Congressman Brad Sherman

Representing the 30th District of CALIFORNIA

New Threats to Social Security & Medicare

  

Jan 26, 2012
Opinion-Editorial

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This past year, new threats arose to the existence of Medicare and Social Security as we know it.  In April of 2011, the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives passed a radical plan to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher program. Seniors would have to use their own money, along with a government voucher, to purchase insurance from private insurance companies. While this Republican plan has not passed the Senate, I strongly opposed any efforts in the House to create a “voucher” system that effectively wipes out Medicare’s guaranteed health care benefits.  According to the Joint Economic Committee, the Republican Medicare plan would increase the average senior citizen’s out-of-pocket medical costs by $6,300 per year.

There are also new proposals in Congress to privatize Social Security.  These plans would cut future Social Security benefits and divert these savings to fund new private accounts.  Because these plans would divert massive sums from the Social Security Trust Fund, it would leave the program in a deep financial hole, and likely lead to cuts in benefits.  I have consistently opposed any and all efforts to privatize Social Security.  I believe Social Security belongs to the people who contribute, not the government—it must not be hijacked to pay the federal debt.  The money put in should be protected and used only for Social Security.

All Americans should seek a comfortable retirement including IRA’s, 401(k)’s and similar accounts.  However, any sound retirement plan starts with an inflation-adjusted lifetime annuity -- a monthly check for life that you cannot lose, and you cannot outlive.  This is what Social Security provides.  We should not replace a guarantee with a gamble. 

Previously, Medicare did not provide any coverage for prescription drug costs between $2,840 and $6,447 per year – causing a “donut hole” or coverage gap for prescription drugs.  Now, thanks to legislation that I supported, recipients whose drug costs fall within the donut hole are receiving a 50% discount on brand-name prescription drugs.  The out-of-pocket costs for seniors’ drug costs falling in the donut hole will be further reduced incrementally until it is completely eliminated in 2020.  But some in Congress would reinstate the donut hole, placing additional burdens on seniors in need of prescription drugs.  No American should have to choose between paying for groceries, and paying for vital prescription drugs.  I also oppose any proposal to repeal the new provision that provides seniors with free annual checkups without co-pays. 

The good news is that, so far, we have been able to prevent these sweeping changes from taking place.  I will continue to fight plans to privatize Social Security or turn Medicare into a voucher program.

If you would like to tell me how I can better serve the community, please attend my next Town Hall meeting on Sunday, February 26 from 3:00 – 4:30pmPST at Reseda High School located at 18230 Kittridge Street.  Listening to Valley residents is one of the most important parts of my job. Town Hall Meetings are an opportunity to discuss issues facing Congress, including health care, the economy, taxes and education. The meetings also are a chance for you to meet my constituent service staff and get help dealing with federal agencies.