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From the monthly archives: December 2007

We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'December 2007'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.

Social Security COLA’S Can’t Keep Up

Seniors nationwide are watching their Social Security checks shrink before their eyes ...

as rising premiums for healthcare and drug coverage eat away more and more of their limited monthly income. And each year it’s getting worse.

Skyrocketing healthcare costs are triggering rising Medicare premiums that reduce the amount of money left in seniors’ Social Security checks each month. In fact, the average retiree will lose 25% of their Social Security COLA in 2008 due to higher Medicare premiums. Many seniors enrolled in more expensive prescription drug plans will see even larger reductions in their COLA. Those with lower incomes (and smaller Social Security benefits) can lose their entire COLA due to the rising health care costs reflected in the Medicare premiums.

It’s easy to see why seniors’ Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs) are shrinking away at such a fast pace. That’s why we’re especially pleased to see new legislation introduced this week to limit the bite premiums can take from retirees’ monthly Social Security check. The “Social Security COLA Protection Act of 2007” would guarantee that no more than 25% of a retiree’s annual COLA could be taken by the combined increases in Part B and Part D Medicare premiums. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) are the bill’s sponsors.

Medicare's Night Before Christmas

by  NCPSSM Staff 'Twas the night before Christmas, yet the Senate and the House Have yet to fix Medicare due to a political louse. Seniors were hoping that government would care, That insurance industry subsidies made their premiums flare. Those in traditional Medicare couldn’t get it through their head, why they had to pay subsidies that were so widespread; Those in private plans felt completely entrapped, with high out of pocket costs and benefits severely capped, Seniors wanted Congress to resolve this matter, and prevent insurance company profits from getting even fatter. But insurance industry lobbyists began doling out cash, to preserve the subsidies they’ve collected en masse. Negotiations received a deadly blow, When Bush said MA savings are a no-no. He threatened to veto legislation this year, that reduced subsides the insurance industry held dear. Without MA savings, the bill was pared down quick, And Medicare improvements were no longer a policy pick. All-in-all the Medicare bill looked pretty lame; In fact, it was really more of the same. No preventive, no mental health, no low-income protections! Only future growth in insurer subsidy projections! Seniors were astounded, they couldn’t believe the gall, Bush’s allies in Congress didn’t eliminate subsidies, or reduce them at all! They passed a short-term doc fix that was incredibly shy of achieving the priorities the House laid out in July. The one thing that seniors know is true is their monthly premiums will increase in dollars of two. They are charged more to fund MA plans, and if you need proof The Medicare Modernization Act engorged this illogical goof. MA subsidies give all taxpayers a reason to frown, and the 150 billion dollar price tag is sure to confound. The Medicare HI trust fund is also asked to foot, the bill for these subsidies which are so hard put. Subsidies place the trust fund further under attack, It loses two years of solvency unless they are rolled back. The unfairness of the situation made seniors anything but merry! How could Congress pass a bill with public opinion so contrary? Despite receiving subsidies, didn’t Congress know, MA plans offered inferior coverage for services seniors couldn’t forgo? Sure they might give you glasses or even some new teeth, But hospital stays are costly and other tricks lurk underneath. Their marketing handbooks must have been written by Machiavelli, Because sales tactics can be unethical, illegal and just plain smelly. Unfortunately for seniors, this year no Angel or Christmas elf, will correct the situation since the issue has been shelved. As they pay rising premiums with a bit of dread, they look forward to 2008 and the election ahead. Politicians who do not address this overpayment quirk, may very well find themselves in 2009 out of work. Perhaps the holiday season can convince our foes, that traditional Medicare is not something they should oppose. We should preserve social insurance, not arrange for its dismissal, as we’ve discovered private plans are as thorny as a thistle. As we approach the holiday, Medicare beneficiaries unite to say "Happy Christmas to all, and next year we’ll win the fight."

Medicare Bill is a Disappointment

by Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO

"The debate over Medicare legislation has been a true disappointment to millions of seniors tired of paying more in premiums so that insurers offering private Medicare Advantage plans can keep their billions in government subsidies. While everyone in Washington talks about fiscal discipline, the President’s veto threat with support from his allies in Congress, shows the influence of the insurance lobby once again ruled the day.

This legislation offers only a band-aid fix to the doctor’s fee cut and clearly puts insurers’ profits ahead of Medicare’s solvency and seniors’ needs. The National Committee will continue to work with House and Senate members next year on legislation to eliminate these outrageous and wasteful subsidies to Medicare Advantage insurers, strengthen aid for low income beneficiaries and improve Medicare’s long-term solvency.”

Social Security and Medicare Did Not Cause The Deficit

The Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget have released their FY 2007 US Financial Report. This report shows that by using the same accounting methods as private companies, the federal budget deficit is actually 69% higher than the administration reported two months ago, putting the deficit at $275.5 billion for this fiscal year. The Bush administration will proudly tell you that this is 38% less than last year’s deficit. But who would’ve thought seven years ago we would be expected to celebrate a $275.5. billion dollar deficit?

Rather than focusing on the tax and spend policies which created this deficit, this report touts the “healthy economy” and continues to issue more dire warnings of an “oncoming fiscal train wreck” of entitlement spending.

Let’s be clear here, entitlement costs did not create our current budget deficit. The challenges facing each of these programs are different and they’ll require unique solutions, yet the Bush administration continues to lump Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid together in an attempt to persuade older Americans and their families to foot the bill for this administration’s irresponsible budget policies. The long-term challenges facing Social Security are modest and manageable and should be addressed -- but there is no need to buy into this “crisis” campaign designed to persuade Americans this program must be eviscerated in order to be fixed.

Medicare, on the other hand, faces a shortfall in 2019 in large part because it suffers from the same skyrocketing healthcare costs Americans are seeing nationwide. We can’t continue to ignore national health care reform if we want to control federal spending. Yet the administration’s supporters continue to ignore the real issues in favor of their rhetoric designed to erode Americans’ deep faith in social insurance programs.

Americans want fiscal discipline returned to Washington; however, the challenges facing Medicare and Social Security are different. A one-size-fits-all ‘let’s cut entitlements’ approach won’t work no matter how hard the Bush administration tries to sell it.

Forgotten in the Medicare Debate

More than 10 million Medicare beneficiaries live at or near the poverty line but it’s been hard to get much attention for reforms that could ease their burden.

House and Senate conferees appear bogged down in negotiations of a Medicare reform bill. Of course, the focus of Congressional wrangling so far has been on cuts to wasteful subsidies to private Medicare Advantage insurers and a fix to prevent a 10% pay cut to Medicare physicians, which is scheduled for the New Year.

Now, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are sending a letter to Medicare negotiators, signed by more than 30 of their Senate colleagues, urging them to support reforms in three other areas:

· Increase the asset allowance for the Part D low income subsidy so that those with very limited incomes, but modest retirement savings, can obtain the assistance the Medicare Modernization Act was intended to deliver in paying premiums and coinsurance under the drug benefit

· Update the income and asset allowances for the Medicare Savings Programs, and provide continuing inflationary adjustment for those limits. Today many fail to receive needed assistance due to an asset test which has been unchanged for two decades

· Improve outreach and enrollment in both programs

Here’s more information on the Medicare Savings Program and the Low-Income Subsidy.
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