There’s encouraging news for seniors in President Biden’s FY2023 budget, even though it does not contain everything that advocates for older Americans had hoped. The budget, which now will be submitted to Congress, includes crucial funding for services that seniors rely upon – from the operation of the Social Security Administration (SSA) to nutrition programs under the Older Americans Act.
“Like President Biden’s previous budget, this one presents a stark contrast with the spending priorities of the Trump administration, which demonstrated indifference, if not antipathy, to seniors’ needs. A budget is a moral document, and this one has at its moral core the protection of our nation’s most vulnerable groups at a perilous time in history.” – Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
The budget document addresses a major issue for seniors: the soaring price of prescription drugs. It says that the President “supports legislation that cuts costs for prescription drugs.” The budget includes a “reserve fund to account for future legislation, preserving the revenue from proposed tax and prescription drug reforms for the investments needed to bring down costs for American families.” The National Committee hopes that any meaningful prescription drug reform includes allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with Big Pharma.
There is good news for Social Security beneficiaries in the White House budget. The FY2023 spending proposal includes $14.8 billion (an increase of 14% above the 2021 enacted level) for SSA operations, which have been strained by the pandemic and more than a decade of GOP-forced spending cuts. Any increase in SSA funding is likely to help relieve customer service bottlenecks – including long wait times on hold when calling the 800 number and interminable waiting periods for disability hearings. A more robust operating budget should also help ease the reopening of SSA field offices shuttered during the pandemic.
Older Americans Act (OAA) nutrition programs fare well under the President’s budget, which proposes an increase of $306 million over FY2022 levels. (President Trump’s budgets consistently called for zeroing-out federal grants that support some critical OAA programs.)
The COVID pandemic has highlighted the importance of allowing people to stay in their own homes instead of a nursing home, where they are much safer from infections and where most people prefer to be. The National Committee supports the Biden budget’s investment in Home and Community-based Supportive Services (HCBS). The budget includes $500 million in funding to bolster HCBS under the Older Americans Act, an increase of $135 million. In addition, the budget provides $266 million (an increase of $61 million above FY 2022 enacted) for the Family Caregivers and Native American Caregiver Support programs.
The President’s budget would establish a 20 percent minimum tax rate on all American households worth more than $100 million, the first tax plan from Biden to target billionaires. The budget, however, did not address a similar proposal pending in the U.S. House that asks the wealthy to pay their fair share in Social Security payroll taxes. In fact, the budget did not address the overall issue of benefit adequacy or trust fund solvency for either Social Security or Medicare – two issues that are very important to American seniors.
“While we appreciate many aspects of the President’s FY2023 budget proposal, we had hoped that it would reflect efforts by Democrats in Congress to boost Social Security, including a much-needed increase in benefits and an adjustment of the payroll wage cap so that the wealthy pay their fair share into the system.” – Max Richtman
Overall, the National Committee applauds the Administration’s budget proposal and urges Congress to give it careful consideration in formulating its own appropriations legislation for FY 2023.