sell the American people on middle-class benefit cuts to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy:

“The push for benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the name of deficit reduction has always been the goal of the billion dollar corporate and Wall Street backed crisis campaign driving Washington's deficit hysteria. “Never let a good crisis go to waste” was a strategic political move capitalizing on deficits as a way to force middle-class benefit cuts on Americans already shell-shocked in the Great Recession.  Once deficits reduced (without the drastic cuts to benefits that corporate lobbyists assured us must happen), the anti-“entitlement” lobby lost its inside-the-Beltway political momentum.”...Entitled to Know

Lumping Social Security and Medicare together and calling them “entitlements” is also telling. These are earned benefits, not entitlements, which American workers have contributed to throughout their working lives. Conservatives have long used the word “entitlements” to make those earned benefits seem like welfare. This political strategy also ignores the fact that Social Security and Medicare are unique programs, providing different services to a diverse group of Americans.  These programs face very distinctive challenges. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for America’s most important healthcare program (Medicare) and retirement security program (Social Security).  However, this is exactly the way next week’s debate has framed the conversation. 

As we’ve said before,

“There is an important Social Security and Medicare conversation to be had.  We must find long-term solvency solutions that also address our nation’s retirement and health security crisis.  Obamacare went a long way toward improving the health care picture but more work remains to be done.  Retirement USA reports the gap between what Americans need to retire and what they actually have is $7.7 trillion. In fact, 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. Vanguard reports that 401K balances, for those who do have them, fell a median of 11% last year.  Social Security remains the only stable retirement income for many Americans.”

While conservative fiscal hawks, including many Fox news commentators, see Social Security as solely a source of “investment-draining and economy-staling uncertainty,” the truth is, Social Security is a hugely stabilizing force for the economy.  A new report from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation shows that, in 2014 alone, Social Security delivered a $1.6 trillion fiscal boost nationwide as benefits were spent and cycled through the economy.  Is there any chance that Social Security’s vital contribution to our economy will come up in next week’s debate?  Nah.

There is a way to have the conversation that needs to be had on the future of Social Security and Medicare and it starts with one simple question:

 “What are your specific plans to ensure Social Security and Medicare’s long-term solvency and improve benefits?”

The final Presidential debate is at 9 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Each of the subjects will get a 15-minute time segment.

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What Are the Social Security & Medicare Questions You'd Ask Candidates in Monday’s Debate?

Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet in their widely-anticipated and already heavily-analyzed first debate on Monday. NBC’s Lester Holt will moderate. We’ve already thrown in our two cents on why we believe Social Security and Medicare should be included in this debate (and it’s not because, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims, benefits need to be cut to reduce the deficit).

Past experience has shown that not all debate questions are created equal. In fact, when a moderator addresses Social Security and Medicare in a question that’s actually about deficit reduction that should be a huge red flag for the millions of American families which depend on these programs. As we told Mr. Holt earlier this week:

“We urge you to avoid buying into the premise that “saving” Social Security and Medicare has anything to do with cutting the deficit. It doesn’t.”

What Americans really want to know is what these candidates plan to do to strengthen these programs not slash them – and please, give us details!

What do you want to hear from the candidates on Monday? We’ve created this Presidential Question survey to get your thoughts. Take just a couple of minutes and rank these 5 questions about Social Security and Medicare from 1-5 stars on importance to you. If you love a question it’s a 5, your next best option would be 4 and so on...all the way down to 1 star which is the question that doesn’t really thrill you.

We’ll take all of your answers and share them Monday before the debate.

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Seniors Applaud Clinton Plan to Stop Rx Drug Price Gouging

It’s become an all-too-common story...

America’s drug industry has raised the prices of nearly 400 generic drugs by over 1,000% between 2008 and 2015.  The truth is, these drugs are not cutting-edge and revolutionary discoveries but in fact many weren’t even developed by the company which jacked up the price.  Instead, these lifesaving treatments, which have often been on the market for years, are being bought with the purpose of raising the price and maximizing profits. 

Remember Turing and pharma bad-boy Martin Shkreli’s decision to raise the cost of a life-saving AIDS drug 5,000%? Most recently we have pharma giant, Mylan’s, announcement that EpiPen’s price tag would jump more than 400%.  Skyrocketing costs for prescription drugs certainly isn’t news for America’s seniors who’ve already seen a growing percentage of their retirement income eaten away by health care costs but the trend continues.

That’s why today’s announcement by the Clinton campaign to create a consumer panel to protect Americans from unjustified price hikes is especially welcomed by seniors.

The National Committee’s members and supporters applaud Hillary Clinton’s plan to create a consumer response team to identify and intervene in cases where drug manufacturers are hiking costs without justification. For too long America’s drug industry has been allowed to raise prices excessively for treatments that have been available for years. The recent EpiPen 400% price hike is just the latest example of companies putting profits ahead of patients.  The sky-rocketing cost of prescription drugs is hurting average Americans, our health system and the federal budget. 

This growing trend is especially harmful for seniors who spend a higher percentage of their income on healthcare costs and have seen their prescription drug costs grow exponentially in recent years. The Medicare Trustees report out-of-pocket costs, premiums and cost-sharing consumes 23 percent of the average Social Security check. This trend is devastating for America’s seniors.

This move, combined with Clinton’s early proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and demand higher rebates for beneficiaries are important proposals which could make a real difference in the fiscal and physical health of millions of American seniors.” ...Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

According to her statement, this newest addition to Clinton’s prescription drug plan would:

“establish dedicated consumer oversight at our public health and competition agencies. They will determine an unjustified, outlier price increase based on specific criteria including:

1) the trajectory of the price increase;

2) the cost of production; and

3) the relative value to patients, among other factors that pose a threat to public health.

Should an excessive, outlier price increase be determined for a long-standing treatment, Hillary’s plan would make new enforcement tools available, including:

Making alternatives available and increasing competition: Directly intervening to make treatments available, and supporting alternative manufacturers that enter the market and increase competition, to bring down prices and spur innovation in new treatments.

Emergency importation of safe treatments: Broadening access to safe, high-quality alternatives through emergency importation from developed countries with strong safety standards.

Penalties for unjustified price increases to hold drug companies accountable and fund expanded access: Holding drug makers accountable for unjustified price increases with new penalties, such as fines – and using the funds or savings to expand access and competition.”

Kaiser Family Foundation poll found a large majority of the public (72%) view the cost of prescription drugs as unreasonable.  Our NCPSSM polling, and many others too, shows most Americans across party lines support allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies as a way to lower drug costs for seniors.  Reigning in high drugs costs is a critical step to making America’s health care more affordable for both patients and federal programs like Medicare. 

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Social Security Should Change New Cell Phone Security Rule

As we first reported last week, new federal online security rules have led the Social Security Administration to require all new and current account holders to SSA’s online portal,  my Social Security, to have a text-enabled cell phone to access their account online. 

Since only a quarter (27%) of adults ages 65 and older own smartphones this new rule is baffling.  NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, has urged Social Security’s Acting Commission, Carolyn Colvin, to change the new requirement:

We are concerned that the new authentication requirements will mean that millions of Americans will find themselves cut off from this convenient avenue of service delivery. That’s why we urge you to move quickly to protect seniors by expanding your authentication procedures to include options that can be used by those who do not have text-capable cell phones. One option would be to send an authentication code to mySocialSecurity account holders via email. Such an expansion would go a long way in ensuring that seniors will continue to be able to access their accounts.

We understand the dilemma SSA confronts in making individuals’ personally-identifiable information available to them through an online service portal such as mySocialSecurity.

“Too little security can compromise the privacy of millions of Americans. Authentication procedures that are overly-rigorous or that offer too few options can close off an important avenue of service delivery and lead to increased phone and walk-in traffic in local Social Security offices. We urge you to review the new authentication procedures with the goal of striking the right balance between access and security. Establishing an authentication option based on email or a person’s landline telephone would significantly increase the number of account holders who would continue to have access to the services that mySocialSecurity so admirably provides.”

You can read our entire letter here

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Have a Social Security or Medicare question?


Media Contacts

Pamela Causey
Communications Director 216-8378
(202) 236-2123 cell

Kim Wright
Assistant Director of Communications
(202) 216-8414

Entitled to Know



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