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From the monthly archives: February 2009

We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'February 2009'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.

Budget Blueprint and Seniors

President Obama’s Budget is now available online 

There was a good bit of early discussion  this morning based on background briefings provided by the White House last night.  ABC had an early summary of the Medicare related provisions included in the HHS portion of the budget.

  The 10 year  savings (detailed in Summary Table S-6) are:   

  • $8.1 billion in savings by means-testing Part other words, raising  premium costs for higher income seniors 
  •  $177 billion in savings by reducing wasteful overpayments to private insurers in the Medicare Advantage program by establishing competitive bidding 
  • $260 million to ensure that Medicare makes appropriate payments for imaging services through the use of radiology benefit managers. 
  •  $37 billion by basing Medicare home health payments  on actual costs. 
  •  $23.9 billion reallocation of Medicare and Medicaid Improvement funds 
  •  $19.6 billion saved by requiring drug makers to increase the rebates on drugs sold to Medicaid and Medicare/Medicaid “dual eligible” beneficiaries from 15% to 21%  
  •   $17.8 billion Medicare hospital payments reduction by bundling inpatient  and outpatient reimbursement to include 30-days after discharge. 

 On the expense side in Medicare, this budget proposes:

  • New efforts to allow Americans to buy prescription drugs from other countries 
  •  Health IT and treatment effectiveness research in Medicare, including new demonstration projects to evaluate payment reforms

  For Social Security the 2010 Budget proposal includes:

  • 10% funding increase to target disability claim backlogs. This  amount includes resources to ensure increased staffing in 2010 and will allow SSA to increase the level of work processed
  • $759 million for SSA program integrity.  This would reverse a decline in funding seen over recent years to ensure benefits are paid only to those eligible and in correct amounts. 

The 2010 Budget also includes Retirement Account/Savings Provisions which: 

  • Lay the groundwork for future establishment of a system of automatic workplace pensions, to operate along side Social Security. Under this proposal, employees would be automatically enrolled in workplace pension plans. In cases where employers do not now offer a retirement plan, they would be required to enroll their employees in a direct-deposit IRA account that is compatible with existing direct-deposit payroll systems. Employees may opt out if they choose.

Boomer Bust? Securing Retirement in a Volatile Economy

That was the topic of today’s Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, chaired by Senator Herb Kohl. Testimony ran the gamut from pensions to policies encouraging boomers to work longer.  The panel, including our own Barbara Kennellyoffered a wide range of recommendations to improve financial security for a growing number of baby boomer retirees. 

While the economic challenges our nation faces can hardly be overstated this hearing was refreshingly forward-looking and honest about Social Security, Medicare and the critical need for healthcare reform to strengthen both.  This video clip from today’s hearing includes comments from:

Barbara B. Kennelly, The National Committee 

Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research                    

Dallas Salisbury, Employee Research Benefits Institute



Obama Address and Economic Recovery

Watching the President tonight, I couldn’t help but think about the millions of Americans who were also watching and hoping to hear something, anything which will calm their fears about the economic crisis they are living each day.  This is especially true for America’s seniors living on fixed incomes, who’ve seen their retirement savings evaporate, home equity plummet and medical costs skyrocket. For many, Social Security and Medicare have been their only safeguard against financial hardship. 

America’s seniors are looking to the Obama administration and Congress to develop an economic strategy that protects our assets and confronts our true liabilities. I’m glad President Obama kept the fiscal focus tonight where it belongs, building a foundation for a lasting prosperity. Social Security and Medicare are a part of that foundation today and will continue to play a vital role during this economic crisis and well into our future.  The President is right, comprehensive healthcare reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for the future and that healthcare reform should come sooner rather than later.

The President tonight also called for a conversation about the future of Social Security. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, on behalf of our millions of members and supporters, looks forward to being a clear voice in that conversation.


For more details on the National Committee’s view of this fiscal crisis, Social Security, Medicare and healthcare reform, Commissions, Cuts and Crisis Calls, can be found here

The “Entitlement Reform” Myth

Thanks to Marie Cocco for providing some much needed truth telling about the long-running anti-entitlement campaign launched by those who oppose the very idea of Social Security and Medicare and propelled by self-described “fiscal hawks” in Congress. 

She says:


“Now that so many of us have been whipsawed financially, it is time to wipe the term entitlement reform out of the political dictionary. 

 The phrase is a monument to the dark art of disinformation. Its premise is that federal “entitlements”—that is, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—are bankrupting the country and weighting down generations of younger Americans with the extraordinary burden of caring for their aging parents and grandparents. 

People bought the propaganda—at least until an irresponsible consumer credit binge, rapacious banks and rampant speculation began bankrupting the country and weighting down generations of Americans, young and old. Now we have to deconstruct decades of this disinformation about the “entitlement crisis” before policymakers can confront whatever crisis really is at hand.  

First, Social Security isn’t part of it, and never has been. Medicare and Medicaid are costly and burdensome not because they are “entitlements” but because they are part of the foundering American health insurance system—a system that is costly and burdensome.”

Cocco continues:

 “Social Security is the most fiscally responsible part of the entire federal budget,” says Nancy Altman, who was a top aide to Alan Greenspan when the 1983 commission headed by Greenspan really did have to avert an imminent crisis. “Social Security is in surplus for the next two decades.”

Rather than feed the myth that Social Security is part of an entitlement “crisis,” Obama should seize this moment to debunk it. To do so he must rhetorically divorce Social Security from Medicare and Medicaid.” 

 And beyond that, the system can pay full benefits through 2041, according to the Social Security trustees—or 2049, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  

We highly recommend you read the entire article and we’re glad to give Marie Cocco and Truthdig  a “Networthy Award” for outstanding coverage of elder issues on the net.

Healthcare Reform = Entitlement Reform

 National Committee President/CEO, Barbara Kennelly, participated in today's

Financial Responsibility Summit and was a member of the Social Security group. 

Here is her reaction to today's event:


“We support President Obama’s promise to return fiscal responsibility to our federal budget and we also agree that our nation’s biggest long-term fiscal challenge is health care financing.  We don’t have an entitlement crisis in our country today; we have a health care crisis. As I expressed to my fellow participants in today’s meeting, unless we focus on the real problem, any attempt at a solution simply will not work. In fact, the entitlement debate is a distraction that makes it harder to achieve what should be our top priority – reforming health care to improve quality and reduce costs.  That reform is also critical to preserve and strengthen Medicare for future generations.


Seniors understand how important it is to live within our means however; they also know that without Social Security and Medicare, millions would not be able to weather the current economic storm. If a “special process”, meaning a commission or task force, is ultimately created to review Social Security, that process must focus not only on dollars and cents but also on programs and people.  We should be looking for ways to finance Social Security benefits, not cut them.  All of this can be done without marginalizing Congress in a fast-track plan that includes restrictive timelines and no amendments.


The National Committee looks forward to working with the ongoing Fiscal Sustainability Project, the President, and Congress to address the real crisis threatening our nation’s economic stability...the skyrocketing cost of health care.” Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO


Here is our latest briefing paper on the budget crisis, Social Security, Medicare and healthcare reform, Commissions, Cuts and Crisis Calls 

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