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Blog2023-02-16T14:29:22-04:00
1206, 2024

National Committee Backs Biden as Campaign Launches “Seniors For Biden-Harris”

By |June 12th, 2024|Election 2024|

NCPSSM Legislative Director Dan Adcock and CEO Max Richtman with President Biden in August, 2023

For only the second time in our history, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is endorsing a candidate for President of the United States.  And for the second time, that candidate is Joe Biden.  NCPSSM broke precedent in 2020 because we believed Joe Biden would fight for America’s seniors — and protect Social Security and Medicare.  We did not trust Donald Trump to safeguard either program or to uphold other cherished American institutions. Four years later, those beliefs have been validated beyond dispute.

Our 2024 endorsement, announced today, coincides with two others (Social Security Works and National United Committee to Protect Pensions), as reported by Reuters:

“Max Richtman, president of the NCPSSM, said Biden had worked to protect seniors’ earned benefits and the group did not trust Donald Trump to safeguard Social Security and Medicare. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare… defied a 38-year tradition of avoiding endorsements to back Biden in 2020.” – Reuters, 6/12/24 

The endorsements dovetails with the launching of Seniors for Biden-Harris, a “grassroots program to energize voters 65 and up with more than a dozen events from bingo nights to pickleball tournaments to appearances by senior administration officials.”

“Seniors are such a critical part of our coalition, and it is vitally important that we engage them this election cycle because they know President Biden is the only candidate in this race fighting for lower prescription drug and health care costs and to protect and safeguard Medicare and Social Security.” – Julia Chavez Rodriguez,  Biden campaign manager

President Biden has stood strong time and again in the face of Republican proposals to slash seniors’ earned benefits — from raising the retirement age to reducing COLAs.  He consistently has promised that “if anyone tries to cut Social Security and Medicare, I will stop them.”  We saw this when, during the President’s 2023 State of the Union address, he convinced Republicans in real time to “take Social Security and Medicare off the table” in debt ceiling negotiations.

The President has also proposed commonsense solutions to Social Security and Medicare’s financing challenges. He urged Congress to strengthen Social Security by requiring wealthier Americans to begin paying their fair share into the system.  His 2025 budget proposal included a plan to improve Medicare’s finances — again demanding that higher earners make a more equitable contribution.

President Biden’s historic Inflation Reduction Act will save Medicare billions of dollars while at the same time lowering prescription drug prices for seniors. With the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare now can negotiate the cost of life-saving drugs with Big Pharma.  We and other advocates fought for more than 20 years to make that a reality.  But it wouldn’t have happened without President Biden — not to mention the law’s $35 monthly cap on insulin prices, $2,000 out-of-pocket cap on beneficiaries’ prescription drug costs, and penalties for drugmakers who hike prices above the rate of inflation.  We also applaud the Biden administration for promulgating safe staffing standards to protect nursing home residents and workers — and for cracking down on Medicare Advantage plans that put profits ahead of patients.

As in 2020, our endorsement also is based on our grave concerns about Donald Trump. To put it simply, he cannot be trusted to protect Social Security and Medicare.  He said he’s “open” to cutting “entitlements” and then tried to take it back. He has called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” in the past. He poses as a populist but ultimately does whatever his mega-wealthy GOP donors and Wall Street bankers want.

During his single term in office, Donald Trump proposed successive budgets that would have cut Social Security and Medicare by more than a trillion dollars. He suspended the Social Security payroll tax during the pandemic, needlessly interfering with the earned right nature of the benefit that has provided workers with financial security for nearly nine decades. He even said he wanted to do away with the payroll tax altogether – Social Security’s main funding source.

As one of the nation’s leading seniors’ advocacy groups, with millions of members and supporters across the United States, we have a responsibility to put our weight behind candidates for federal office with respect for American institutions and the programs we defend.  The National Committee is engaged in robust election-year activities. Our PAC is endorsing candidates for Congress who strongly support Social Security and Medicare. Our leadership is traveling the country appearing with the candidates we endorse.  We have been promoting our election year agenda on social media.  Finally, we are launching a national voter education campaign entitled “Vote4SocialSecurity 2024,” which includes earned media, social media, digital and postcard mailings, and special episodes of our “You Earned This” podcast.

We believe that this is an existential election for Social Security and Medicare. Hard working Americans’ retirement and health security is at stake. Even though our organization has not traditionally endorsed presidential candidates, these past two cycles are obviously different. That is why we are proud to have chosen Joe Biden in 2020 — and are especially proud to endorse him once again in 2024. – Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare  


1006, 2024

Dem/GOP Split on Social Security Apparent in Hill Hearing

By |June 10th, 2024|Congress, Debt, Democrats, Rep. John Larson, Republicans, Social Security, Social Security Administration (SSA)|

The House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing about the program’s trustees’ projection that the Social Security trust fund will become depleted in 2035, absent Congressional action. Even so, Social Security still could pay 83% of scheduled benefits at that time. No one wants Congressional inaction, but the hearing emphasized the difference in the two parties’ approaches to the problem.

The main witness, Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen Goss, tamped down alarmism about the program’s financial future:

“At the start of 2024, reserves in the combined OASI and DI trust funds totaled $2.8 trillion, nearly double the amount in annual payments. Our contingency reserve fund is strong for the moment.” – Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen Goss

Goss reminded committee members that Social Security does not add to the national debt and has no borrowing authority, despite Republican claims that the program is one of the main drivers of federal red ink. (In fact, the number one driver of the debt is tax expenditures — giveaways to the wealthy and major corporations like the Trump tax cuts that GOP members now want to extend.)

Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen C. Goss

Ranking Member Rep. John Larson (D-CT) took aim at Republican lawmakers and many of their supposedly “fiscally responsible” proposals to cut Social Security — such as raising the retirement age to 69 or 70.

“The American public knows for every year you raise the age that’s a 7% cut in benefits,” Larson said, pointing out that raising the age by three years would amount to a bigger benefit cut (21%) than allowing the trust fund to run dry.

Democratic committee members promoted revenue-side solutions to strengthen Social Security’s finances, including Rep. Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act. His legislation would require the wealthy to begin contributing their fair share by adjusting the payroll wage cap and leveraging some investment income that is not now included in FICA taxes.

“We will make the wealthiest Americans pay into Social Security at the same rate as those Bay City teachers, Saginaw firefighters, and Midland factory workers that I represent, are paying,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI).

“The answer to the long-term solvency of Social Security is not to increase the retirement age, not to cut benefits. It’s time that we advance legislation that increases Social Security benefits to reflect the true cost of living that they experience, doing so by making the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share”. – Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) 

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) pointed out that any cuts to Social Security would impact communities of color in particular. “People of color are less likely to work for employers who offer pensions and other retirement plans and are therefore more reliant on these benefits,” she said. “Proposed cuts to Social Security would be a direct attack on communities of color, specifically the Latino population, who relies almost exclusively on (these benefits) for their retirement.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) at House Social Security Subcommittee hearing

In written testimony, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare President Max Richtman insisted that benefits must be expanded, not cut, to meet the needs of future retirees. (Rep. Larson’s bill would provide an across-the-board benefit boost and targeted increases to especially vulnerable beneficiaries.)

“While Social Security has lifted generations of seniors out of poverty, benefits must be improved to protect the growing share of seniors who depend on the program for all or most of their retirement income,” said Richtman.


1605, 2024

House GOP Appropriators Announce 10% Cut in Labor/HHS Spending

By |May 16th, 2024|Budget, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Congress, Democrats, Republicans, Social Security Administration (SSA)|

House Republicans once again are showing where their true priorities lie.  Appropriations committee chair Tom Cole (R-OK) announced the GOP’s topline numbers for fiscal year 2025 — including at least a 10% cut in funding for Labor/HHS (Health & Human Services).  That could mean agencies like the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would endure a huge spending cut, while Republican appropriators propose to boost military spending by 1%.

“As we have said many times, a budget is a moral document. But where is the morality in slashing funding for agencies that service our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — especially seniors who depend on their benefits for financial and health security?” said NCPSSM President and CEO Max Richtman.  Meanwhile, the House Republican Study Committee proposed making the Trump/GOP tax cuts permanent – a generous gift to their wealthy donors and big corporations.

The appropriations plan announced today dishonors the debt limit deal struck by White House, Senate, and House negotiators last year, in that it casts aside “side deals” that would have provided more revenue for appropriators to work with. Ranking Appropriations Committee member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) scolded Republicans for “leaving on the table at least $75 billion in investments that (American) families depend on.”

NCPSSM Senior Legislative Representative Maria Freese notes that Cole’s announcement does not specify which agencies and programs under the Labor/HHS umbrella would be cut – and by how much. But she points out, “Even though we don’t know how the individual pie slices will turn out, the overall pie is a lot smaller.”

Freese says that, in addition to SSA and CMS funding, some Older Americans Act programs could be affected by a 10% reduction in Labor/HHS appropriations, including the popular Meals on Wheels program.  For his part, the only regret that Chairman Cole voiced is that he wishes he could have come up with more funding for Defense:

“If there’s ways along the way that we can do some things to help defense, I certainly intend to do them, but I don’t know what they are yet.” – Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Chairman, House Appropriations Committee

The House Appropriations committee is scheduled to vote on the actual numbers next week.  The Senate, meanwhile, is working on its own appropriations package, which likely will look very different than the working House version. Senate Appropriations Committee Vice-Chair Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) would like to boost defense spending even more; Appropriations Committee member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) insists that defense and non-defense spending be boosted equally.

The ultimate compromise between the two chambers, when it finally comes, likely will be less drastic than the current House GOP appropriations scheme announced today.  “Hopefully, this 10% cut to Labor/HHS won’t happen, and shouldn’t happen,” said Freese. “But in this very crucial election year, it does show you what direction House Republicans want to take us.”


3004, 2024

New Biden Administration Rules Aim to Boost Nursing Home Care & Caregivers

By |April 30th, 2024|Biden administration, caregiving, nursing homes|

The Biden administration is out with historic, new rules designed to improve elder care — and protect caregivers. The first rule, issued last week, requires all nursing homes to provide 3.5 hours of daily care per patient by certified nurses’ aides or nurses.  Up to now, there has been no minimum federal staffing requirement. Staffing levels were regulated only by the states, insufficiently in many cases.

We do think this could make a significant difference in the lives of our loved ones in nursing homes,” says Anne Montgomery, NCPSSM’s senior health care expert.  “It means that there is a uniform standard that it is meant to protect residents wherever they may be — across the country.”

U.S. nursing homes remain beset by patient care problems in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, when more than 200,000 residents and staff perished. In February, the New York Times reported that “infection control lapses, severe staffing shortages and lowering vaccination rates have continued to plague many facilities beyond the pandemic.”

Montgomery says that the administration’s new minimum staffing rule should help boost patient care and working conditions — and hopefully, morale, too — for professional caregivers in nursing homes.  She says that caregiver turnover rates in the nation’s nursing homes runs from 50-100% per year, contributing to a nationwide staff shortage.

“Constant understaffing requires nursing aides to care for as many as 20-30 residents at a time, which is not doable in any kind of quality way,” says Montgomery. She points out that the 3.5 hour per patient daily staffing requirement is below the 4.1 hours that federal studies have found to be the minimum to ensure quality care, but that the new rule is a step in the right direction and probably the best the Biden administration reasonably could do at this time.

A New Rule for Home and Community Based Caregiving

HHS released a second rule last week aimed at channeling more federal money toward professional caregiver pay.  The rule affects Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), which is paid for by Medicaid on a state-by-state basis. Under the new rule, 80% of the funding that state Medicaid programs pay HCBS providers must go directly to direct caregivers’ salaries.

Vice President Harris with caregivers in Wisconsin last week

Montgomery says that up to now too much of that funding has gone toward providers’ administrative or “overhead” expenses — or skimmed off the top by for-profit operators. “The new rule will bolster direct care workers because they are underpaid and under-appreciated. We’re glad that the federal government has taken notice — and is taking action to improve their lot.”

“It is about time that we start to recognize your value and pay you accordingly and give you the structure and support that you deserve,” Vice President Kamala Harris told a small group of care workers in Wisconsin, shortly after announcing the new rule.


2404, 2024

Wisconsin’s MAGA Senate Candidate in Hot Water again re. Nursing Homes

By |April 24th, 2024|Election 2024, seniors|

MAGA Senate Candidate Eric Hovde (from campaign ad)

We blogged a couple of weeks ago about Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Erik Hovde’s head-scratching comments suggesting that seniors in nursing homes don’t have the mental capacity to vote.  Now, the New York Times has reported, Hovde is financially entangled with a nursing home that is being sued for mistreating patients:

The bank he leads, Utah-based Sunwest, last month was named as a co-defendant in a California lawsuit that accuses a senior living facility partly owned by the bank of elder abuse, negligence and wrongful death. – NY Times, 4/20/24

The story added a new dimension to the public’s understanding of Hovde, a Trump-endorsed MAGA candidate who is trying to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin.  (NCPSSM’s PAC endorsed Baldwin in March.) On Tuesday, NCPSSM president and CEO Max Richtman criticized Hovde as being out of touch with older voters… in a press call organized by Wisconsin’s Democratic party:

Eric Hovde is obviously very comfortable among wealthy bankers, but not so much with the people of Wisconsin — and certainly not with the state’s seniors. The contrast with Senator Baldwin could not be clearer.” – Max Richtman, NCPSSM President & CEO, 4/23/24

According to Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wilker, Hovde has managed to insult not only seniors — but several other constituencies. Wilker quotes Hovde as saying that farmers spend all their time driving around on tractors and don’t do real physical labor; that young Wisconsinites lack a work ethic and are “so stupid”; and that people struggling with obesity should pay more for their health care. Five months before the general election, Hovde is certainly off to an auspicious start!

Read on… here is our original blog post from 4/11/24::::

Seniors’ advocates and their political allies are criticizing recent comments by Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde suggesting that nursing home residents can’t – or shouldn’t – vote. Hovde, who is running to unseat incumbent Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), told Fox News’ Guy Benson:::

“We had nursing homes where you had 100 percent voting… Well, if you’re in a nursing home, you only have a five, six-month life expectancy. Almost nobody in a nursing home is in a point to vote. And you had children, adult children showing up saying, ‘Who voted for my 85 or 90-year-old father or mother?’” – GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde

These comments by the Trump-endorsed, MAGA Republican candidate drew sharp rebukes as blatantly ageist and fact-free. “Hovde said that people living in nursing homes usually die after a few months,” Senator Baldwin’s campaign responded. “Everyone deserves the freedom to vote, so they can make their voices heard in our elections. But Eric Hovde wants to take that away for seniors living in nursing homes.”

NCPSSM, which has endorsed Baldwin’ re-election bid, blasted Hovde’s comments. “Senators are supposed to represent ALL of their voters, and it is a total insult to the basic dignity of Wisconsin’s seniors to suggest that they are too old to vote,” said Luke Warren, director of the NCPSSM political action committee (PAC). “Hovde should be celebrating high voter turnout among nursing home residents, not griping about it.”

Anne Montgomery, NCPSSM’s senior health policy expert, added, “Hovde is basically suggesting that people in nursing homes are unworthy of voting, and that they are all about to die, which is not true.” Montgomery corrected several false or misleading arguments in Hovde’s comments:::

*The average life expectancy of nursing home residents is years, not months.

*There’s ZERO evidence that fraudulent ballots were cast in Wisconsin nursing homes in 2020.

*Nursing home residents, on average, are trending younger. The percentage of patients under 65 years of age in nursing homes grew from 10% in 2000 to 16% in 2017.

The Independent offered some additional fact-checking, indicating that voter participation in Wisconsin nursing homes was nowhere near “100%” in 2020, as Hovde claimed. “A review… by the Wisconsin State Journal found just one nursing home in the state had a 100% voter turnout. (It had just 12 registered voters).”  Other facilities ranged from 42-91%, the paper reported.

Hovde’s remarks are not random for a MAGA candidate; they are part of Trump’s larger (and false) narrative about the 2020 election being “rigged.” (Hovde disagrees that the election was “stolen,” but said “things happened in that election that were very troublesome.”)   Wisconsin was crucial to Joe Biden’s electoral victory in 2020, and the MAGA movement can’t abide that he won the state fairly, claiming that “thousands of crooked votes” came out of nursing homes in Wisconsin — a falsehood that has been completely discredited.

“Instead of trying to disenfranchise seniors living in nursing homes,” NCPSSM’s Anne Montgomery says, “We should be continuing to try to make it easier for nursing home residents to vote.  They are just as entitled to participate in our democratic system as everyone else.”

Montgomery points out that lawmakers over the years have tried to reduce barriers to voting access for this population, including mail balloting and accommodations for people with disabilities at polling places. Montgomery cited the Help America Vote Act of 2002 — and a series of GAO reports highlighted by then-Senator and Baldwin’s predecessor, Herb Kohl (D-WI), acknowledging efforts to facilitate voting access and calling for further improvements.

When Badger State seniors cast ballots in 2024, they will have to take stock of the two Senate candidates, MAGA Republican Eric Hovde vs. Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who NCPSSM praised as a “champion of Wisconsin seniors.” As PAC director Luke Warren says, “It takes little imagination to picture how a ‘Senator Hovde’ would treat older constituents if he were in office. He has praised plans to gut Medicare and supports cutting Social Security. These latest comments are a stark reminder of the stakes in November for Wisconsin seniors.”

Listen to our  podcast about ageism in culture and politics:  Part 1 and Part 2 with expert S. Jay Olshanksy. 

 


National Committee Backs Biden as Campaign Launches “Seniors For Biden-Harris”

By |June 12th, 2024|Election 2024|

NCPSSM Legislative Director Dan Adcock and CEO Max Richtman with President Biden in August, 2023

For only the second time in our history, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is endorsing a candidate for President of the United States.  And for the second time, that candidate is Joe Biden.  NCPSSM broke precedent in 2020 because we believed Joe Biden would fight for America’s seniors — and protect Social Security and Medicare.  We did not trust Donald Trump to safeguard either program or to uphold other cherished American institutions. Four years later, those beliefs have been validated beyond dispute.

Our 2024 endorsement, announced today, coincides with two others (Social Security Works and National United Committee to Protect Pensions), as reported by Reuters:

“Max Richtman, president of the NCPSSM, said Biden had worked to protect seniors’ earned benefits and the group did not trust Donald Trump to safeguard Social Security and Medicare. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare… defied a 38-year tradition of avoiding endorsements to back Biden in 2020.” – Reuters, 6/12/24 

The endorsements dovetails with the launching of Seniors for Biden-Harris, a “grassroots program to energize voters 65 and up with more than a dozen events from bingo nights to pickleball tournaments to appearances by senior administration officials.”

“Seniors are such a critical part of our coalition, and it is vitally important that we engage them this election cycle because they know President Biden is the only candidate in this race fighting for lower prescription drug and health care costs and to protect and safeguard Medicare and Social Security.” – Julia Chavez Rodriguez,  Biden campaign manager

President Biden has stood strong time and again in the face of Republican proposals to slash seniors’ earned benefits — from raising the retirement age to reducing COLAs.  He consistently has promised that “if anyone tries to cut Social Security and Medicare, I will stop them.”  We saw this when, during the President’s 2023 State of the Union address, he convinced Republicans in real time to “take Social Security and Medicare off the table” in debt ceiling negotiations.

The President has also proposed commonsense solutions to Social Security and Medicare’s financing challenges. He urged Congress to strengthen Social Security by requiring wealthier Americans to begin paying their fair share into the system.  His 2025 budget proposal included a plan to improve Medicare’s finances — again demanding that higher earners make a more equitable contribution.

President Biden’s historic Inflation Reduction Act will save Medicare billions of dollars while at the same time lowering prescription drug prices for seniors. With the Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare now can negotiate the cost of life-saving drugs with Big Pharma.  We and other advocates fought for more than 20 years to make that a reality.  But it wouldn’t have happened without President Biden — not to mention the law’s $35 monthly cap on insulin prices, $2,000 out-of-pocket cap on beneficiaries’ prescription drug costs, and penalties for drugmakers who hike prices above the rate of inflation.  We also applaud the Biden administration for promulgating safe staffing standards to protect nursing home residents and workers — and for cracking down on Medicare Advantage plans that put profits ahead of patients.

As in 2020, our endorsement also is based on our grave concerns about Donald Trump. To put it simply, he cannot be trusted to protect Social Security and Medicare.  He said he’s “open” to cutting “entitlements” and then tried to take it back. He has called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” in the past. He poses as a populist but ultimately does whatever his mega-wealthy GOP donors and Wall Street bankers want.

During his single term in office, Donald Trump proposed successive budgets that would have cut Social Security and Medicare by more than a trillion dollars. He suspended the Social Security payroll tax during the pandemic, needlessly interfering with the earned right nature of the benefit that has provided workers with financial security for nearly nine decades. He even said he wanted to do away with the payroll tax altogether – Social Security’s main funding source.

As one of the nation’s leading seniors’ advocacy groups, with millions of members and supporters across the United States, we have a responsibility to put our weight behind candidates for federal office with respect for American institutions and the programs we defend.  The National Committee is engaged in robust election-year activities. Our PAC is endorsing candidates for Congress who strongly support Social Security and Medicare. Our leadership is traveling the country appearing with the candidates we endorse.  We have been promoting our election year agenda on social media.  Finally, we are launching a national voter education campaign entitled “Vote4SocialSecurity 2024,” which includes earned media, social media, digital and postcard mailings, and special episodes of our “You Earned This” podcast.

We believe that this is an existential election for Social Security and Medicare. Hard working Americans’ retirement and health security is at stake. Even though our organization has not traditionally endorsed presidential candidates, these past two cycles are obviously different. That is why we are proud to have chosen Joe Biden in 2020 — and are especially proud to endorse him once again in 2024. – Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare  


Dem/GOP Split on Social Security Apparent in Hill Hearing

By |June 10th, 2024|Congress, Debt, Democrats, Rep. John Larson, Republicans, Social Security, Social Security Administration (SSA)|

The House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing about the program’s trustees’ projection that the Social Security trust fund will become depleted in 2035, absent Congressional action. Even so, Social Security still could pay 83% of scheduled benefits at that time. No one wants Congressional inaction, but the hearing emphasized the difference in the two parties’ approaches to the problem.

The main witness, Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen Goss, tamped down alarmism about the program’s financial future:

“At the start of 2024, reserves in the combined OASI and DI trust funds totaled $2.8 trillion, nearly double the amount in annual payments. Our contingency reserve fund is strong for the moment.” – Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen Goss

Goss reminded committee members that Social Security does not add to the national debt and has no borrowing authority, despite Republican claims that the program is one of the main drivers of federal red ink. (In fact, the number one driver of the debt is tax expenditures — giveaways to the wealthy and major corporations like the Trump tax cuts that GOP members now want to extend.)

Social Security Chief Actuary Stephen C. Goss

Ranking Member Rep. John Larson (D-CT) took aim at Republican lawmakers and many of their supposedly “fiscally responsible” proposals to cut Social Security — such as raising the retirement age to 69 or 70.

“The American public knows for every year you raise the age that’s a 7% cut in benefits,” Larson said, pointing out that raising the age by three years would amount to a bigger benefit cut (21%) than allowing the trust fund to run dry.

Democratic committee members promoted revenue-side solutions to strengthen Social Security’s finances, including Rep. Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act. His legislation would require the wealthy to begin contributing their fair share by adjusting the payroll wage cap and leveraging some investment income that is not now included in FICA taxes.

“We will make the wealthiest Americans pay into Social Security at the same rate as those Bay City teachers, Saginaw firefighters, and Midland factory workers that I represent, are paying,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI).

“The answer to the long-term solvency of Social Security is not to increase the retirement age, not to cut benefits. It’s time that we advance legislation that increases Social Security benefits to reflect the true cost of living that they experience, doing so by making the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share”. – Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) 

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) pointed out that any cuts to Social Security would impact communities of color in particular. “People of color are less likely to work for employers who offer pensions and other retirement plans and are therefore more reliant on these benefits,” she said. “Proposed cuts to Social Security would be a direct attack on communities of color, specifically the Latino population, who relies almost exclusively on (these benefits) for their retirement.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) at House Social Security Subcommittee hearing

In written testimony, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare President Max Richtman insisted that benefits must be expanded, not cut, to meet the needs of future retirees. (Rep. Larson’s bill would provide an across-the-board benefit boost and targeted increases to especially vulnerable beneficiaries.)

“While Social Security has lifted generations of seniors out of poverty, benefits must be improved to protect the growing share of seniors who depend on the program for all or most of their retirement income,” said Richtman.


House GOP Appropriators Announce 10% Cut in Labor/HHS Spending

By |May 16th, 2024|Budget, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Congress, Democrats, Republicans, Social Security Administration (SSA)|

House Republicans once again are showing where their true priorities lie.  Appropriations committee chair Tom Cole (R-OK) announced the GOP’s topline numbers for fiscal year 2025 — including at least a 10% cut in funding for Labor/HHS (Health & Human Services).  That could mean agencies like the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would endure a huge spending cut, while Republican appropriators propose to boost military spending by 1%.

“As we have said many times, a budget is a moral document. But where is the morality in slashing funding for agencies that service our nation’s most vulnerable citizens — especially seniors who depend on their benefits for financial and health security?” said NCPSSM President and CEO Max Richtman.  Meanwhile, the House Republican Study Committee proposed making the Trump/GOP tax cuts permanent – a generous gift to their wealthy donors and big corporations.

The appropriations plan announced today dishonors the debt limit deal struck by White House, Senate, and House negotiators last year, in that it casts aside “side deals” that would have provided more revenue for appropriators to work with. Ranking Appropriations Committee member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) scolded Republicans for “leaving on the table at least $75 billion in investments that (American) families depend on.”

NCPSSM Senior Legislative Representative Maria Freese notes that Cole’s announcement does not specify which agencies and programs under the Labor/HHS umbrella would be cut – and by how much. But she points out, “Even though we don’t know how the individual pie slices will turn out, the overall pie is a lot smaller.”

Freese says that, in addition to SSA and CMS funding, some Older Americans Act programs could be affected by a 10% reduction in Labor/HHS appropriations, including the popular Meals on Wheels program.  For his part, the only regret that Chairman Cole voiced is that he wishes he could have come up with more funding for Defense:

“If there’s ways along the way that we can do some things to help defense, I certainly intend to do them, but I don’t know what they are yet.” – Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Chairman, House Appropriations Committee

The House Appropriations committee is scheduled to vote on the actual numbers next week.  The Senate, meanwhile, is working on its own appropriations package, which likely will look very different than the working House version. Senate Appropriations Committee Vice-Chair Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) would like to boost defense spending even more; Appropriations Committee member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) insists that defense and non-defense spending be boosted equally.

The ultimate compromise between the two chambers, when it finally comes, likely will be less drastic than the current House GOP appropriations scheme announced today.  “Hopefully, this 10% cut to Labor/HHS won’t happen, and shouldn’t happen,” said Freese. “But in this very crucial election year, it does show you what direction House Republicans want to take us.”


New Biden Administration Rules Aim to Boost Nursing Home Care & Caregivers

By |April 30th, 2024|Biden administration, caregiving, nursing homes|

The Biden administration is out with historic, new rules designed to improve elder care — and protect caregivers. The first rule, issued last week, requires all nursing homes to provide 3.5 hours of daily care per patient by certified nurses’ aides or nurses.  Up to now, there has been no minimum federal staffing requirement. Staffing levels were regulated only by the states, insufficiently in many cases.

We do think this could make a significant difference in the lives of our loved ones in nursing homes,” says Anne Montgomery, NCPSSM’s senior health care expert.  “It means that there is a uniform standard that it is meant to protect residents wherever they may be — across the country.”

U.S. nursing homes remain beset by patient care problems in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, when more than 200,000 residents and staff perished. In February, the New York Times reported that “infection control lapses, severe staffing shortages and lowering vaccination rates have continued to plague many facilities beyond the pandemic.”

Montgomery says that the administration’s new minimum staffing rule should help boost patient care and working conditions — and hopefully, morale, too — for professional caregivers in nursing homes.  She says that caregiver turnover rates in the nation’s nursing homes runs from 50-100% per year, contributing to a nationwide staff shortage.

“Constant understaffing requires nursing aides to care for as many as 20-30 residents at a time, which is not doable in any kind of quality way,” says Montgomery. She points out that the 3.5 hour per patient daily staffing requirement is below the 4.1 hours that federal studies have found to be the minimum to ensure quality care, but that the new rule is a step in the right direction and probably the best the Biden administration reasonably could do at this time.

A New Rule for Home and Community Based Caregiving

HHS released a second rule last week aimed at channeling more federal money toward professional caregiver pay.  The rule affects Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), which is paid for by Medicaid on a state-by-state basis. Under the new rule, 80% of the funding that state Medicaid programs pay HCBS providers must go directly to direct caregivers’ salaries.

Vice President Harris with caregivers in Wisconsin last week

Montgomery says that up to now too much of that funding has gone toward providers’ administrative or “overhead” expenses — or skimmed off the top by for-profit operators. “The new rule will bolster direct care workers because they are underpaid and under-appreciated. We’re glad that the federal government has taken notice — and is taking action to improve their lot.”

“It is about time that we start to recognize your value and pay you accordingly and give you the structure and support that you deserve,” Vice President Kamala Harris told a small group of care workers in Wisconsin, shortly after announcing the new rule.


Wisconsin’s MAGA Senate Candidate in Hot Water again re. Nursing Homes

By |April 24th, 2024|Election 2024, seniors|

MAGA Senate Candidate Eric Hovde (from campaign ad)

We blogged a couple of weeks ago about Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Erik Hovde’s head-scratching comments suggesting that seniors in nursing homes don’t have the mental capacity to vote.  Now, the New York Times has reported, Hovde is financially entangled with a nursing home that is being sued for mistreating patients:

The bank he leads, Utah-based Sunwest, last month was named as a co-defendant in a California lawsuit that accuses a senior living facility partly owned by the bank of elder abuse, negligence and wrongful death. – NY Times, 4/20/24

The story added a new dimension to the public’s understanding of Hovde, a Trump-endorsed MAGA candidate who is trying to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin.  (NCPSSM’s PAC endorsed Baldwin in March.) On Tuesday, NCPSSM president and CEO Max Richtman criticized Hovde as being out of touch with older voters… in a press call organized by Wisconsin’s Democratic party:

Eric Hovde is obviously very comfortable among wealthy bankers, but not so much with the people of Wisconsin — and certainly not with the state’s seniors. The contrast with Senator Baldwin could not be clearer.” – Max Richtman, NCPSSM President & CEO, 4/23/24

According to Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wilker, Hovde has managed to insult not only seniors — but several other constituencies. Wilker quotes Hovde as saying that farmers spend all their time driving around on tractors and don’t do real physical labor; that young Wisconsinites lack a work ethic and are “so stupid”; and that people struggling with obesity should pay more for their health care. Five months before the general election, Hovde is certainly off to an auspicious start!

Read on… here is our original blog post from 4/11/24::::

Seniors’ advocates and their political allies are criticizing recent comments by Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde suggesting that nursing home residents can’t – or shouldn’t – vote. Hovde, who is running to unseat incumbent Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), told Fox News’ Guy Benson:::

“We had nursing homes where you had 100 percent voting… Well, if you’re in a nursing home, you only have a five, six-month life expectancy. Almost nobody in a nursing home is in a point to vote. And you had children, adult children showing up saying, ‘Who voted for my 85 or 90-year-old father or mother?’” – GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde

These comments by the Trump-endorsed, MAGA Republican candidate drew sharp rebukes as blatantly ageist and fact-free. “Hovde said that people living in nursing homes usually die after a few months,” Senator Baldwin’s campaign responded. “Everyone deserves the freedom to vote, so they can make their voices heard in our elections. But Eric Hovde wants to take that away for seniors living in nursing homes.”

NCPSSM, which has endorsed Baldwin’ re-election bid, blasted Hovde’s comments. “Senators are supposed to represent ALL of their voters, and it is a total insult to the basic dignity of Wisconsin’s seniors to suggest that they are too old to vote,” said Luke Warren, director of the NCPSSM political action committee (PAC). “Hovde should be celebrating high voter turnout among nursing home residents, not griping about it.”

Anne Montgomery, NCPSSM’s senior health policy expert, added, “Hovde is basically suggesting that people in nursing homes are unworthy of voting, and that they are all about to die, which is not true.” Montgomery corrected several false or misleading arguments in Hovde’s comments:::

*The average life expectancy of nursing home residents is years, not months.

*There’s ZERO evidence that fraudulent ballots were cast in Wisconsin nursing homes in 2020.

*Nursing home residents, on average, are trending younger. The percentage of patients under 65 years of age in nursing homes grew from 10% in 2000 to 16% in 2017.

The Independent offered some additional fact-checking, indicating that voter participation in Wisconsin nursing homes was nowhere near “100%” in 2020, as Hovde claimed. “A review… by the Wisconsin State Journal found just one nursing home in the state had a 100% voter turnout. (It had just 12 registered voters).”  Other facilities ranged from 42-91%, the paper reported.

Hovde’s remarks are not random for a MAGA candidate; they are part of Trump’s larger (and false) narrative about the 2020 election being “rigged.” (Hovde disagrees that the election was “stolen,” but said “things happened in that election that were very troublesome.”)   Wisconsin was crucial to Joe Biden’s electoral victory in 2020, and the MAGA movement can’t abide that he won the state fairly, claiming that “thousands of crooked votes” came out of nursing homes in Wisconsin — a falsehood that has been completely discredited.

“Instead of trying to disenfranchise seniors living in nursing homes,” NCPSSM’s Anne Montgomery says, “We should be continuing to try to make it easier for nursing home residents to vote.  They are just as entitled to participate in our democratic system as everyone else.”

Montgomery points out that lawmakers over the years have tried to reduce barriers to voting access for this population, including mail balloting and accommodations for people with disabilities at polling places. Montgomery cited the Help America Vote Act of 2002 — and a series of GAO reports highlighted by then-Senator and Baldwin’s predecessor, Herb Kohl (D-WI), acknowledging efforts to facilitate voting access and calling for further improvements.

When Badger State seniors cast ballots in 2024, they will have to take stock of the two Senate candidates, MAGA Republican Eric Hovde vs. Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who NCPSSM praised as a “champion of Wisconsin seniors.” As PAC director Luke Warren says, “It takes little imagination to picture how a ‘Senator Hovde’ would treat older constituents if he were in office. He has praised plans to gut Medicare and supports cutting Social Security. These latest comments are a stark reminder of the stakes in November for Wisconsin seniors.”

Listen to our  podcast about ageism in culture and politics:  Part 1 and Part 2 with expert S. Jay Olshanksy. 

 



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