Special to the Iguana, by Mary Savage
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the Republican Congress want to phase out Medicare as well as repeal the Affordable Care Act. They want to replace Medicare with vouchers ($5,000 for seniors) to buy private insurance from for-profit companies.
Ryan claims Medicare is going broke and that “privatization” is the answer. But the respected Kaiser Foundation deemed that by 2022, the so-called Ryan Plan would mean half of a 65-year-old’s Social Security check would be gone when compared to traditional Medicare’s cost today.
This is bad for seniors.
Adding to this disaster is the incoming regime that nominated Nick Mulvaney as White House budget director.
“Medicare as it exists today is finished” Mulvaney said, and he called Social Security “a Ponzi scheme,” according to the organization Social Security Works.
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), who has been nominated to lead the Health and Human Services administration, stated publicly he wants to privatize Medicare and destroy the Affordable Care Act.
Just before Congress left for the holidays, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) introduced the “Social Security Reform Act” that calls for raising the retirement age to 69, cutting the cost-of-living adjustment and eliminating taxation of benefits on high-income earners.
Awful. Mulvaney’s statement is not true. Price’s and Johnson’s plans will hurt us, and we citizens need to speak up.
Social Security is insurance that provides a modest income for senior citizens and the disabled. It is insurance financed through the payroll deduction tax from individuals’ paychecks. Employers also contribute to it.
Medicare is a healthcare insurance program for senior citizens and eligible disabled persons overseen by the federal government. Workers pay into Medicare through the payroll tax. These programs are not troublesome and should be kept intact.
Medicare has been available since 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law. Medicare helps citizens pay medical bills when they reach retirement age.
Social Security, a highly successful program, was enacted in 1935, when Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. It gives senior citizens a modest retirement income to depend on, and the disabled a safety net.
Prior to enactment of Medicare – and also Medicaid, which assists the poor and seniors – hospitals were segregated by race. Medicare’s law forced hospitals to desegregate by withholding federal funding from those that discriminated against African Americans, according to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
Medicare, as implemented through the federal government, has kept seniors and their families free from financial devastation since medical costs generally increase as individuals age. Medicare has a low overhead (1-2 percent) when compared to private, for-profit insurance companies (20-30 percent).
So what would happen if Medicare is eliminated and a senior citizen couldn’t pay the hospital bill for hip surgery? Most likely, the individual’s children would have to pay. Should that burden be placed on them?
What if the bill were $200,000 with an 80/20 plan from your “private” insurance company? That means $40,000 would be billed to you and your family. What if you borrowed the money from a bank and couldn’t pay it back? Do you think the bank would forgive the loan?
Of course not, but they would gladly send a tow truck to repossess the boat or car that was used as collateral for the loan.
The county sheriff might be at the family’s front door with an eviction notice when the payments on the second home mortgage (used to pay the medical bills) goes unpaid.
We need Medicare now more than ever. We need Social Security now more than ever.
NOT SITTING BACK
Are you are thinking: “Republicans are in the White House, republicans are the majority in Congress, what can I do?”
When you do your taxes this year, take note of boxes 4 and 6 on your W-2 form. This is money YOU paid into Social Security and Medicare. People have been paying into these programs all their working lives.
These are our earned benefits: money intended to assist us and our fellow workers with a modest pension and an income if there’s a disability, and to pay medical bills when old-age arrives.
Social Security and Medicare have been and remain pillars in our country’s economic stability. Social Security and Medicare help keep seniors out of poverty and contribute to the success of the local economy. Social Security and Medicare help preserve our nation’s middle class.
Let’s have house parties and invite our elected officials in Congress to visit the communities they represent. Encourage them to meet with us in our living rooms, backyards and community centers. We need to present our demands that Medicare and Social Security be preserved and even expanded. Let’s make sure Social Security and Medicare remain the “third rail” of American politics.
One solution to strengthening Social Security’s future involves removing the cap on the payroll tax limit that for 2016 was $118,500. Another proposal is to allow for a Caregiver Credit for years a citizen spends out of the workforce caring for an ailing family member.
We must demand Medicare be preserved and even expanded to include hearing, vision and dental coverage for seniors, and eventually for everyone.
As for raising the retirement age, any waitress or construction worker can tell you the problems that would cause.
TAKE ACTION TODAY
We must call our senators at 202-224-3121 and demand they vote NO on confirming Mulvaney as budget director and Price as head of HHS. We must meet with our senators and representative at their home offices when they are back in our districts.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has a toll-free hotline for the latest news about these issues. To connect with your senators and congressional representative, call 1-800-998-0180. Follow the prompts to leave a message: “No cuts to Social Security and Medicare!” Be sure to state that you are a registered voter and include your zip code.
We need to keep our elected officials accountable to us with our letters, emails and phone calls to demonstrate our support and strength. We must thank them for their courage when they defend Social Security and Medicare.
We are not alone. There is a vast pool of citizens here and we’re fighting for our lives. There also are powerful politicians with clout in Congress who have vowed to fight for Medicare.
Many of our elected officials realize that old age knows no political party. Democrats have made it clear they will fight to preserve Social Security and Medicare as it is now. And a few Republicans are also concerned.
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she had reservations about privatizing Medicare because of the low quality of care this would mean to many seniors, according to the December Portland Press Herald.
Powerful Democrats delivered one million petition signatures to Congress demanding “Hands Off Medicare” at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 7. Democratic Party leaders spoke of the importance of saving Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
“We know that Medicare is a foundation of a secure retirement for hardworking Americans. That’s because it provides real and comprehensive coverage. And we’re not going to let Republicans turn it into a voucher. We’re not going to let them pull off this bait-and-switch on the American people. We will make it crystal clear: keep your hands off our Medicare … Americans don’t want to leave seniors hanging out to dry when they get sick,” said Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL).
Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) was a champion speaker, as usual. “We’re going to tell the Republican leadership in the House and we’re going to tell the Republican leadership in the Senate: forget about all your plans to voucherize Medicare, to raise the retirement age for Social Security, to slash Medicaid. It ain’t gonna’ happen.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) spoke on behalf of House Democrats who clearly see the Republican move to turn “Medicare into a nightmare for the American people.” She added “destroying Medicare and making people pay more is not what people voted for in the November election. Democrats will protect Medicare with all of our strength, just as we did in 2005 and 2006 when President Bush wanted to privatize Social Security.”
The hour-long press conference can be viewed on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dylWTdxIorA/
The fight is on to win the war on Social Security and Medicare. Please join us on the front lines beginning with a phone call or letter, or join an organization working on these important issues. The time to do this is now.
Social Security Works:
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare: www.ncpssm.org/
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