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From the monthly archives: May 2009

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

Medicare: A Critical Element of Health Care Reform

We gathered an impressive panel of senior advocates and health policy experts on Capitol Hill this week to discuss current efforts to reform our national health care system and a growing consensus that Medicare should play a role in that debate.     The National Committee and the Alliance for Retired Americans co-sponsored this panel discussion, focusing on a number of issues including; Medicare Advantage overpayments, cost containment proposals, out-of-pocket costs, Low Income and Part D improvements.  The briefing began with the National Committee's latest video "Medicare = Health Care Reform".  

Dr. Brian Biles, Professor at George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services, detailed a variety of strategies to trim or eliminate an estimated $150 billion dollars in Medicare Advantage overpayments going to private insurers over the next decade.  He also provided an important historical reminder of how these subsidies were created in the first place. 

Marilyn Moon is the Vice-President and Director of the Health Program at the American Institutes for Research.  She detailed a number of Medicare improvements she'd like to see included in any health care reform package. The Center for Medicare Advocacy knows first hand the impact skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs has on beneficiaries.  Vicki Gottlich is the Center's Senior Policy Attorney and she described the critical need for limits on out-of-pocket costs in Medicare.   As the nation's largest purchaser of health services, it is inevitable that policymakers will look to Medicare - both as a model and as a tool for system wide health care reform.  Reforming health care is vital to our nation's long-term economic health and today's panelists say improving Medicare is critical to that health care reform effort.  Video clips and power point slides from this panel discussion along with relevant position papers are also available on our website.

The Truth about the 2009 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report

Here's the bottom line from this year's Trustees Report:
  • Social Security is still fully funded for 28 years
  • No COLA increase planned for retirees
  • Skyrocketing health costs nationwide continue to threaten Medicare
Undoubtedly, these facts truths will probably be buried in coverage of this year's Trustees report as the anti-entitlement crowd revs up its billion dollar engine to convince the media and Americans that this time there really is a crisis.  They're using the recession and new math as the foundation for the same old crisis calls. Michael Lind did a wonderful piece on Salon on the Trustees report and the well-financed crisis campaign against Social Security and Medicare.       Our President Barbara Kennelly says:
"Contrary to alarmists' claims of impending doom for Social Security, this Trustees Report confirms what we already know-Social Security will weather this recession, continuing to provide vital benefits for millions of retirees.  I'm sure this 4 year adjustment will rally the doom and gloom crowd, which has been claiming there's a crisis for years.  But let's not forget, today's report projects Social Security will pay full benefits for nearly 30 years which is almost a decade more than the trustees predicted just twelve years ago."

Fact: The 2009 Trustees report shows Social Security is not facing an immediate threat. 

  • Trustees project Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until the year 2037. After that, Social Security will have sufficient revenue to pay 76% of benefits. 
  • The change in short-term projections is a fiscal problem, not a Social Security problem. Social Security's trust fund surplus is not disappearing as some have claimed. What is happening is the annual cash surpluses collected in payroll taxes are below last year's projections due to the economic downturn. Moreover, Trustees report a healthy $2.6 trillion in accumulated Social Security assets and project that, even after factoring in the effects of the recession, full benefits will be paid for another 38 years. 
  • Low inflation could mean two years of no cost of living increases for beneficiaries.  By statute, zero COLA's would also mean no Medicare Part B premium increase for about three-quarters of all beneficiaries.  However, the remaining beneficiaries, including newly enrolled seniors and higher income seniors, will see larger premium hikes in Part B to cover the difference.  Premiums for Part D, the prescription drug benefit, are not subject to this limitation and are expected to continue increasing by 11% annually through 2018.     
  • Fact: The 2009 Trustees report shows the persistent and rapidly rising cost of health care continues to threaten Medicare
  • Trustees project Medicare's Part A Trust Fund, which covers hospital services, will be exhausted in 2017. The cost of Medicare Part B is projected to increase by 8.5-9% annually, and Medicare Part D by 11% - more than double the projected 4.5% growth in GDP over the next decade. 
  • We must effectively address long-range cost containment across all public and private health care systems. Actuaries project that 67% of the average senior's Social Security benefit check will be consumed by Medicare out-of-pocket costs by 2080.
  • Some of the Medicare cost savings recommended to Congress by the Obama administration should be reinvested into the program to: lower drug prices through government negotiation, close the prescription drug doughnut hole and limit seniors' out-of-pocket costs
  • Barbara told reporters today:
    "Reforming health care is vital to our nation's long-term economic health...system-wide and in the Medicare program. At least some of the savings proposed in Medicare should be reinvested to improve the nation's largest health care provider.  We must seize this historic opportunity to improve the quality of care to all Americans, young and old alike"
    You can see our detailed analysis of this year's Trustees report here.

    Seniors Ask...Why Social Security Now?

    Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's promise to put Social Security reform on the legislative agenda this fall has many seniors asking...why?  America's retirees understand the need to strengthen Social Security for future generations.  For them, Social Security isn't just a political issue -- it's what pays the bills. But given the long list of critical challenges this nation faces right's hard to imagine why Social Security would share space at the top of the legislative priority list with issues like health care reform, economic recovery and climate change.  After all, Social Security is able to pay full benefits for at least 30 more years. Here's Roll Call's coverage of Hoyer's comments:
    "Of our entitlement programs, I believe we would have the easiest challenge in reforming Social Security," Hoyer said. "Frankly, I believe Social Security is not very difficult mathematically. It may be difficult politically, but not mathematically."
    But again, why now? Some worry Social Security will be used as a bargaining chip  in the healthcare debate, others see this as part of ongoing efforts to  balance the budget through entitlement program cuts. Thankfully the House leadership understands that fast tracking such important legislation through Congress is not the way to go.  Congress Daily reports: 
    While some lawmakers have proposed forming a commission to reform entitlements and the tax code, Hoyer said he preferred to go through regular legislative order, adding that he wants the public to be engaged in the entitlement reform process. "If the incentives are going to change, the voters have to be the ones to change them," Hoyer said.
    Legislation creating an entitlement commission was also introduced yesterday.   The SAFE Commission would fast-track Social Security and tax reforms through just six town hall meetings before creating a report.  Then within 60 days of this report, the commission would submit a legislative proposal that would be subject to an up-or-down vote within another 60 days.   Leaving seniors to ask not only, "Why now? but also "Why the rush?" 

    Reforming Health Care and Medicare

    As part of our ongoing efforts to ensure Medicare is more than just the piggy-bank for system wide health care reform, we've run a full page ad in Politico today. 


    Seniors do have a stake in this historic health care debate and this marks just the beginning of our efforts to ensure seniors are engaged.  Reinvesting at least some of the savings from Medicare reforms back into Medicare is vital for the millions of seniors current and future who depend on this program.

    Blog About It: Elder Economic Security

    May 1st marks the first day of Older Americans month.  Today the Elder Economic Security Initiative team at Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) is sponsoring a blog day to spread the word on the importance of elder economic security. We all know economic times are tough but for millions of American seniors living on fixed incomes the volatility of this recession is especially frightening.  Far too many have seen their savings evaporate in the market, housing values plummet, and healthcare costs continue to skyrocket. That's why it's so important that, as our nation considers economic policies designed to turn things around, we don't ignore America's retirees and their families.  At the National Committee, we believe reforming health care is vital to our nation's long-term economic health.  We've written about this a lot here at Entitled to Know but today we've also added our voice to a long list of aging issues bloggers at the National Elder Economic Security Initiative.  Aging in America is more than just a personal issue.  It's also an economic issue...a quality of life issue...and a political issue.  Here are just a few of the blogs we recommend you visit today to join the conversation on Elder Economic Security.



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