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Letter Opposing House Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Resolution

October 4, 2017

United States House of Representatives

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I urge you to oppose H. Con. Res. 71, the House Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Resolution and the Republican Study Committee budget.  Instead, I ask you to support the Democratic Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus budgets.

Oppose H. Con. Res. 71, the House Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Resolution

The committee-passed budget resolution would slash funding to Medicare and Medicaid, repeal the Affordable Care Act and make it easier for Congress to cut Social Security – all to pay for massive tax cuts for the very wealthy and profitable corporations.

The House budget calls for fast track procedures designed to ram Social Security benefit cuts through Congress without public scrutiny.  This is an undemocratic end run to enact widely unpopular proposals.

Equally unpopular are proposals in the budget resolution to turn Medicare into a voucher or coupon program, raise the Medicare edibility age to 67 and make other modifications to the program that would increase beneficiary out-of-pocket costs.  These harmful changes would cut Medicare by nearly $500 billion over ten years.

These vouchers/coupons might not be enough to keep up with health care inflation and could force seniors to pay more for less coverage.  Less coverage will mean higher out-of-pocket costs that most seniors cannot afford to pay – particularly when half of them have incomes less than $26,200 a year.  Under coupon care, private insurers will design their health plans to attract younger and healthier beneficiaries.  This will drive up the costs of traditional Medicare and force seniors into private plans that make it hard for them choose their own doctors.

The budget resolution’s plan to raise the Medicare eligibility age is a benefit cut.  Although this proposal would save money for the federal government, it would increase system-wide health spending by boosting costs for everyone else, including 65 and 66 years olds who would have to buy private insurance, which – unlike Medicare – can be age rated.

H. Con. Res. 71 assumes savings from redesigning the Medicare benefit by combining the Part A and Part B deductibles and making changes to supplemental insurance (Medigap) policies, changes that would likely increase costs for people with Medigap policies.  The measure would also expand income-related premiums under Medicare Parts B and D until 25 percent of beneficiaries are subject to these premiums.  A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that this proposal would affect individuals with incomes equivalent to $45,600 for an individual and $91,300 for a couple in 2013.

The budget resolution ends the commitment Medicaid provides by turning it into block grants subject to per capita caps that will not grow with the needs of the population.  You and your colleagues need only look at what is happening in Puerto Rico to see how their block granted Medicaid program has compromised the delivery of health care in an emergency. 

Middle class Americans often rely on Medicaid for long-term services and supports when they exhaust their savings.  Nearly two-thirds of all nursing home residents’ care is financed in part by Medicaid.  In addition, Medicaid provides home and community-based services that allow seniors to stay in their homes.  There is no way to cut Medicaid by a trillion dollars without limiting seniors access to long term care services.

Support the Democratic Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus Budgets

In sharp contrast to the committee-passed budget resolution are the alternative budgets to be offered as substitute amendments by the Democratic Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).  The National Committee supports these budgets because they address the country’s economic concerns without asking vulnerable Americans who depend on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to contribute significantly more than the wealthiest one percent.

The Democratic Caucus budget includes provisions requiring drug manufacturers to provide rebates for drugs used by those dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and builds on the improved Medicare efficiencies included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Similarly, the Progressive Caucus budget would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and would eliminate a loophole some use to avoid paying their share of Medicare payroll taxes. The Democratic, Progressive and Black Caucuses’ budgets continue the investment made in the ACA to expand Medicaid in the states, helping people with modest incomes purchase health insurance.

The National Committee commends the Progressive Caucus for proposing to significantly strengthen Social Security’s financial condition by raising the payroll tax cap on wages. We also support the CBC and CPC plan that helps protect seniors against the disproportionate amount they spend on health care by using a more accurate Consumer Price Index to set Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).  In addition, we endorse the CPC proposal to offer Social Security credits to caregivers of children and elderly family members.

Oppose the Republican Study Committee Budget

Conversely, we oppose the Republican Study Committee (RSC) budget’s proposal to adopt the “chained” CPI to calculate COLAs. The chained CPI would cut projected benefits for the oldest and most vulnerable Americans who would be least able to afford it. We also oppose plans in the RSC substitute to increase the Medicare eligibility age and the Social Security full retirement age to 69. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is living longer or is able to work into their 70s.  For example, a 2015 study by the National Academy of Sciences found that for men born in 1960, those in the top income quintile could expect to live 12.7 years longer than men in the bottom income quintile.  But even for Americans who can work longer, raising the Medicare eligibility age and Social Security retirement age are benefit cuts.

Like H. Con. Res. 71, the RSC budget would repeal the ACA and increase beneficiary out-of-pocket costs by privatizing Medicare, restructuring the program and expanding income-related premiums.

With so many major challenges facing our country, why do the authors of the House budget resolution and the RSC budget insist on fixing what is not broken?  The answer is simple.  They need to cut working and middle-class programs to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable corporations. 

That’s why we urge all Representatives to oppose these “Robin Hood-in-Reverse” budgets and instead protect the retirement and health security commitments made to generations of Americans by supporting the Democratic Caucus, CPC and CBC budget alternatives.

Sincerely,

Max Richtman
President and CEO



   

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