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Celebrating Medicare Today and Everyday

At the National Committee, our millions of members and supporters celebrate Medicare everyday.  But for this 50th Anniversary it’s only fitting that our celebration has been bigger, broader and designed to educate and advocate for Medicare’s next 50 years. 

If you haven’t had a chance yet please stop by our 50th Anniversary party online, where you can send a letter to Congress, test your Medicare knowledge and join the celebration as we look forward to Medicare’s Next 50.  

Why Simply Celebrating Medicare's 50th Anniversary Isn't Enough

As we celebrate Medicare’s 50th anniversary this week it’s important to do more than just cut the cake…we must also educate and advocate. That’s because even though the American people clearly understand how vital Medicare and Medicaid are to families, too many politicians (especially those running for the GOP Presidential nod) apparently still don’t get it. 

Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote today about these “Zombies Against Medicare,” including their refusal to acknowledge that all the bad things they’ve predicted about Medicare for five decades have never actually happened, Jeb Bush’s promise to end Medicare and especially the Republican Party’s never-ending quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“And then a funny thing happened: the act’s passage was immediately followed by an unprecedented pause in Medicare cost growth. Indeed, Medicare spending keeps coming in ever further below expectations, to an extent that has revolutionized our views about the sustainability of the program and of government spending as a whole.Right now is, in other words, a very odd time to be going on about the impossibility of preserving Medicare, a program whose finances will be strained by an aging population but no longer look disastrous. One can only guess that Mr. Bush is unaware of all this, that he’s living inside the conservative information bubble, whose impervious shield blocks all positive news about health reform.” 

Medicare advocates briefed the press today on the importance of this 50th anniversary and the ongoing battle to preserve and expand the program. 

“Anyone who thinks these programs aren’t under threat should just look at where the GOP presidential candidates stand on these issues.  Every prediction made by opponents about these programs…from claiming 'socialism' to 'they won’t work'…have been proven wrong.” Brad Woodhouse, President of Americans United for Change 

“It’s time for GOP leaders to stop threatening us with cuts and repeal, and start proposing truly bold ideas that include benefits expansion, raising the wage cap, enacting an affordable long term care program, shifting to a fully-developed consumer price index for the elderly, and negotiating drug prices. That would be a real platform for real Americans.” Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO 

As the 2015 Trustees Report release last week shows, Medicare’s health has greatly improved since health care reform was passed.  Not only did the ACA provide improved benefits for seniors its long-term solvency has been extended by 13 years.  Congress should be building on these reforms to improve the program rather than continuing a politically myopic and factually bankrupt quest to “save” Medicare by killing it.

Jeb Bush Says He'll End Medicare

We suppose we should at least give Jeb Bush brownie points for honesty since he was actually caught saying out loud what the GOP has been trying to do Medicare for years, without actually admitting it.

MSNBC first reported on Jeb Bush's comments made to a room full of Koch Brothers supporters:

"We need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits," Bush said. "But we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something, because they're not going to have anything."

Promising to protect current beneficiaries (because according to the standard GOP meme “greedy geezers” only care about their own Social Security and Medicare benefits not what’s left for their kids or grandkids) is a tried and true GOP strategy. Attempting to destroy Medicare piece by piece is also a strategy we’ve already seen tried by conservatives in Congress.  So it’s likely Bush didn’t even realize he was making news.  Vox described it best this way:

“For years now, Republicans in Congress have been unified around a plan to promise continued Medicare benefits to everyone over the age of 55 while phasing out the program for everyone else. This is the famous — or perhaps infamous — Paul Ryan plan for Medicare. But denying that this is what their plan amounts to has been an important part of the political strategy for getting it done. Except Jeb Bush messed up, and in a talk at an Americans for Prosperity event Wednesday night he said that America needs to "phase out" Medicare.

His argument is that once Medicare is phased out, the GOP can offer the 54-and-under set "something," because the alternative will be to get "nothing."

Recall that back in 2011, the GOP whined endlessly about allegations that they wanted to end Medicare, and PolitiFact dubbed the idea that the GOP wants to end Medicare their "lie of the year."

But as Jeb Bush reveals here, it was never a lie of any sort. Conservatives' preferred answer to the challenge of paying for Medicare in the future is to scrap the program, and that idea has gained wider and wider currency in GOP circles in recent years.”

Bush’s comments were chock-full of other seriously flawed assumptions which MSNBC also breaks down including:

  • The “left” hasn’t done anything to help Medicare – Uhh, how about this week’s Trustees Report which confirms (yet again) an additional 13 years of Medicare solvency thanks to healthcare reform (which the GOP would repeal). 
  • Going door-to-door has shown him the American people support phasing out benefits - We’re not sure what doors Bush is knocking on but there’s not a national poll anywhere (legitimate or otherwise) which shows Americans support ending Medicare.   


The Truth about the 2015 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Report

Social Security is still fully funded for nearly two decades, a COLA increase unlikely, and health care reform continues to preserve Medicare’s solvency

No doubt, today’s unsurprising news in the Trustees Reports for Social Security and Medicare will be overshadowed by the same crisis calls we hear each and every year from those determined to cut benefits or privatize the programs.  Today’s reports lay out in clear terms how stable Social Security and Medicare remain. Rather than use the disability program’s projected shortfall as a political opportunity to target the entire Social Security program for cuts, Congress can pass a simple reallocation, as has happened without controversy 11 previous times.  Or, even better, Congress could pass new legislation, introduced today by Rep. Xavier Becerra, to combine the Social Security Trust Funds.  There are ways to avoid a massive benefit cut Americans with disabilities simply cannot afford without targeting the entire Social Security program for cuts.”... Max Richtman, NCPSSM President/CEO

Here are some of the key points in the 2015 Trustees Report:

·         Trustees project Social Security will be able to pay full benefits until the year 2034, one year longer than projected last year.  After that, Social Security will still have sufficient revenue to pay 79% of benefits if no changes are made to the program.

·         Social Security remains well-funded. In 2015, as the economy continues to improve, Social Security’s total income is projected to exceed its expenses. In fact, the Trustees estimate that total annual income will exceed program obligations until 2019. 

·         Trustees project no Cost of Living Adjustment increase.

·         The Trustees report there is now nearly $2.79 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund, which is $25 billion more than last year and that it will continue to grow by payroll contributions and interest on the Trust Fund's assets.   

With so little bad news to report in this 2015 Trustees report, critics have now shifted their attention to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which faces a more immediate challenge and requires Congress’ action.

·    Trustees project the Disability Trust fund will be depleted in 2016, the same year projected in last year’s report. This projected shortfall is not a surprise and Congress should pass legislation that combines the Social Security Trust Funds or at the very least, reallocates income across the Social Security Trust Funds, as it has done 11 times before to cover the anticipated shortfall.  Disability expenditures have increased primarily due to demographic trends.  When Congress took action in 1994 to address a shortfall in SSDI, it knew that it would have to take action again in 2015 or 2016. Unfortunately, some in Congress have politicized this anticipated shortfall and threatened to delay action in order to force cuts throughout the entire Social Security program.

On Medicare, the 2015 Trustees report shows slowing the growth of health care costs has improved Medicare’s Trust Fund.

·         Medicare solvency remains greatly improved thanks to passage of healthcare reform, with the program paying full benefits until 2030, the same as predicted in the 2014 report and 13 years later than was projected in the last report issued prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act.

·         HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell reports Medicare Part B premiums are not projected to increase for about 70% of beneficiaries in 2016. 

Social Security & Medicare: The GOP Congress’ New “Pay-For” for Everything Under the Sun

In just over a week federal funding runs out for the nation’s highways, bridges and roads.  The House has passed a temporary fix but the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, wants to take an entirely different approach.

What does this have to do with Social Security or Medicare?  The answer should be “nothing” but thanks to legislation now being debated in the Senate, the real answer is “everything.”  Once again, GOP leaders want to use Social Security and/or Medicare benefits to pay for something entirely unrelated to the income and health security of millions of Americans. 

NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, has written to the Senate urging Members to reject efforts to use Social Security benefits to pay for the Transportation bill: 

“...there are at least two Social Security policy changes that are currently being considered as “offsets” for legislation that would extend highway transportation funding. One of these is a measure barring payment of Social Security benefits for seniors with outstanding warrants for their arrest. Almost none of the seniors who would be affected by this provision are actual fugitives from justice and most of the warrants in question are many years old and involve minor infractions. Moreover, the Social Security Administration attempted to administer a similar provision for a number of years, with catastrophic effect for many vulnerable elderly seniors, employing procedures that did not withstand judicial scrutiny. Reenacting this requirement should be something the Congress does only after careful analysis and with ample opportunity for public discussion.

The second provision relates to the concurrent receipt of both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and unemployment compensation. Given the importance that all policy makers ascribe to encouraging disabled Americans to return to the workforce, I am perplexed by the desire on the part of some in the Congress to strip working SSDI beneficiaries of their eligibility to receive unemployment compensation when, through no fault of their own, they lose a job. Concurrent eligibility, which derives directly from a disabled person’s efforts to return to work, is a work incentive. That incentive should be altered only after the committees of jurisdiction have carefully considered all of the ramifications associated with such a change and, again, after ample opportunity for public comment.”

This is the third time in less than a year that Congress has attempted to use Social Security and/or Medicare as an ATM to pay for a completely unrelated priority.  Last year Congress voted to extend the Medicare sequester cuts into 2024 to cover a reversal of cost-of-living cuts to veterans' pension benefits. This summer Medicare was cut again to help pay for the Trade bill.  Now it appears, rather than consider tax reform for huge corporate tax dodgers sending billions of profits oversee to avoid paying taxes, GOP leaders in the Senate prefer cutting benefits to seniors, people with disabilities and their families who depend on Social Security. 

The Senate is expected to vote on the highway funding bill and these proposed Social Security benefit cuts this week.  While we all want good highways, Congress should not pay for them by cutting Social Security benefits for seniors, people with disabilities and their families.  Social Security is our money – not the government’s. We’ve worked hard to earn our benefits.

Call our Legislative Hotline ASAP and we’ll connect you to your Senators. Tell them to oppose cutting Social Security to pay for the Transportation bill. 

CALL CONGRESS

1-800-998-0180



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