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From the monthly archives: March, 2012

We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'March, 2012'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.

Healthcare Reform, Seniors and the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is wrapping up three days of hearings on the Affordable Care Act today.  Seniors with the National Committee’s “Rally Corps” joined other activists on the steps of the Court urging Justices to uphold the health care reform law. “The truth is the more seniors get the facts about healthcare reform the more they support it.  But unfortunately all the partisan bickering surrounding the law’s passage and continuing even now, two years later, has left too many Medicare beneficiaries unaware or misinformed about all the new benefits now available to them thanks to the ACA. Our Rally Corps members understand they’ll end up paying more for their prescription drugs, preventative screenings and higher out-of-pocket costs if the ACA is dismantled so they’re glad to take their case in support of health care reform to the steps of the Supreme Court today. ” Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO The Patients Aware campaign, created by the National Committee Foundation, the National Physicians Alliance, and the Herndon Alliance , has built a national network of doctors, nurses, and caregivers to provide information directly to beneficiaries about the Affordable Care Act.  Doctors, nurses and other care providers are among the most trusted sources of health care information for seniors and their families and they are leading town hall meetings in communities nationwide to sort the fact from fiction about health care reform’s impact on Medicare beneficiaries.  You can get more info about Patients Aware here.

Targeting Seniors – for Real and Just for Fun

If America’s seniors really want to get at the heart of the ongoing political debate about our nation’s economic mess and the solutions offered to change course, yesterday provided a good snapshot of what’s at stake House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has introduced the GOP/Ryan budget and as expected it envisions balancing the budget by turning Medicare into a privatized program giving seniors a voucher (designed not to keep pace with their health costs over time) to buy private insurance.  The new twist offered this year is a promise to also keep traditional Medicare as an option.  Unfortunately, what that really means is private insurers will siphon-off younger-healthier seniors while older and sicker patients remain in traditional Medicare which will increase the programs costs, potentially limit doctor participation, and create a death spiral to the Medicare’s demise.  Ultimately, the ideological goal of getting the government out of the business of providing healthcare for seniors will be achieved.  The American Prospect offers this description:
“Most Republicans really do believe that Medicare is a vile, socialistic cancer on the American system, and things would be much better if it were privatized. The fact that Medicare works so much better than private insurance (it has far lower administrative costs, and its overall costs have been rising at a slower rate than those of private insurance), and that it's so popular, is just all the more reason why it's so hateful to them. Medicare validates the idea that government can do something better than the private sector, standing as a living rebuke to arguments they make in so many areas.”
And maybe this also explains while Congressman Ryan continues to conflate America’s retirees with the poor and welfare with Medicare.   By lumping these programs together he attempts to paint a picture of Americans simply milking the system, which conveniently ignores the fact that workers contribute to Medicare.  He did it again in yesterday’s budget news conference (25 minutes into this video):
“but we don’t want to turn this safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and the intent to make the most of their lives.”
Now, Congressman Ryan knows that Medicare isn’t welfare.  He knows that American workers help fund Medicare throughout their working lives.  Still…the hammock analogy remains one of his favorite talking points.  Now, consider the fact that on the flipside there were very few details offered yesterday describing the huge tax cuts proposed in this GOP/Ryan budget.  This plan would provide even more tax cuts to the wealthy, an average of $150,000 for the richest among us, while also protecting tax breaks and giveaways to corporations reaping huge profits.  The National Journal reports:
The fiscal 2013 House Republican budget proposal contains a tax-code overhaul lowering corporate and individual tax rates, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, and repealing taxes associated with the health care reform law. This would result in $4.6 trillion in lost revenue over a 10-year period, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That’s on top of the estimated $5.4 trillion lost by extending the Bush-era tax cuts. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Tuesday called his plan revenue-neutral, saying eliminated loopholes and tax shelters would pay for the cuts. Pressed at a news conference for specifics, he declined to say which tax breaks he’d like to forgo. Ryan said he would leave that decision to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Simply put, this GOP budget proposes tax cuts for corporations and billionaires and benefit cuts for everyone else. Speaking of billionaires… One of Mitt Romney’s top economic advisors , Greg Mankiw,  proved that what’s funny for the 1% isn’t quite so humorous for the rest of us.  Mankiw posted this “joke” on his blog under the headline: “A Fiscal Solution”.
Romney’s  staff says “obviously it’s not serious”.  We say obviously it’s not funny either -- especially when you know that Governor Romney supports the Ryan/GOP budget which is a fiscal plan that threatens the health and security of millions of American seniors.  That’s certainly no joke.

GOP/Ryan Budget Plan Targets Seniors...Again

CouponCare for Medicare - Tax Cuts for the Wealthy – Benefit Cuts for Everyone Else

Here is NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman's reaction to the GOP/Ryan Budget Plan released today:

“Contrary to the lofty political rhetoric we’ve heard today, the GOP/Ryan plan is not a brave budget offered by ‘adults’.  This is a budget that doubles-down on an ideological quest to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher program--stacking the deck against traditional Medicare and creating a death spiral leading to its demise. Under the GOP/Ryan plan, if seniors want the same level of coverage and access to health providers they’ve had in the past, they’ll have to pay more.  If they can’t pay more, they’ll have to settle for less.  At the same time, under the GOP/Ryan budget, billionaires continue to enjoy tax cuts our nation simply can’t afford.  The American people, of all ages, do not believe benefit cuts for the middle class and tax cuts for the wealthy are the right course for our nation, no matter how they’re repackaged for an election year.

Congressman Ryan has said his budget plan addresses a ‘moral issue’ because ‘there is right and there is wrong’.  But the American people don’t believe it’s ‘right’ to cut middle class benefits to pay for more tax cuts for the wealthy.  It’s not ‘right’ to continually target seniors’ programs to foot the bill for an economic and fiscal crisis they did not create. Middle class Americans have already sacrificed more than their fair share with stagnant wages, plunging home values and vanishing savings.  That’s why it’s simply wrong to target the average American to protect the wealthiest among us who continue to reap the benefits of decades of flawed fiscal policy.  We don’t have to destroy Medicare to save it -- the American people understand this and will make their views on ‘right and wrong’ abundantly clear come November.” …Max Richtman

The Social Security & Medicare Double-Reverse

Kudos to the Center for American Progress for cutting through Paul Ryan’s Social Security & Medicare double-speak and putting the Budget Chairman’s relatively newfound concern for America’s poor in perspective.  Rep. Ryan has taken the “greedy geezer” myth to new heights to bolster his claims that wealthy seniors are draining resources from the poor.  Scott Lilly with CAP exposes the many flaws in Ryan’s theory. We recommend you read the entire analysis but here’s just a glimpse to get you started -- beginning with a look at Rep. Ryan’s commitment to the poor up to now:
Based on data published on his (Chairman Ryan’s) committee’s website he slashed Medicaid by more than $771 billion over 10 years, which would cut millions of poor children, seniors, and people with disabilities from eligibility. He is particularly savage on the category he lists as “other mandatory,” which includes programs such as Supplemental Assistance for Needy Families, Temporary Aid for Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income—funding them at only 75 percent of the level the Congressional Budget Office estimates as necessary to maintain current service levels. An analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities demonstrated that more than two-thirds of his budget cuts come from programs that help low-income families. Now he’s all of a sudden concerned about the poor? So, if Rep. Ryan is not attacking the elderly for the purpose of helping the poor, why is he doing it? I think the answer is relatively simple: He needs to slash huge amounts from federal retirement programs to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. His $5.8 trillion in overall spending cuts last year still left huge deficits because of his voracious appetite for tax cuts. Rep. Ryan proposed more than $4 trillion in tax cuts over the course of the decade, lowering the rate at which the wealthiest Americans pay taxes from the 35 percent level in the expiring Bush tax cuts to 25 percent. His plan would reduce total tax liabilities of many millionaires by more than 25 percent—to the tune of hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars or in some instances even millions of dollars per each millionaire. So Rep. Ryan’s March 5 column about taking from the rich (defined as old people living on more than $20,000 a year) and giving to the poor is in fact about taking from the elderly and giving to the rich—akin to a double reverse in football. Let’s hope the defensive backfield in Congress stays alert.

The Affordable Care Act and Medicare

Talking Points Memo has a good post on the New England Journal of Medicine’s new report on slowing the cost growth in Medicare spending. NEJM asks, “Slower Growth in Medicare Spending — Is This the New Normal?”
“On the whole, we do not believe that the recent slowdown in Medicare spending growth is a fluke,” wrote the researchers Chapin White and Paul Ginsburg. Thanks to the cost-control reforms over the last decade, they added, “the CBO projects that over the next decade Medicare spending per enrollee will grow substantially more slowly than the overall economy.” They argued that the ACA in particular lays the framework for longer term cost-control by transitioning the provider reimbursement system from paying for quantity to paying for quality, something even Republicans quietly believe is a good idea.”
TPM also writes:
“If the cost-growth slowdown continues into the foreseeable future, it could have dramatic implications on the future of health care policy. The conservative movement has disliked Medicare ever since its inception in the early 1960s, when Ronald Reagan argued it would spell the end of freedom in America. Half a century after enactment, Republicans have found a potent pretext to dismantle the senior safety-net program: impending fiscal doom. Indeed, official projections in recent years have found that Medicare spending is on course to swallow the entire federal budget in half a century. And that has been the central justification for the GOP’s plan, written by Rep. Paul Ryan, to phase out traditional Medicare and replace it with a subsidized private insurance system. But if the NEJM projections hold, the threat of fiscal catastrophe would lose steam. And that means Republicans would have to resort to ideological arguments against Medicare if they want to end its basic structure — a hard sell given the program’s immense popularity. Prior efforts to dramatically scale back Medicare benefits have fallen flat, and without being able to portray privatization or “premium support” as critical to avoiding fiscal apocalypse, as Ryan does on a regular basis, there’s no reason to expect a different outcome.”
What this piece doesn’t mention is the fact that not only has healthcare reform slowed cost growth, it also uses some of those savings to provide new benefits for seniors -- a fact never discussed by conservatives who want the Affordable Care Act repealed before seniors even realize these new benefits exist. The Patients Aware campaign has launched a nationwide campaign to cut through all this political rhetoric on Medicare.  You can check it out  at

www. patientsaware.org

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