Progressives Say Trustees’ Report Shows More Health Reform Needed to Solve Rising Medicare Costs, Not Cuts to Benefits

Washington, DC — The report released yesterday by the Trustees of the Social Security Administration has already elicited some of the usual nonsense from millionaires, billionaires and conservatives who are pushing for a so-called Grand Bargain that would drastically cut Medicare and Social Security benefits and turn Medicare into a voucher.

The Campaign for America’s Future’s co-director Roger Hickey warned today that such a deal, expected to happen during a lame duck post-election session of Congress, would mean financial doom for America’s seniors, hurting current disabled and retired Americans and creating even more pain for the generations to come – and it is already threatening to undermine Democratic prospects in the upcoming elections.

Hickey said, “Those who have always wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits are trumpeting the new Trustees report to argue that austerity and benefit cuts are the only way to avoid budget disaster. But they are wrong.”

Longevity and the Baby Boom didn’t cause this downturn in these programs’ finances, and it certainly isn’t contributing to a long-term deficit. In a new article Campaign for America’s Future’s Richard Eskow writes, “Medicare and Social Security don’t have a long-term problem: Medicare has a problem. No amount of spin or double-talk can change that. David Shure at Media Matters links to this CNN chart, which undercuts the conventional wisdom.”

[Note: Read Richard Eskow’s supplementary piece: Medicare and Social Security Fact v Myth.]

Hickey and Eskow argue that if growing Medicare expenditures are the problem, the solution should not be slashing Medicare benefits or turning the program into a voucher. According to Eskow, “Every other industrialized nation has some form of public health financing system – and costs that are so far below ours that it would fix our budget fears entirely if we could match them.”

The problem isn’t that Medicare is a government program: The problem is the power of insurance companies and drug companies. For-profit hospital and other medical providers have increased their hold over the U.S. healthcare system. Our system for reimbursing doctors encourages overtreatment. We refuse to allow our government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies. And for-profit health insurance companies fail to manage costs, which makes it increasingly difficult to rein in that portion of the health economy that Medicare supports.

Hickey said that Democrats have a big decision to make, “Republicans have clearly committed to the benefit cuts and plan to turn the program into a voucher, which is central to Paul Ryan’s budget, which in turn is central to the Republican message this year. Democrats should instead stand with the strong American majorities, who want the political system to protect Social Security and Medicare. They can demonstrate that their party has a plan to control health care costs – the true drivers of America’s Medicare cost problem.”

Over the next few months, activists with the Campaign for America’s Future and other groups will be showing voters how painful proposed Medicare benefit cuts would be to all Americans. And they will be asking Democrats whether they will fight for Social Security and Medicare or whether they will join conservatives in destroying these programs. Eskow said, “The question is: what king of legacy do Democrats want for themselves and their party?”

Read Richard Eskow’s article: Medicare and Social Security Fact v Myth: http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2012041724/medicare-and-social-security-real-crisis

Read this fact sheet on Social Security and the new trustees report from Social Security Works: http://strengthensocialsecurity.org/2012-social-security-trustees-report-overview.

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