Talks to avert the Fiscal Cliff progressed this week, with President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (OH-8) both making some important concessions. Critical elements that could affect seniors, however, remain up in the air.
Talks Progress as Fiscal Cliff Nears
This week, negotiations to avert the Fiscal Cliff progressed, as both President Obama and Speaker John Boehner made some critical concessions. President Obama decreased his revenue demands from $1.6 trillion to $1.2 trillion, and Speaker Boehner agreed to let taxes increase on some high earners. In addition, the President moved towards the Speaker on spending cuts, although House Republicans are not yet satisfied with his proposal. As a precautionary measure, Speaker Boehner proposed a “Plan B” this week, which would prevent tax increases for anyone earning less than $1 million, but would not prevent the scheduled spending cuts from going into effect.
Proposals by both the President and the Speaker have included cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and it remains to be seen whether or not they will appear in a final package. One cost-saving measure that both have backed is the adoption of the “chained” CPI for the calculation of Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) – a change that could reduce benefits by as much as $88 per month after ten years. The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) is strongly opposed to this proposal since seniors have already lost 34 percent of their buying power since 2000. While some lawmakers are fighting to keep the “chained” COLA out of the negotiations, many of them have also stated that they would not vote against a grand bargain that included the measure.
Another cost-saving measure that has appeared in numerous proposals is the increase in the Medicare eligibility age. Many on Capitol Hill have insisted that it be included in a final deal, however, President Obama has not officially backed it since he briefly entertained the idea in 2011. Currently, it appears as though the measure will not be included in a grand bargain. On Tuesday, Speaker Boehner stated, “That issue has been on the table, off the table, back on the table. It’s an issue for discussion, but I don’t believe it’s an issue that has to be dealt with between now and the end of the year.”
A third element that TSCL hopes will be included in a final package is a so-called “doc fix,” which would prevent doctors who treat Medicare patients from receiving a 27 percent pay cut on January 1st. Most recent proposals have included a “doc fix,” but the “Plan B” that Speaker Boehner proposed on Tuesday did not address the issue with even a temporary fix. The details of President Obama’s most recent proposal have not been made clear to the public, but many aides have told reporters that it includes a one-year payment patch, as well as a path to a permanent solution. TSCL sincerely hopes that lawmakers will pass a “doc fix” by the end of this year, since failing to do so would severely threaten seniors’ access to quality medical care.
As the deadline to avert the Fiscal Cliff nears, TSCL will continue to encourage lawmakers to prevent harsh Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts from taking effect, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website. In addition, we encourage you to contact your Members of Congress to request their support for fair COLAs and a “doc fix.” To find contact information for your elected officials, click HERE.