March 20, 2013

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I am writing to urge you to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from cuts as you consider a budget blueprint this week. The budget priorities you choose could have a profound impact on working Americans, retirees and individuals with disabilities.

We urge you to consider the alternative budget resolutions to be offered by Democratic Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) because they address the country’s economic concerns without asking the most vulnerable among us – Americans who depend on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – to contribute significantly more than the wealthiest two percent. These alternatives are in sharp contrast to Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan (H. Con. Res. 25), which would turn Medicare into an under-funded voucher plan and block grant Medicaid. In addition, Chairman Ryan’s plan repeals the Medicare benefit improvements in the Affordable Care Act and raises the eligibility age for Medicare.

By contrast, 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.

We support proposals in the Democratic Caucus and CBC budgets that would permanently reform the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) which too frequently threatens doctors with huge cuts in the reimbursement they receive for treating Medicare beneficiaries. Fixing the SGR will help to ensure that seniors continue to have access to their trusted physicians.

The National Committee commends the Congressional Black Caucus for proposing to significantly strengthen Social Security’s financial condition by raising the payroll tax cap on wages. We also support the CBC plan that helps protect seniors against the disproportionate amount they spend on health care by using the CPI-Experimental Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) to set Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).

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 70. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is living longer or is able to work into their 70s. While life expectancy has risen six years for the top half of income earners, workers in the bottom half have only gained 1.3 years. But even for Americans who can work longer, raising the Medicare eligibility age and Social Security retirement age are benefit cuts. Increasing the Medicare eligibility age shifts cost to seniors, employers and Medicaid. Raising the Social Security retirement age asks workers to sacrifice even more and, of course, assumes there will be jobs for them.

Americans are struggling to get back on their feet after several years of high unemployment, slow economic growth and unprecedented income inequality. At the same time, more and more seniors are dependent on Social Security’s modest $1,262 per month average benefit for virtually all of their income. Ending traditional Medicare and block granting Medicaid will throw vulnerable Americans to the whims of private insurance companies, leaving millions without adequate health coverage. This is not a path to prosperity.

You have important choices to make this week and the contrast between these proposed budgets could not be clearer. Please consider seniors, the disabled and working families when you make your budget priorities known.



Max Richtman
President and CEO