In Thursday night’s State of the Union address, President Biden put himself unequivocally on the side of American seniors and the programs they rely on. He redoubled his commitment to protecting Social Security after confronting congressional Republicans in last year’s speech.  The president went beyond taking seniors’ earned benefits “off the table” for cuts as he did last year — by declaring, “I will protect and strengthen Social Security and make the wealthy pay their fair share.”

Referring to the payroll wage cap – currently set at $168,600 – the President said that “working people who built this country pay more into Social Security than millionaires and billionaires do. It’s not fair.”  We applaud his call for Congress to “stand up for seniors” — and defend Social Security against proposed GOP cuts, warning “If anyone tries to cut Social Security or raise the retirement age. I will stop you!”

The House Republican Study Committee called for raising the Social Security retirement age in its 2024 budget blueprint.  Former presidential candidate Nikki Haley campaigned on raising the age, even though it would represent a massive benefit cut — if not for today’s seniors, then for future generations.

The President also affirmed his leadership role in lowering prescription drug prices, another issue of supreme importance to American seniors.  Millions of seniors have been forced by Big Pharma price gouging to ration crucial medications — or to choose between filling prescriptions and paying for other essentials.

The President wants to supercharge Medicare’s new power to negotiate drug prices (via the Inflation Reduction Act) by increasing the number of medications subject to negotiations — from 10 this first year to 50 per year — or 500 medications over a decade.  (The current law allows for 20 drugs to be negotiated next year).   The President said that it’s vital that Medicare be able to negotiate prices for “the major drugs that seniors rely on, like those used for treating heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.”

“This State of the Union speech reminds us that the two parties’ positions on the federal government’s role in seniors’ financial and health security could not be more different. The President reinforced tonight that while the other side does the bidding of Big Pharma and their wealthy donors, he will continue to fight for seniors and their families.” – Max Richtman, President & CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

The President echoed the administration’s proposed new rule that would establish minimum levels for staffing of nursing homes to “make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve and that they expect.” We strongly support the rule and object to Republican attempts to block it. The President also called for extending the Inflation Reduction Act’s $2,000 out of pocket cap on Medicare drug costs to all  Americans covered by private insurance.

Tonight’s speech reinforced the stark contrast between the President’s approach to seniors’ programs and the Republican approach — which emphasizes benefit cuts and privatization. The House Republican Study Committee recommended raising the retirement age, means testing, and a more miserly COLA formula for Social Security.  House Republicans have been pushing the creation of a fiscal commission that could fast-track cuts to seniors’ earned benefits. Meanwhile, not a single Republican member of Congress supported the President’s Inflation Reduction Act, which is already providing seniors with relief from soaring drug costs — and having a positive effect on the consumer market as a whole.

Seniors’ advocates joined NCPSSM in applauding the President’s speech. Yael Lehmann, interim executive director of Families USA, praised Biden’s “stalwart defense of programs like… Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.”  Rich Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, gave kudos to the President for stating “his firm opposition to any legislation that will cut the benefits Americans earn over a lifetime of work, including a so-called ‘fiscal commission’ to meet behind closed doors and do Congress’ dirty work.”  Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works, concluded that “Biden and Democrats are fighting to protect and expand Social Security and Medicare, while Donald Trump and Republicans are scheming to gut them behind closed doors.”