This week, lawmakers on the House Budget Committee approved a proposal that calls for major changes to Social Security and Medicare. In addition, leaders in the Senate announced they will vote on an unidentified health bill early next week.
House Budget Calls for Retirement Cuts
On Wednesday, House Republicans on the Budget Committee approved a fiscal 2018 budget resolution along party lines, with no support from Democrats on the committee. The budget blueprint would cut federal spending by $5.4 trillion over the next ten years. More than $4 trillion would come from mandatory spending on programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Nearly $500 billion in cuts over ten years would come from the Medicare program by increasing the age of eligibility from sixty-five to sixty-seven, and by transforming it into a “premium support” program, where beneficiaries would be given vouchers from the federal government to purchase private health insurance. TSCL opposes these proposals since evidence shows they would result in higher out-of-pocket costs for most older Americans.
The budget blueprint also calls for the creation of a Social Security reform plan that would achieve a positive 75-year actuarial balance. According to a report released by the Social Security Trustees last week, the combined Social Security trust funds are expected to become insolvent in 2034, at which point they will be able to pay around 77 percent of projected benefits.
To return the program to 75-year solvency, TSCL supports legislation called the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 1902), which would extend the solvency of the program through the year 2100 responsibly, without cutting benefits for current or future retirees. With 162 cosponsors, the Social Security 2100 Act currently has more support than any other comprehensive Social Security reform bill to date, and we hope the Budget Committee will consider it seriously in the months ahead.
At the time of writing this week’s update, it remains to be seen whether or not the new budget will win the support it needs to advance on the House floor. In a statement released on Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (TN-6) defended the proposal, saying: “In past years, our proposals had little chance of becoming a reality because we faced a Democratic White House. But now with a Republican Congress and a Republican administration, now is the time to put forward a governing document with real solutions to address our biggest challenges.”
TSCL will be monitoring the budget discussions in the weeks ahead, and we will continue to advocate against provisions that would jeopardize the health and financial security of Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. For updates, visit the Legislative News section of our website or follow TSCL on Twitter.
Senate to Vote on Health Legislation
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) announced that Republicans will proceed with a vote next week on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He said: “For the information of all senators, at the request of the President and Vice President, and after consulting with our members, we will have the vote on the motion to proceed to the Obamacare repeal bill early next week.”
It is unclear whether they will vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – which Senate Republicans have been working on for several weeks – or legislation that would enact a clean repeal of the ACA with no replacement. Both options currently lack the votes needed in the Senate, but the vote will likely be held regardless so leaders can show the public where health reform legislation stands.
If a clean repeal of the ACA does manage to win passage in the Senate next week, 32 million individuals would lose their health insurance by 2026 according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office. Monthly premiums would likely double, and millions of older Americans not yet eligible for Medicare would be priced out of the health insurance market.
In addition, a repeal of the ACA would re-open the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” resulting in higher prescription drug costs for those who fall into the coverage gap. An important source of financing for the Medicare Part A trust fund would also be eliminated, and the program would face an immediate funding crisis.
In the days ahead, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) will continue to keep an eye on the evolving health reform discussions in the Senate, and we will post updates on Twitter. In the meantime, we encourage our members and supporters to continue calling their Senators to request their opposition to health reform legislation that would increase costs for seniors. For contact information, click HERE.