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So Much at Stake for Seniors (and Future Seniors) in This Election

What Mitt didn't tell you about his Medicare plan.

Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, sends us this.

It should be no surprise that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are issues driving voters in this election. A total of 49 million people depend on Medicare, more than 60 million on Medicaid and 55 million on Social Security. These programs touch the lives of virtually every American family in every community in our nation, yet candidates continue to dodge and deflect on their plans for these vital programs. We saw this strategy played out in full view during the first presidential debate. Will we see more of the same when Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential contender Rep. Paul Ryan meet this week? I certainly hope not.

Working people of all ages are tired of the political spin used by candidates who call benefit cuts “reform” and privatization “preservation.” Republican Party leaders have been understandably worried that voters will get a good look at their radical plans to end traditional Medicare by replacing it with privatized “CouponCare.” They’ve adopted an avoidance strategy, which was implemented extremely well by Mitt Romney in the first presidential debate.  

This election will likely determine the very future of these programs and thereby the economic futures of generations of middle- and working-class American families. So, I say it’s past time that candidates get beyond political platitudes and phony promises. Voters must hold them accountable for the real-life consequences of their plans for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Here are a few of those consequences:  

The End of Traditional Medicare

Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney understand that it’s politically impossible to pass legislation ending traditional Medicare. However, their “CouponCare” plan is a means to that end by putting traditional Medicare into a fiscally untenable position. Seniors will end up going back in time, to the days before Medicare, where they will once again be at the mercy of private insurance companies. “CouponCare” gives seniors a voucher that loses value over time, meaning older Americans will pay more for less, while private insurance companies reap the gains. Contrary to GOP claims of increased choice, this privatized plan will actually make it much harder for seniors to choose their own doctor.  

Benefit Cuts for Current and Future Medicare Beneficiaries

Governor Romney promised to repeal “Obamacare” on day one. That means on the first day of his administration, seniors would lose free preventive benefits and annual wellness exams, prescription drug and premium costs would increase by hundreds of dollars per year, the Part D donut hole returns, private insurance companies get their taxpayer handouts back and Medicare's hospital trust fund would be bankrupt by the end of Romney's first term. So much for those cynical promises to leave current retirees untouched.

Block Granting Medicaid and Slashing Benefits

The Romney-Ryan plan proposes cutting Medicaid’s federal funding by more than $800 billion in the next 10 years and even more in future decades. It does this by converting the current Medicaid program, which is jointly funded by the federal government and states, into block grants. This means that seniors would see higher costs for long-term services and supports (like nursing home care) because of cuts Medicaid. The Romney-Ryan proposed Medicaid cuts mean a loss of more than $2,500 annually for millions of seniors who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.

Raises the Retirement Age, Cuts Benefits and Privatizes Social Security

Need I say more? Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan have tried to avoid addressing Social Security as much as possible during this campaign; likely because both men support private accountsBoth have also argued we should raise the retirement age and change the formula used to determine benefits. Raising the retirement age to 70, for example, would lead to an additional reduction ranging from 13% to 15% reduction for workers who need to file for early benefits at age 62. Add that to the cuts which resulted from the last time we raised the retirement age in 1983, and the total benefit reduction for a person who retires at age 62 could be as much as 43% to 45%. Changing the benefit formula also cuts benefits even further. Not surprisingly, the Romney-Ryan plan for Social Security is all about benefit cuts for seniors and no changes in revenue, including the most popular solution of lifting the payroll tax cap.

If we are to believe the polls this week, Gov. Romney’s dodge and deflect strategy could be working. But with several more debates and a few weeks until election day, there’s still time for working families to demand that candidates ditch the political propaganda and mistruths and start giving it to us straight. The 2012 Vice Presidential debate Oct. 11 is a good place to start.

The National Committee has mobilized seniors in battleground states as part of its national “Truth Tour” campaign. Radio ads begin this week urging voters to ask candidates the tough questions about their plans for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

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