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From the monthly archives: March 2007

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

Skyrocketing Healthcare Costs…enough to make you sick

Do you have $215,000 socked away for your retirement healthcare costs? Most don’t. But that’s what Fidelity’s annual healthcare survey shows retirees will need to cover their medical bills. And not surprising…that number is 7.5% higher than last year. That’s significantly higher than inflation and expected to continue growing at the same unsustainable clip, year after year.

This is America’s true economic crisis…not “entitlement” spending. Between the uncontrolled deficit spending over the past six years and the debt that comes with it, tax cuts for the wealthy and these skyrocketing healthcare costs it’s easy to see where our true challenges lie.

Fidelity projects that a 65-year-old worker who now earns $60,000 a year and expects to retire at the end of this year should expect that 50 percent of his or her pretax Social Security benefit will be eaten up by health expenses in the next 16 to 18 years. But rather than proposing real healthcare reforms to reign in the unchecked cost of healthcare, this administration is arguing we can’t afford the aging baby-boom generation and we must cut benefits…they call it “entitlement reform”. Social Security and Medicare did not create our current budget and healthcare crisis and cutting these programs just as the nation’s baby-boomers retire won’t solve them.

Everything Old is New Again…and Again

"President Bush did a nice job starting the discussion” says Kansas Senator and Presidential candidate Sam Brownback.

Believe it or not he’s talking about the President’s failed attempt two years ago to persuade the American public to send their Social Security benefits to Wall Street. The truth is, the more the President talked about private accounts the less Americans liked them. Even former Treasury Secretary John Snow acknowledged the folly of it all in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
“What wasn’t salable was the fundamental argument that we make Social Security stronger for our children and grand children by diverting money out of it: putting it into private accounts, running up trillions of dollars of debt in the interim and it will all be okay in 2094,” he said. “That was a losing argument.”

No kidding.

But Senator Brownback is now rolling full steam ahead with yet another Social Security private accounts bill. He told an Iowa campaign audience it will be ready this week. While this might surprise you (why continue to push the same failed approach, over and over again? you ask) it really shouldn’t. For privatizers, who don’t believe in the value of Social Security in the first place, private accounts are their number one priority.

That’s why we’re especially grateful to the 134,000 National Committee members and supporters who flooded Congress this week with letters reminding them that the privatization of Social Security and Medicare is still not an option. Private accounts may not be making headlines right now, but as we’ve seen with the President’s budget, last week’s Budget amendments (see 3/22 post) and legislation like Senator Brownback’s, efforts to privatize Social Security have not ended.

While You Weren't Watching...

At the risk of saying..."we told you so"'s yet another example of why it's clear that Social Security privatizers are still hard at work on Capitol Hill.

The Senate this afternoon considered an amendment offered by Senator Jim Demint (R-SC) to privatize Social Security. Sen. DeMint described his amendment as saving the SS surpluses while finding a way to pre-fund the system. Majority Leader Harry Reid sees it quite differently:

"This amendment creates a reserve fund for 'Social Security reform' that among other things would [provide] participants with the benefits of savings and investment while permitting the pre-funding of at least some portion of future benefits. This carefully crafted amendment opens the door to privatizing Social Security."

And we agree. The amendment failed 45-52 on the Senate floor. You can read the full text of the amendment and see a vote breakdown here.

Ask Mary Jane. NCPSSM Contributor: Mary Jane Yarrington, Senior Policy Analyst

This is my first foray into the blogging world but what a perfect vehicle to continue doing what I've been doing for years...answering questions about the Social Security and Medicare programs. Over the past forty years, one question comes up over and over.

A retired husband asks: “What happens when I die? What does my widow get?” If both are retirement age or more, the easy answer is that the survivor receives whichever benefit amount is the greater. Usually the wife has the smaller benefit.

That means her monthly benefit will jump up to the amount the husband had been receiving. On the other hand, if she dies first, his benefit does not change.

Do you have other questions about Social Security or Medicare? Please take a moment and drop me a line. You can post your question here in the comments section or we've provided an easy to use form which will email your question directly to me.

Part D Still Needs Help

It's hard to believe but there are still 3-4 million low income seniors not enrolled in Medicare's Part D, even though they qualify for subsidies. CMS has got to do a better job in reaching out to these folks.

We're certainly not fans of the Medicare Modernization Act (which created Part D) but there are a variety of reasonable changes which could be made by Congress to improve that law and specifically, Part D...changes which would provide seniors the benefit promised by Congress. Congressman Lloyd Doggett from Texas has offered a bill which tackles a couple of important issues.

His legislation would streamline the subsidy application process and raise the asset limits. Currently Part D penalizes many low income seniors for having limited financial assets. Seniors shouldn't be punished for saving responsibly. We think the changes proposed in this bill are good common sense approaches to fix inequities in the current Part D program. We'll join the Congressman at a news conference to endorse this legislation this afternoon.
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