On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I urge you to pass a clean continuing resolution and to increase the statutory debt limit before the projected default on October 17. It is irresponsible for Congress to approve spending and then refuse to pay the bills, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. It is equally irresponsible to halt essential services Americans need. That’s why we urge you to promptly raise the debt limit and restore government operations.
While the Social Security trust funds hold about $2.7 trillion in U.S. government securities, the Treasury Department must have cash to pay benefits when they are due. On November 1, the Treasury Department is required by law to make almost $60 billion in payments, mainly to the 57 million retirees, disabled workers, widows, widowers, children and spouses who receive Social Security benefits. Treasury estimates that incoming revenue on November 1 will not be sufficient to make those payments without being able to borrow additional cash. Absent the legal authority to borrow beyond the current ceiling, Social Security, Medicare Medicaid and other payments will not be made unless Congress approves an increase in the debt limit.
Even a short delay in the payment of Social Security benefits would be a burden for the millions of Americans who rely on their earned benefits to pay for out-of-pocket health care expenses, food, rent and utilities. In fact, almost two-thirds of beneficiaries depend on Social Security for half of their income and 40 percent rely on their benefits for 90 percent or more of their income.
In addition, a default would jeopardize Medicare and Medicaid payments to doctors and hospitals and coverage for prescription drugs, which are critical to the health security of millions of Americans.
After the debt limit increase and continuing resolution are approved, some members of Congress intend to push for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefit cuts during the upcoming negotiations on the budget. Americans are tired of false choices in which benefits for poor and middle-class Americans are traded away to provide tax loopholes to millionaires and large profitable corporations. They know cutting benefits to those still struggling with skyrocketing health care costs, diminished home values, unemployment, decimated savings and a recovering economy is not shared sacrifice.
Instead of cutting benefits, comprehensive reforms in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that are containing costs in the entire health care sector, including Medicare and Medicaid, ought to be given a chance to work and to be strengthened. Moreover, Social Security does not face an immediate crisis and is not driving either the short-term deficit or long-term debt. We believe Social Security should be strengthened for the long term by raising the current payroll tax cap on earnings.
Our members, and millions of seniors and citizens across America, are depending on you to do the right thing for them, their families and the country. Please get our government back to work and then develop a budget agreement that will not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
President and CEO