Key facts about Medicare, Medicaid and your future
Happy fall! Now that summer is over, the leaves are changing and the weather is getting colder. One of my fall activities was to join the “National Protect Our Health Care Bus Tour.”
On September 25, I had the pleasure to speak about senior issues at the American Legion Post 80 in Binghamton. This was one of 48 stops across 23 states.
Protecting our health care was the focus of the tour and the community forum which followed. I spoke on issues important to seniors, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The topic was “What’s At Stake This November,” which will define the future of our senior safety net.
I presented key facts about Medicare in New York, such as:
• 3,410,000 people depend on Medicare, or 17 percent of the state’s population, according to the 2016 statistics from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services;
• This includes 2,895,900 seniors and 514,200 disabled beneficiaries (2014);
The approximate amount spent on Medicare in New York, each year, is $39.9 billion;
• Twenty-six percent of Medicare enrollees, or 885,700 people, also receive Medicaid to help cover their premiums and out-of-pocket costs (2013);
• In 2015, due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 2,440,300 seniors received free preventative care. Medicare recipients each received average drug discounts of $1,320;
• And, other characteristics include the average beneficiary’s age is 72, and women comprise 56 percent of the beneficiaries.
The proposed national cut to Medicare by President Trump is $554 billion, and the proposed House Republican cuts amount to $537 billion.
The key facts about Medicaid in New York are:
• 6,071,600 residents are covered through Medicaid (2016);
• The approximate amount spent on Medicaid benefits each year is $61 billion, and $9.4 billion of this amount is for hospital care (2016);
• There are 93,000 New York veterans enrolled in Medicaid (2015);
• Thirty-five percent of Medicaid enrollees are children; 11 percent are seniors, and 11 percent have a disability (2014);
• Medicaid covers 67 percent or 69,700 nursing home residents (2015);
• Fifty-two percent of children with special health care needs are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); 37 percent receive Medicaid/CHIP as their sole source of health insurance (2016);
• Fifty-one percent of births are covered by Medicaid;
• Nationwide, Medicaid covers 38 percent of adults with opioid addiction (2016);
• In 2013, the nationwide Medicaid spending on opioid addiction was $9.4 billion, including treatment for 114,200 New Yorkers.
The proposed Trump cut to Medicaid/ACA nationally is $763 billion, and the proposed House GOP Medicaid/ACA cuts are $1.5 trillion (the approximate cost of the GOP tax cut).
The above facts clearly show that our heath care is under attack.
The claims by some politicians that Medicare is nearing bankruptcy are highly misleading. Although Medicare faces financial challenges, the program is not on the verge of bankruptcy or ceasing to operate. These assertions represent misunderstanding, or misrepresentation, of Medicare’s financial situation.
The 2018 Medicare Trustees Report reveals that Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will remain solvent, that is, it will be able to pay 100 percent of the costs for hospital insurance coverage that Medicare provides through 2026.
That year, 2026, does not apply to Medicare coverage for physician and outpatient costs or Medicare prescription drug benefits. These sections of Medicare do not face insolvency and cannot run short of funds. The Trustees Report does not project that these parts of Medicare will become insolvent at any point, because they can’t. The Supplemental Medical Insurance Trust Fund always has sufficient financing to cover Part B and Part D costs, because the beneficiary premiums and general revenue contributions are specifically set at levels to assure this is the case. Social Security Insurance cannot go bankrupt.
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It was never more important than now to be a well informed voter
In the post-Janus universe it is very important to stay with your union.
It is also very important to be an informed voter. We need to be informed on issues that affect our personal well being and our everyday lives: senior issues such as comprehensive, affordable health care, a stable well funded pension system, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
This year is what they sometimes call a “mid-term” election, meaning it falls between presidential election years. Every election result affects us in one way or another and this year that is especially true. On the national level, we will vote for one of our two U.S. senators and for every member of Congress who will represent the state of New York. At the state level, we will choose our next governor, attorney general, state comptroller and every member of our state Legislature.
It is important to know where our elected officials at all levels of government stand on senior issues, labor issues and quality-of-life issues. We need to know how our elected representatives voted on these issues. Did they help us or hurt us?
Our elected officials owe it to us, as their constituents, to give us accurate and explanatory information when it comes to how they voted on bills. As retirees and seniors we have clout when we vote as a block for candidates who support retirees and are right on senior issues. In order to leverage that clout we must be registered and we must vote our self interests when it comes to retirees’ issues. We loose when we vote against our own self interests such as protecting our earned benefits.
Thursday, September 13, is the New York state and local primary in which voters choose their party’s candidates for the general election that will be held Tuesday, November 6. Primary elections are held when more than one candidate seeks the nomination to represent a party in vying for a specific public office.
Make sure you vote. “Bad things happen when good people don’t vote!”
The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) reversed it’s previous position and decided this past June in favor of Mark Janus, instead of unions, making it possible for public employees to benefit from a union contract without paying dues or fees to support the union negotiating it for them.
This was the court’s first, and likely not its last anti-labor decision, as the majority of justices now is very conservative and not so concerned with workers’ rights. The U.S. Senate is weighing another conservative nominee for appointment to the court, and that could put our rights in further danger.
These are perilous times and, make no mistake, at the center of the bullseye are unions as well as our senior safety net. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and comprehensive, affordable health care are all under attack in Washington by the current president and congressional majority.
The “Citizens United” SCOTUS decision put us at risk by allowing extremely wealthy corporations and individuals to use their deep pockets to elect and influence the politicians who make judicial appointments and legislative decisions. It is shameful that the billionaire CEOs and corporate special interests can manipulate a majority of justices on the highest court in the land to do as they want.
We are retirees, but we understand that if unions such as PEF with active members do not remain healthy and viable we will be adversely affected. The health insurance changes they negotiate are directly connected to our level of benefits (cost and level of coverage). As we age, quality, affordable health care is necessary for quality of life.
That is the practical side of the potential damage, but on the ethical, moral side of the issue is our hard work and the sacrifices we’ve made to build a better work environment to leave for those who follow us.
We were proud to retire knowing we were leaving behind a better situation. I do not want to see attacks on our union that minimalizes our hard work and sacrifice. So, now we must stand and support the work that needs to be done to stop the slide down this slippery slope.
As much as some of us do not like political action, it is politicians who put us in this mess and it is only through electing the right politicians that we can hope to survive. Please remain aware and cognizant of the positions and voting records of candidates. Sometimes what they do not say is as important as what they do say. Listen especially carefully to candidates’ positions and views on senior and labor issues. Most of all, vote!
A good example of a politician who says one thing and does something else is my congressman in the 23rd Congressional District. In April, the Alliance for Retired Americans analyzed and reported on congressional voting records on retiree issues including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, pharmaceuticals, and comprehensive, affordable health care. My congressman had the worst voting record on retiree issues of all the 27 New York congressional representatives. He is an example of bad things happening, when good people don’t look beyond the campaign rhetoric and vote.
We need to elect candidates who are more aligned with our needs as retirees! We need to support and elect someone who will represent us and all of their other constituents, not just their big-dollar donors and special interests.