Senior Citizens & Social Security

Senior citizens are one of the largest, most reliable voting blocs and often vote for Republicans; yet, recent polls have shown that GOP support among the 65+ voters has dropped significantly in recent months. This is not surprising given that the GOP plans to cut Social Security and Medicare, and has repeatedly voted against the interests of senior citizens by opposing programs to help senior citizens, including lowering Rx drug costs; making healthcare more affordable; and providing financial, housing and healthcare assistance to seniors during the pandemic.  The GOP also denigrated vaccines and efforts to protect seniors from COVID, despite seniors comprising 80% of COVID deaths in 2020.  In contrast, the Biden-Harris Administration and Democrats have prioritized the health, safety and economic well-being of senior citizens. With the Inflation Reduction Act, Rx drugs costs and healthcare costs will be reduced. The American Rescue Plan (which not one Republican voted for) funded long-term care, housing, struggling pensions through 2051 and nutrition assistance. The Biden-Harris Administration and Dems have also improved assisted living facilities, provided hearing aids over the counter at much lower prices, and are working to protect Social Security and Medicare. (Republicans are working to gut Social Security and Medicare.)

 

What Have the Biden-Harris Administration and Dems Done?

 

Reduced Rx Drug and Healthcare Costs

    • Made hearing aids available online and in retail stores beginning in October 2022 for nearly $3K less than the prescription price – for the first time ever.
    • Passed the Inflation Reduction Act which will:
        • Significantly reduce Medicare Rx drugs for 46M Americans bc Medicare will be able to negotiate lower Rx drug costs for the first time ever.
        • Insulin payments will be capped at $35 per month for Medicare recipients beginning in 2023.
        • Out of pocket expenses for Medicare Rx drugs will be capped at $2K per year.
        • Healthcare will be more affordable under the ACA with an average savings of over $950 annually for eligible people ages 50-64, and all consumers will continue to pay no more than 8.5% of their income for ACA health insurance premiums.

Protected Social Security and Medicare

Other Actions To Support Senior Citizens

    • Provided $1.4B in funding from the American Rescue Plan for Older Americans Act programs to support vaccine outreach and coordination, address social isolation, provide family caregiver support, and offer nutrition support.
    • Expanded funding for home and community based services through the American Rescue Plan.
    • Increased access to affordable housing for low-income seniors.
    • Provided COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for elderly residents in HUD-Assisted Housing.
    • Expanded nutrition assistance for low-income seniors.
    • Enacted reforms to improve nursing facilities to ensure taxpayer dollars support nursing homes that provide safe, adequate, and dignified care.
    • Protected workers’ pension plans, including vulnerable union pension plans, from failing through the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021.

What Republicans plan to do if they win November:

    • Cut Social Security and Medicare by privatizing, reducing payments, raising the minimum age, and making it discretionary which means each year Congress would decide whether it should be renewed.
        • Sen. Mitch McConnell: “US debt is driven by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” This is false and here’s Ronald Reagan explaining why.
        • AZ Senate candidate Blake Masters: “Maybe we should privatize Social Security. Right? Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it.”
        • Sen. Ron Johnson: Social Security “was set up improperly” and that it would have been better to invest the money in the stock market. He also told a radio show that Social Security and Medicare should be axed as “mandatory” programs and be subject to “discretionary” spending, meaning it would be up to the whims of Congress whether to renew them. He has also suggested it should be renewed on a yearly basis.
        • Sen. Lindsey Graham said “individual private accounts” may be part of Social Security’s future. He also said seniors may have to “take a little less” and “pay a little more in.”
        • Sen. Marco Rubio praised Sen. Rick Scott’s plan to “sunset” (i.e. kill) Social Security and Medicare. Rubio supports cutting Social Security benefits by raising the retirement age. He is also pushing a bogus “paid leave” plan that requires new parents to fund the leave themselves—with a cut to their future Social Security benefits.
    • Raise the Social Security age requirement to 70 years old.
    • Block any legislation to lower Rx drug prices. (They have already voted against lowering healthcare costs and drug prices when they voted against the $35 insulin cap, the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act.)
    • Raise taxes on senior citizens. Under FL Senator Rick Scott’s America First plan, Republicans planned to raise taxes on senior citizens, working class and middle Americans because they don’t think they’re paying their fair share even though they gave a $2.2T tax cut to billionaires and corporations. This would amount to a $1T tax increase over 10 years and only imposed on households with less than $100K in income. Though Mitch McConnell came out against it, Scott is the Chair of the National Republican Senate Committee and Trump’s pick for Senate Majority Leader. In June 2022, Scott dropped raising taxes from his proposal, but if he’s Senate Majority Leader, he will likely try to pass it.

Important Facts about Social Security and Medicare:

  • Since FDR signed Social Security into law 87 years ago and Johnson signed Medicare into law 57 years ago, Americans have come to rely upon Social Security and Medicare when planning their retirements. Currently, 65M Americans rely on Social Security for income.
  • The most recent evidence indicates that around 1 in 7 seniors rely on Social Security for more than 90% of their income.
  • About half of Americans 55 and older have no retirement savings.
  • The average Social Security benefit is only $1,540 a month.
  • Social Security is not going broke. Social Security has a $2.85T surplus in its trust fund and can pay every promised benefit to every eligible American until the year 2035. After that, the Social Security Administration estimates that there will be enough funding available to pay 80% of promised benefits.
  • Republicans have cut (or tried to cut) these programs to fund the tax cuts they gave to the wealthy (see Newt Gingrich in 1995 cut $270B from Medicare to finance $245B in tax cuts; and in 2022, Republicans want to cut these programs to fund the $2.2T tax cut they gave to billionaires in 2017 and which added $2T to the deficit).

What Have the Biden-Harris Administration and Dems Done?

 

Reduced Rx Drug and Healthcare Costs

    • Made hearing aids available online and in retail stores beginning in October 2022 for nearly $3K less than the prescription price. After years of lobbying by advocates for the hearing impaired, seniors and veterans, Biden’s July 2021 Executive Order on Competition allows anyone to buy hearing aids over the counter and for much less. This is huge. 75% of seniors with hearing loss don’t have a hearing aid because of the prohibitive cost. Even mild hearing loss among older people can increase social isolation and, studies show, double dementia risk. Hearing loss also affects many veterans and manufacturing workers.
    • Passed the Inflation Reduction Act which reduces Medicare Rx drugs and healthcare costs for nearly 46M seniors despite huge opposition by Big Pharma and over $200M spent to oppose it. The IRA was enthusiastically praised by AARP and other senior citizen advocacy orgs. (Every Republican voted against it and voted for keeping drug prices high for senior citizens.)
        • For the first time ever, Medicare will be able to negotiate lower Rx drug costs – a huge savings for 46M senior citizens and millions of people with disabilities with Medicare.
        • Medicare Rx drugs will be capped at $2,000 per year. Seniors and other people with Medicare will have their out of pocket spending for prescription drugs capped at $2K per year – no matter what their drug bills would otherwise be.
        • Insulin payments will be capped at $35 per month for Medicare recipients beginning in 2023.
        • Healthcare will be more affordable under the ACA. For people who buy their health insurance through the ACA marketplaces, the bill extends the expanded federal premium subsidy and other financial enhancements made under the American Rescue Plan through 2025.
        • For people 50-64 years of age, these subsidies provide an average savings of over $950 annually, and all consumers will continue to pay no more than 8.5% of their income for ACA health insurance premiums.

Protected Social Security and Medicare

    • Proposed legislation to save Social Security and Medicare and ensure that it will be fully funded for over 75 years. Currently, Democrats have two bills pending to protect Social Security and Medicare and both would expand and improve benefits.
        • Proposed by Sen. Sanders, Sen. Warren and others, the Social Security Expansion Act increases benefits and ensures that no one will retire into poverty after a lifetime of work. It also updates cost-of-living calculations to make it more accurate and pays for every penny of those benefit increases. It completely eliminates Social Security’s projected shortfall so that all benefits will be paid in full and on time for the next 75 years and beyond. It does this by reapplying payroll taxes starting at incomes from $250K and up.
        • Proposed by Rep. Larsen, the Social Security 2100 Act has similar provisions and would reapply payroll taxes starting at incomes from $400K and up.

Other Actions To Support Senior Citizens

    • Provided $1.4B in funding from the American Rescue Plan for Older Americans Act programs to support vaccine outreach and coordination, address social isolation, provide family caregiver support, and offer nutrition support. It also funded programs to ensure the safety and protection of older adults:
        • Food Assistance: $750M for meals for older adults. With this funding for Older Americans Act nutrition programs, states will be able to continue home-delivered meals as well as “drive-through” or “grab-and-go” meals for older adults who typically would participate in meal programs at community centers that have been closed due to the pandemic. It also allowed states to re-open meal program locations safely that might have closed during the pandemic.
        • Household Assistance: $460M for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) through the Older Americans Act. This funding provided help to those who needed help with household chores and grocery shopping; transportation to essential services (such as grocery stores, banks, or doctors); and case management. The funding also was used to vaccinate older Americans and address the effects of extended social isolation.
        • Disease Prevention: $44M was allocated for evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention. This included programs to address fall prevention, managing chronic disease, and mental health support for older Americans.
        • Caregiver Support: $145M was provided to help family caregivers support their loved ones. This funding for the National Family Caregiver Support Program assisted family and informal caregivers to provide in-home support, including counseling, respite care, training and more.
        • Long Term Care Support: $10M was provided to safeguard the health and welfare of residents in long-term care facilities. These funds supported State Long-term Care Ombudsman programs to advocate on behalf of residents of long-term care facilities across the country. This money allowed ombudsman programs to advocate for residents to safely go back into facilities after they had to discontinue that support during the pandemic, and to promote the health, safety, welfare, and rights of residents.
    • Expanded funding for home and community based services through the American Rescue Plan (ARP). ARP provided states with billions in additional Medicaid funding to help support their home and community-based services programs. The additional Medicaid funding helped expand access to home and community-based services for older adults and ensured that caregivers were fairly compensated for their work.
    • Increased access to affordable housing for seniors. In January 2021, the Department of Housing and Urban Development made $150M in available funding to create new affordable housing for seniors with very low incomes through the Supportive Housing for the Elderly program. The program supports the construction of new rental homes, as well as their ongoing management and affordability through long-term project-based rental assistance. This will expand access to critically-needed affordable housing for our nation’s seniors.
    • Provided COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for elderly residents in HUD-Assisted Housing. The Biden-Harris Administration directed community health centers and HUD’s network of housing agencies, housing owners, and programs to provide COVID-19 vaccinations and testing to HUD-assisted households, including to elderly residents in HUD’s senior and public housing.
    • Expanded nutrition assistance for low-income seniors. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) provided nutritious, domestically-sourced USDA foods to low-income persons 60 years or older. The American Rescue Plan provided nearly $37M to expand the reach of CSFP to serve more seniors and adding the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes to the program. This expansion, along with similar actions in other nutrition programs including SNAP helped combat food insecurity among seniors.
    • Enacted reforms to improve nursing facilities to ensure taxpayer dollars support nursing homes that provide safe, adequate, and dignified care. In July 2022, President Biden announced that DHS will implement reforms to nursing homes to ensure taxpayer dollars support nursing homes that provide safe, adequate, and dignified care by: establishing minimum staffing requirements, reducing the number of seniors to a room with an incentive for single-occupancy rooms, providing incentive funding to facilities based on quality performance, implementing safeguards to reduce prescribing unnecessary medications and/or overuse of antipsychotic meds, increasing funding for inspections, increasing oversight and penalties of low-performing nursing facilities, and implementing programs to improve training and high quality staffing.
    • Protected struggling workers’ pension plans through 2051. The Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 was another permanent change under ARP which provides financial assistance to struggling pension plans through 2051, protects 2-3M workers from pension cuts, guarantees pension for 30 years and applies to 200+ pension plans. This was particularly impactful for union pension plans.

What Republicans plan to do if they win November:

    • Cut Social Security and Medicare by privatizing, reducing payments, making it discretionary and raising the minimum age:
        • Sen. Mitch McConnell: “US debt is driven by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” This is false and here’s Ronald Reagan explaining why.
        • AZ Senate candidate Blake Masters: “Maybe we should privatize Social Security. Right? Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it.”
        • Sen. Ron Johnson: Social Security “was set up improperly” and that it would have been better to invest the money in the stock market. He also told a radio show that Social Security and Medicare should be axed as “mandatory” programs and be subject to “discretionary” spending, meaning it would be up to the whims of Congress whether to renew them. He has also suggested it should be renewed on a yearly basis.
        • Sen. Lindsey Graham said “individual private accounts” may be part of Social Security’s future. He also said seniors may have to “take a little less” and “pay a little more in.”
        • Sen. Marco Rubio praised Rick Scott’s plan to “sunset” (i.e. kill) Social Security and Medicare. Rubio supports cutting Social Security benefits by raising the retirement age. He is also pushing a bogus “paid leave” plan that requires new parents to fund the leave themselves—with a cut to their future Social Security benefits.
    • Raise the Social Security age requirement to 70 years old.
    • Block any legislation to lower Rx drug prices. (They have already voted against lowering healthcare costs and drug prices when they voted against the $35 insulin cap, the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act.)
    • Raise taxes on senior citizens. Under FL Senator Rick Scott’s America First plan, Republicans planned to raise taxes on senior citizens, working class and middle Americans because they don’t think they’re paying their fair share even though they gave a $2.2T tax cut to billionaires and corporations. This would amount to a $1T tax increase over 10 years and only imposed on households with less than $100K in income. Though Mitch McConnell came out against it, Scott is the Chair of the National Republican Senate Committee and Trump’s pick for Senate Majority Leader. In June 2022, Scott dropped raising taxes from his proposal, but if he’s Senate Majority Leader, he will likely try to pass it.

LAST UPDATED ON SEPTEMBER 20TH, 2022