Loading...
Blog2019-11-06T16:57:30-04:00
1706, 2021

Supreme Court Ruling a Victory for Older Americans

By |June 17th, 2021|affordable care act, Congress, Max Richtman, Medicaid, Medicare|

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare applauds today’s Supreme Court ruling leaving the Affordable Care Act in place:

“Millions of older Americans can breathe a sigh of relief with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. The justices’ decision protects enhancements in health coverage for ‘near seniors’ aged 55-65 and Medicare beneficiaries, as well. The Affordable Care Act limits the premiums insurers can charge based on age, protects patients with pre-existing conditions, and improves Medicare coverage – including a broad array of preventative services with no out-of-pocket cost to seniors and phasing out the ‘donut hole’ in Part D prescription coverage. The justices rightly turned back this latest attempt by conservatives to strip tens of millions of Americans of health coverage. With the ACA safe from legal challenges for now, let’s redouble our efforts to expand affordability and access to health care for the near seniors, seniors, and all other Americans who need it.” – Max Richtman, President & CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare


1406, 2021

Prescription Drug Pricing Reform – What happens now?

By |June 14th, 2021|Congress, Democrats, Prescription Drug Prices, President Biden, Republicans, Senator Mitch McConnell|

Seniors and their advocates had high hopes for prescription drug pricing reform when President Biden took office with majorities – however slim – in both houses of Congress.  Those were heady days, following four years of obstruction on drug pricing. Democrats (and some Republicans) tried to enact commonsense reforms during the Trump administration, but were obstructed by then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.  Meanwhile, President Trump paid lip service to lowering drug prices, but didn’t lean on Republicans to act.  Today, action to reduce soaring drug costs seems stuck again, to the disappointment of most Americans – who continue pay the highest prescription prices in the world.

Advocates had hoped that drug price reform would be part of President Biden’s American Families infrastructure plan, but it was noticeably excluded. The President’s 2022 budget proposal called for lowering prescription prices – but only as a broad policy goal.  Most Republicans continue to oppose aggressive cost control measures, and some moderate Democrats appear hesitant to directly challenge Big Pharma. After pushing through legislation in 2019, House leadership has not put muscle behind enacting reforms during this Congress.

So what happens now?  There is no lack of conviction on the part of drug price reformers on Capitol Hill.  Democrats re-introduced the House-passed Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), which would – among other measures – finally allow Medicare to negotiate prices with Big Pharma (just like the VA does).  Polling indicates that this policy enjoys wide public support, even among majorities of Republican voters.

The Washington Post reports that House Democrats are making an effort to include elements of H.R. 3 in infrastructure legislation this summer:

“House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) told reporters yesterday that he’s aiming to get the measure attached to the package — a package that almost certainly represents Democrats’ best shot this year at turning their top priorities into law.” – Washington Post, 6/8/21 

Drug pricing legislation faces considerable challenges in the 50-50 Senate, where most bills need at least 60 votes to pass.  In the last Congress, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) offered a bill that did not include Medicare negotiation, but would have imposed penalties and controls to try to contain Big Pharma price hikes. That legislation was blocked by then-Majority Leader McConnell and failed to win support from most Republican senators.

Reformers now hope that an infrastructure package including drug pricing provisions might be pushed through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process (similar to the American Rescue Plan relief act earlier this year).  Interestingly enough, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who opposes eliminating the filibuster and forcing additional legislation through the Senate via reconciliation, has himself sponsored legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy at the National Committee, characterizes reconciliation as the best and only chance of enacting prescription pricing reform during this Congress.  “Amending Medicare to include prescription drug price negotiation is totally fair game,” he says.  President Biden would likely sign any prescription drug pricing legislation that manages to work its way through the House and Senate.

Of course, Medicare price negotiation may not survive the legislative process this time around, but other measures similar to the Wyden-Grassley bill (such as tying drug price increases to inflation or to what other countries pay) might make it through.  “We would like to get something as comprehensive as H.R. 3,” says Adcock. “But politics is the art of the possible, and it may be possible to get something less than that which still could help limit price gouging.”


106, 2021

Biden Budget Bolsters Seniors

By |June 1st, 2021|Budget, Congress, Medicaid, Medicare, Prescription Drug Prices, President Biden|

photo by Greg Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

President Biden’s $6 trillion budget proposal for 2022 demonstrates a bold commitment to America’s seniors – from improved customer service for Social Security beneficiaries to prescription drug pricing reform to expanded Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS).  This White House spending plan is a welcome change after four years of Trump budgets that sought to slash Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security by hundreds of billions of dollars.

“President Biden’s 2020 budget bolsters America’s seniors in major ways. With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day – and the number of seniors projected to double by 2050 – it’s clear that the President understands the need to safeguard the older Americans he calls ‘pillars of every community,’ now and into the future.” – Max Richtman, NCPSSM President and CEO, 6/1/21

The President proposes a $1.3 billion (or 9.7%) funding increase for the Social Security Administration, which saw deep budget cuts over the past decade – and struggled to provide adequate customer service before and during the pandemic. Beneficiaries have endured shuttered field offices, countless hours on hold for assistance on SSA’s toll-free number, and painfully long delays awaiting Social Security Disability Insurance hearings.  Some of these issues have slightly improved, but the new infusion of funds that President Biden requests could significantly boost customer service.

The President’s budget proposal also urges Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate prices for certain high-cost, life-saving drugs that many seniors currently cannot afford.  The President also calls for requiring manufacturers to pay rebates when drug prices rise faster than inflation. In the continued absence of action to regulate costs, Big Pharma hiked the prices of more than 800 drugs this year by an average of 4.6%. Meanwhile, 36% of Americans in a 2021 survey said they are forgoing their prescription medications in order to pay for other living essentials.

President Biden’s prescription drug reform proposals could not only save seniors from soaring drug prices, the savings from these reforms could be used to add much-needed dental, vision, and hearing coverage to Medicare.  Today, traditional Medicare does not cover even routine care like dental checkups or hearing aids.

The White House budget also includes more than $400 billion in new spending over ten years to expand HCBS for seniors who prefer to receive skilled care in the comfort of their homes and communities, even more so after the devastation COVID wrought on nursing homes.

The release of the President’s budget allows Congress to begin negotiating funding levels and spending bills.  President Biden proposes to pay for his ambitious agenda by increasing taxes on corporations and high earners, who received a windfall from the Trump/GOP tax cuts of 2017.


2705, 2021

President Biden’s New Medicare and Medicaid Chief can be a Champion for Older Women

By |May 27th, 2021|EH Reading Room, Eleanors Hope, President Biden, women|

It’s a historic week for Medicare and Medicaid – and for American women.  On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  She becomes the first Black woman to head the agency that administers health care for more than 100 million Americans, including and especially seniors.

This is a milestone for women striving for greater retirement security, because retirement security depends on access to affordable, quality health care.  Brooks-LaSure, who served as a health care policy official under President Obama, will bring a lifetime of experience and perspective to her role.  Who better to lead CMS at a time when all women, but especially women of color, lag behind men in retirement security? (Visit Eleanor’s Hope for more information on gender equity issues affecting working and retired women.)

Brooks-LaSure represents a welcome change of direction for CMS.  She replaces President Trump’s CMS chief, Seema Verma, who left the job when Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20th. Verma – a corporatist conservative idealogue – spent four years undermining traditional Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.  She was anything but an ally for older women.

By comparison, Brooks-LaSure was “championed by allies on Capitol Hill, including the Congressional Black Caucus,” according to the Washington Post.  She no doubt will be a powerful advocate for President Biden’s legislative efforts to boost health care access – especially for older Americans.  President Biden campaigned on a platform of expanding not only Medicaid, but Medicare – a key goal for the National Committee and our members and supporters across the country.

These programs are crucial to the retirement security of millions of women. Nearly 60 percent of low-income seniors who receive Medicaid benefits are women.  Older women depend on Medicaid more than older men because they have a longer life expectancy, less income, higher poverty rates and multiple chronic conditions that require long-term services.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed states to greatly expand Medicaid coverage, which also benefitted women with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty line. In expanding Medicaid, the ACA extended a health care lifeline to women of color, single mothers, and women without a high school degree who may not have previously qualified for benefits.

Medicare is another crucial program that can benefit from LaSure’s leadership. The Kaiser Family Foundation calls it “a critical source of health insurance coverage for virtually all older women in the U.S.”

“Medicare helps to make health care more affordable for older women at a time in their lives when they are most likely to have multiple health problems that require ongoing and often costly medical treatment.  Today, one in five adult women relies on Medicare for basic health insurance protection. In fact, women comprise 57% of the Medicare population.” –  Kaiser Family Foundation

President Biden’s new Medicare and Medicaid administrator no doubt will work to strengthen the two programs – along with the Affordable Care Act – after four years of Trump administration attempts to weaken them. President Trump proposed cutting Medicare and Medicaid by over $1 trillion dollars in successive White House budget blueprints. His administration, under CMS chief Verma, encouraged states to impose work requirements on low-income Medicaid beneficiaries – and promoted private Medicare Advantage plans over traditional Medicare.

Brooks-LaSure no doubt will be a key player in the administration’s efforts to strengthen and expand Medicare and Medicaid.  There is much work to be done, including adding hearing, vision, and dental benefits to traditional Medicare, and lowering prescription drug prices that sometimes force seniors to choose between paying the rent or paying for medicine. The appointment of Brooks-LaSure does not ensure instant progress – but it’s a meaningful start.  After four years of enduring an antagonist in the CMS director’s chair, older women will finally have a champion.

 

 


2405, 2021

Congress Must Not Forget Social Security

By |May 24th, 2021|Congress, Max Richtman, Payroll Tax Cap, Rep. John Larson, Social Security|

As Congress heads home for a three-week recess, the National Committee wants Senate and House members to remember that Social Security must be put on a sound financial footing for the future – without benefit cuts. In a wide-ranging interview with radio host T.J. Trout on KKOB, Albuquerque, our president and CEO, Max Richtman, laid out the case for preserving the program that keeps retirees, workers with disabilities, and their families out of poverty.  Here are highlights from that interview: 

The Future of the Social Security Trust Fund

Right now, if Congress takes no action, the Social Security Trust Fund will run out of money in 2035, which is not that far away. That does not mean that Social Security is ‘bankrupt’ if Congress does nothing, but benefits will be reduced by about 20%. We can’t let that happen.

There are proposals in Congress that we endorse and support (most prominently, Rep. John Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act) that would extend solvency many decades beyond 2035. In order to do that, the Social Security payroll wage cap will have to be adjusted.

The current cap is $142,800 annual wages. After that, there’s no payroll tax for high earners. Why? We have endorsed adjusting the cap so that annual wages exceeding $400,000 also are subject to the payroll tax.  This would be consistent with President’s Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000 per year.

It’s Been Nearly Thirty Years Since Social Security was Overhauled

The last time Congress dealt with Social Security was in 1983. At that time, we were not looking at an insolvency timeline of 14 years.  We were looking at six months.  Congress enacted changes spread out over a long period of time, which put the program on solid financial ground for several decades.  This time, we shouldn’t wait until we have six months left and the situation is drastic. We need to take action much sooner.

Public Opposes Benefit Cuts

Hopefully, there will be an effort in Congress to have some bipartisan support for proposals to bring more revenue into Social Security, instead of reducing benefits. Public opinion surveys indicate that large majorities of Americans oppose benefit cuts. Hopefully, during this recess, members of Congress will hear from their constituents directly.

There’s no immediate crisis.  There’s no looming bankruptcy. But 10,000 people are turning 65 every day. We project that the number of seniors will grow by more than 40 million in next ten years. And the population of people 85 and older will triple by 2050.  These seniors will depend on Social Security even more than today’s do.  Constituents should go to town hall meetings, and demand that their Senators and Representatives take this issue seriously.

Raising the Retirement Age is a Benefit Cut

We adamantly oppose raising the Social Security eligibility age. A later eligibility age means a reduction in lifetime benefits. We have already raised the age from 65 to 67 in the amendments that passed in 1983.  We don’t need to cut benefits by raising the age again. I often hear, “But people are living longer!”  That doesn’t mean they can work longer. That doesn’t mean there are jobs for them. It’s a benefit cut.

Social Security is There for Younger Adults, Too 

I’d like to send a message to the younger people in your audience. Naturally, younger people care about their aging parents and grandparents having financial security. But what is often overlooked is that one-third of Social Security benefits go to non-retired individuals – including spouses, survivors, workers with disabilities, and some four million children.

In fact, if you are a 27 year-old worker with a spouse and two children, you have about $500,000-worth of life and disability insurance through Social Security.  That’s why the payroll deduction on your paycheck is labeled “FICA.” It stands for Federal Insurance Contribution Act.  Social Security is an insurance program for workers of all ages. It’s not just seniors who have a stake in this. It’s everybody.

What about Privatizing Social Security?

We’re opposed to privatization. The last major attempt to privatize Social Security was promulgated by President George W. Bush. The day after Bush was re-elected in 2004, he said, “I have earned political capital and I’m going to spend it on privatizing Social Security.” We practically fell out of our chairs. He embarked on a tour of the country. We followed him the best we could, spreading the message that privatization was a terrible idea. We succeeded in killing that proposal. If he had succeeded, then in 2008 when the markets crashed, any privatized Social Security accounts would have been decimated, just like 401ks.  We don’t want that to happen to a stable program that has kept more Americans out of poverty than all federal programs combined.

Click here to listen to Max Richtman’s entire interview on KKOB radio.


Supreme Court Ruling a Victory for Older Americans

By |June 17th, 2021|affordable care act, Congress, Max Richtman, Medicaid, Medicare|

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare applauds today’s Supreme Court ruling leaving the Affordable Care Act in place:

“Millions of older Americans can breathe a sigh of relief with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. The justices’ decision protects enhancements in health coverage for ‘near seniors’ aged 55-65 and Medicare beneficiaries, as well. The Affordable Care Act limits the premiums insurers can charge based on age, protects patients with pre-existing conditions, and improves Medicare coverage – including a broad array of preventative services with no out-of-pocket cost to seniors and phasing out the ‘donut hole’ in Part D prescription coverage. The justices rightly turned back this latest attempt by conservatives to strip tens of millions of Americans of health coverage. With the ACA safe from legal challenges for now, let’s redouble our efforts to expand affordability and access to health care for the near seniors, seniors, and all other Americans who need it.” – Max Richtman, President & CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare


Prescription Drug Pricing Reform – What happens now?

By |June 14th, 2021|Congress, Democrats, Prescription Drug Prices, President Biden, Republicans, Senator Mitch McConnell|

Seniors and their advocates had high hopes for prescription drug pricing reform when President Biden took office with majorities – however slim – in both houses of Congress.  Those were heady days, following four years of obstruction on drug pricing. Democrats (and some Republicans) tried to enact commonsense reforms during the Trump administration, but were obstructed by then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.  Meanwhile, President Trump paid lip service to lowering drug prices, but didn’t lean on Republicans to act.  Today, action to reduce soaring drug costs seems stuck again, to the disappointment of most Americans – who continue pay the highest prescription prices in the world.

Advocates had hoped that drug price reform would be part of President Biden’s American Families infrastructure plan, but it was noticeably excluded. The President’s 2022 budget proposal called for lowering prescription prices – but only as a broad policy goal.  Most Republicans continue to oppose aggressive cost control measures, and some moderate Democrats appear hesitant to directly challenge Big Pharma. After pushing through legislation in 2019, House leadership has not put muscle behind enacting reforms during this Congress.

So what happens now?  There is no lack of conviction on the part of drug price reformers on Capitol Hill.  Democrats re-introduced the House-passed Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), which would – among other measures – finally allow Medicare to negotiate prices with Big Pharma (just like the VA does).  Polling indicates that this policy enjoys wide public support, even among majorities of Republican voters.

The Washington Post reports that House Democrats are making an effort to include elements of H.R. 3 in infrastructure legislation this summer:

“House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) told reporters yesterday that he’s aiming to get the measure attached to the package — a package that almost certainly represents Democrats’ best shot this year at turning their top priorities into law.” – Washington Post, 6/8/21 

Drug pricing legislation faces considerable challenges in the 50-50 Senate, where most bills need at least 60 votes to pass.  In the last Congress, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) offered a bill that did not include Medicare negotiation, but would have imposed penalties and controls to try to contain Big Pharma price hikes. That legislation was blocked by then-Majority Leader McConnell and failed to win support from most Republican senators.

Reformers now hope that an infrastructure package including drug pricing provisions might be pushed through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process (similar to the American Rescue Plan relief act earlier this year).  Interestingly enough, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who opposes eliminating the filibuster and forcing additional legislation through the Senate via reconciliation, has himself sponsored legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Dan Adcock, Director of Government Relations and Policy at the National Committee, characterizes reconciliation as the best and only chance of enacting prescription pricing reform during this Congress.  “Amending Medicare to include prescription drug price negotiation is totally fair game,” he says.  President Biden would likely sign any prescription drug pricing legislation that manages to work its way through the House and Senate.

Of course, Medicare price negotiation may not survive the legislative process this time around, but other measures similar to the Wyden-Grassley bill (such as tying drug price increases to inflation or to what other countries pay) might make it through.  “We would like to get something as comprehensive as H.R. 3,” says Adcock. “But politics is the art of the possible, and it may be possible to get something less than that which still could help limit price gouging.”


Biden Budget Bolsters Seniors

By |June 1st, 2021|Budget, Congress, Medicaid, Medicare, Prescription Drug Prices, President Biden|

photo by Greg Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

President Biden’s $6 trillion budget proposal for 2022 demonstrates a bold commitment to America’s seniors – from improved customer service for Social Security beneficiaries to prescription drug pricing reform to expanded Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS).  This White House spending plan is a welcome change after four years of Trump budgets that sought to slash Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security by hundreds of billions of dollars.

“President Biden’s 2020 budget bolsters America’s seniors in major ways. With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day – and the number of seniors projected to double by 2050 – it’s clear that the President understands the need to safeguard the older Americans he calls ‘pillars of every community,’ now and into the future.” – Max Richtman, NCPSSM President and CEO, 6/1/21

The President proposes a $1.3 billion (or 9.7%) funding increase for the Social Security Administration, which saw deep budget cuts over the past decade – and struggled to provide adequate customer service before and during the pandemic. Beneficiaries have endured shuttered field offices, countless hours on hold for assistance on SSA’s toll-free number, and painfully long delays awaiting Social Security Disability Insurance hearings.  Some of these issues have slightly improved, but the new infusion of funds that President Biden requests could significantly boost customer service.

The President’s budget proposal also urges Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate prices for certain high-cost, life-saving drugs that many seniors currently cannot afford.  The President also calls for requiring manufacturers to pay rebates when drug prices rise faster than inflation. In the continued absence of action to regulate costs, Big Pharma hiked the prices of more than 800 drugs this year by an average of 4.6%. Meanwhile, 36% of Americans in a 2021 survey said they are forgoing their prescription medications in order to pay for other living essentials.

President Biden’s prescription drug reform proposals could not only save seniors from soaring drug prices, the savings from these reforms could be used to add much-needed dental, vision, and hearing coverage to Medicare.  Today, traditional Medicare does not cover even routine care like dental checkups or hearing aids.

The White House budget also includes more than $400 billion in new spending over ten years to expand HCBS for seniors who prefer to receive skilled care in the comfort of their homes and communities, even more so after the devastation COVID wrought on nursing homes.

The release of the President’s budget allows Congress to begin negotiating funding levels and spending bills.  President Biden proposes to pay for his ambitious agenda by increasing taxes on corporations and high earners, who received a windfall from the Trump/GOP tax cuts of 2017.


President Biden’s New Medicare and Medicaid Chief can be a Champion for Older Women

By |May 27th, 2021|EH Reading Room, Eleanors Hope, President Biden, women|

It’s a historic week for Medicare and Medicaid – and for American women.  On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Chiquita Brooks-LaSure as the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  She becomes the first Black woman to head the agency that administers health care for more than 100 million Americans, including and especially seniors.

This is a milestone for women striving for greater retirement security, because retirement security depends on access to affordable, quality health care.  Brooks-LaSure, who served as a health care policy official under President Obama, will bring a lifetime of experience and perspective to her role.  Who better to lead CMS at a time when all women, but especially women of color, lag behind men in retirement security? (Visit Eleanor’s Hope for more information on gender equity issues affecting working and retired women.)

Brooks-LaSure represents a welcome change of direction for CMS.  She replaces President Trump’s CMS chief, Seema Verma, who left the job when Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20th. Verma – a corporatist conservative idealogue – spent four years undermining traditional Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.  She was anything but an ally for older women.

By comparison, Brooks-LaSure was “championed by allies on Capitol Hill, including the Congressional Black Caucus,” according to the Washington Post.  She no doubt will be a powerful advocate for President Biden’s legislative efforts to boost health care access – especially for older Americans.  President Biden campaigned on a platform of expanding not only Medicaid, but Medicare – a key goal for the National Committee and our members and supporters across the country.

These programs are crucial to the retirement security of millions of women. Nearly 60 percent of low-income seniors who receive Medicaid benefits are women.  Older women depend on Medicaid more than older men because they have a longer life expectancy, less income, higher poverty rates and multiple chronic conditions that require long-term services.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed states to greatly expand Medicaid coverage, which also benefitted women with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty line. In expanding Medicaid, the ACA extended a health care lifeline to women of color, single mothers, and women without a high school degree who may not have previously qualified for benefits.

Medicare is another crucial program that can benefit from LaSure’s leadership. The Kaiser Family Foundation calls it “a critical source of health insurance coverage for virtually all older women in the U.S.”

“Medicare helps to make health care more affordable for older women at a time in their lives when they are most likely to have multiple health problems that require ongoing and often costly medical treatment.  Today, one in five adult women relies on Medicare for basic health insurance protection. In fact, women comprise 57% of the Medicare population.” –  Kaiser Family Foundation

President Biden’s new Medicare and Medicaid administrator no doubt will work to strengthen the two programs – along with the Affordable Care Act – after four years of Trump administration attempts to weaken them. President Trump proposed cutting Medicare and Medicaid by over $1 trillion dollars in successive White House budget blueprints. His administration, under CMS chief Verma, encouraged states to impose work requirements on low-income Medicaid beneficiaries – and promoted private Medicare Advantage plans over traditional Medicare.

Brooks-LaSure no doubt will be a key player in the administration’s efforts to strengthen and expand Medicare and Medicaid.  There is much work to be done, including adding hearing, vision, and dental benefits to traditional Medicare, and lowering prescription drug prices that sometimes force seniors to choose between paying the rent or paying for medicine. The appointment of Brooks-LaSure does not ensure instant progress – but it’s a meaningful start.  After four years of enduring an antagonist in the CMS director’s chair, older women will finally have a champion.

 

 


Congress Must Not Forget Social Security

By |May 24th, 2021|Congress, Max Richtman, Payroll Tax Cap, Rep. John Larson, Social Security|

As Congress heads home for a three-week recess, the National Committee wants Senate and House members to remember that Social Security must be put on a sound financial footing for the future – without benefit cuts. In a wide-ranging interview with radio host T.J. Trout on KKOB, Albuquerque, our president and CEO, Max Richtman, laid out the case for preserving the program that keeps retirees, workers with disabilities, and their families out of poverty.  Here are highlights from that interview: 

The Future of the Social Security Trust Fund

Right now, if Congress takes no action, the Social Security Trust Fund will run out of money in 2035, which is not that far away. That does not mean that Social Security is ‘bankrupt’ if Congress does nothing, but benefits will be reduced by about 20%. We can’t let that happen.

There are proposals in Congress that we endorse and support (most prominently, Rep. John Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act) that would extend solvency many decades beyond 2035. In order to do that, the Social Security payroll wage cap will have to be adjusted.

The current cap is $142,800 annual wages. After that, there’s no payroll tax for high earners. Why? We have endorsed adjusting the cap so that annual wages exceeding $400,000 also are subject to the payroll tax.  This would be consistent with President’s Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000 per year.

It’s Been Nearly Thirty Years Since Social Security was Overhauled

The last time Congress dealt with Social Security was in 1983. At that time, we were not looking at an insolvency timeline of 14 years.  We were looking at six months.  Congress enacted changes spread out over a long period of time, which put the program on solid financial ground for several decades.  This time, we shouldn’t wait until we have six months left and the situation is drastic. We need to take action much sooner.

Public Opposes Benefit Cuts

Hopefully, there will be an effort in Congress to have some bipartisan support for proposals to bring more revenue into Social Security, instead of reducing benefits. Public opinion surveys indicate that large majorities of Americans oppose benefit cuts. Hopefully, during this recess, members of Congress will hear from their constituents directly.

There’s no immediate crisis.  There’s no looming bankruptcy. But 10,000 people are turning 65 every day. We project that the number of seniors will grow by more than 40 million in next ten years. And the population of people 85 and older will triple by 2050.  These seniors will depend on Social Security even more than today’s do.  Constituents should go to town hall meetings, and demand that their Senators and Representatives take this issue seriously.

Raising the Retirement Age is a Benefit Cut

We adamantly oppose raising the Social Security eligibility age. A later eligibility age means a reduction in lifetime benefits. We have already raised the age from 65 to 67 in the amendments that passed in 1983.  We don’t need to cut benefits by raising the age again. I often hear, “But people are living longer!”  That doesn’t mean they can work longer. That doesn’t mean there are jobs for them. It’s a benefit cut.

Social Security is There for Younger Adults, Too 

I’d like to send a message to the younger people in your audience. Naturally, younger people care about their aging parents and grandparents having financial security. But what is often overlooked is that one-third of Social Security benefits go to non-retired individuals – including spouses, survivors, workers with disabilities, and some four million children.

In fact, if you are a 27 year-old worker with a spouse and two children, you have about $500,000-worth of life and disability insurance through Social Security.  That’s why the payroll deduction on your paycheck is labeled “FICA.” It stands for Federal Insurance Contribution Act.  Social Security is an insurance program for workers of all ages. It’s not just seniors who have a stake in this. It’s everybody.

What about Privatizing Social Security?

We’re opposed to privatization. The last major attempt to privatize Social Security was promulgated by President George W. Bush. The day after Bush was re-elected in 2004, he said, “I have earned political capital and I’m going to spend it on privatizing Social Security.” We practically fell out of our chairs. He embarked on a tour of the country. We followed him the best we could, spreading the message that privatization was a terrible idea. We succeeded in killing that proposal. If he had succeeded, then in 2008 when the markets crashed, any privatized Social Security accounts would have been decimated, just like 401ks.  We don’t want that to happen to a stable program that has kept more Americans out of poverty than all federal programs combined.

Click here to listen to Max Richtman’s entire interview on KKOB radio.



Go to Top