by Carol Thomas
The president’s fiscal year 2017 budget has more bad news than good news for senior citizens. While Social Security beneficiaries will see no changes in the way Social Security benefits are determined, proposals for Medicare are downright bad news.
What’s proposed are higher deductibles, means-testing and more cost-shifting to seniors and their families.
Medicare is the good and moral healthcare program for seniors that was designed to keep retirees and their families free from the added burden of healthcare costs as family members deal with the obligation of caring for their aging relatives. President Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965 and former President Harry Truman was the first to receive a Medicare card.
In 2012, there were 49.4 million Medicare beneficiaries across the nation, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation.
While the FY 2017 budget has been proposed, it’s now up us citizens to let our elected officials know they should not cut Medicare, but preserve and protect Medicare. After all, we pay in to Medicare during our working years and expect it to be there for us when we reach our retirement years.
Here are excerpts from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s statement released in February 2016 on the proposed budget’s targeting of Medicare through cuts and cost-shifting. Use these facts and figures from the NCPSSM’s Government Relations and Policy office when talking to your elected officials or writing letters to the editor.
“The National Committee opposes proposals in the President’s budget which would shift additional costs to Medicare beneficiaries. Over half of Medicare beneficiaries had incomes below $24,150 per year in 2014, and they are already paying 23 percent of their average Social Security check for Parts B and D cost-sharing in addition to paying for health services not covered by Medicare. Medicare beneficiaries with annual incomes over $85,000 for individuals and $170,000 for couples are paying higher income-related premiums.
“We do not share the Administration’s view that people will make wiser choices about using health care services if they have to pay more of the cost. Rather, we agree with research that shows these additional costs could lead many seniors to forgo necessary care, which, in turn, could lead to more serious health conditions and higher costs.
“The President’s budget contains proposals we oppose which would increase costs for future beneficiaries, including the following:
“1. Applies a $25 increase in the Part B deductible in 2020, 2022, and 2024 for new beneficiaries. This increase would be in addition to the current Medicare Part B deductible that beneficiaries pay which, along with general revenues, funds Part B physician and outpatient services. This proposal is estimated to cost beneficiaries $4.23 billion over 10 years.
“2. Imposes a home health copayment for new beneficiaries beginning in 2020. A $100 copayment per home health episode would be applicable for episodes with five or more visits not preceded by a hospital or other inpatient post-acute care stay. This proposal is estimated to cost beneficiaries approximately $1.30 billion over 10 years.
“3. Expands income-related premiums under Medicare Parts B and D. Beginning in 2020, the Administration proposes to restructure means-testing in Medicare Parts B and D by increasing the amount of income-related premiums, and maintaining the income thresholds associated with income-related premiums until 25 percent of beneficiaries under Parts B and D are subject to these premiums. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that this proposal would affect individuals with incomes equivalent to $45,600 for an individual and $91,300 for a couple in 2014. This proposal is estimated to cost beneficiaries approximately $41.2 billion over 10 years.”
As a senior looking at the president’s budget, I am horrified at the manipulations of our benefits in terms of prices paid and benefits pared down. I feel seniors will be betrayed by this budget after a life of work and investment in their retirement.
While I want a Medicare-For-All healthcare system through a single-payer structure, I also believe we need to protect the Medicare system we have now and make sure our federal representative and senators know we are aware and watching and – as the old saying goes – will remember how they voted come election day and will vote them in or vote them out. “We’ll remember in November.”
This is a very important election year. Ask your presidential candidate if she or he supports these cuts or if they want to privatize Medicare, another bad idea.
If you don’t ask, who will?
The only real remedy is Medicare expansion through single-payer insurance. But in the meantime, let’s keep a watchful eye on the Medicare system we have now and let elected officials know we want our earned benefits protected, not cut.
Let’s all say together, “No cuts to Medicare!”
Carol Thomas is a volunteer with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and a member of the Alachua County Labor Coalition. D