Imposing benefit cuts is not acceptable

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 11 2012 | 12:01 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 3:12 am in
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By Jan Laue

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The fiscal deadlines looming late this month are evoking proposals that would jeopardize the security and well-being our family members get through Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in the name of preserving tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent.

These proposals threaten seniors’ ability to stay healthy and make ends meet. Those who would suffer would not only be retirees. They would be workers. The youngest and oldest members of our society. The sick and the poor.

Social Security does not add one dime to the federal deficit, but is being scapegoated by some members of Congress and their corporate backers to soften the push for tax increases. Raising the retirement age would be especially difficult for workers in physically demanding blue-collar and service-sector jobs. Raising the retirement age based on the notion that Americans are living longer is also unfair, since not all Americans are living longer (statistically, it is the wealthier and whiter Americans). Changing the current formula used to calculate Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) — already a poor reflection of the inflationary pressures facing seniors — to a “chained CPI” would cause benefits to fall further behind the true cost of living and would be devastating for millions of seniors who are already struggling to get by.

We cannot allow tax breaks for the wealthiest among us to roll back our most basic promises, including Medicare, in which recent improvements help seniors better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription. The Affordable Care Act is already lowering the cost of prescription drugs, closing the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole,” and providing free, lifesaving tests and screenings. Raising the Medicare eligibility age would deny many seniors these benefits and would raise their out-of-pocket costs.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, raising Medicare’s eligibility age to 67 in 2014 would increase by $3.7 billion the out-of-pocket costs for 65- and 66-year-olds, and add $4.5 billion in employer retiree health-care costs. In addition, the change would raise premiums by about 3 percent both for those who remain on Medicare and for those who obtain coverage through health reform’s new insurance exchanges.

Medicaid is the only way most seniors (70 percent) can afford nursing home care, but many in Washington and in state capitols are playing political football with the program.

Iowans and the vast majority of Americans have made it clear that continuing tax cuts for the rich by imposing benefit cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is not acceptable.

Jan Laue is president, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans. Comments: janice.k.laue@gmail.com

 

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