When politicians talk about “entitlement reform,” too often they aren’t actually talking about shoring up programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to make them more sustainable over the long-term.
What they’re talking about is undermining the fundamental promise we made to our fellow citizens and ourselves when we created these programs: that, in America, we take care of our seniors, families living in poverty, and people with disabilities.
Everyone deserves to live a life of independence and dignity. And I will always stand up for the programs that help make that possible.
I often like to brag that Social Security was created in large part thanks to a woman from Massachusetts: Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and the first woman in U.S. history to hold a position in the Cabinet. God bless Frances Perkins, because for more than 80 years, Social Security has offered millions of seniors the chance to retire in comfort and dignity after a lifetime of hard work.
Today, many politicians use scare tactics to try and gut this vital program – claiming that Social Security itself is on the brink of insolvency, and that we must either cut benefits or privatize it and put retirement in the hands of Wall Street. But those scare tactics can’t erase the program’s history of success. That’s why I fought this year to secure a $480 million increase to the Social Security Administration’s budget – the first increase to the agency’s budget in eight years.
But the reality is that we are not facing a Social Security solvency crisis. We are facing a national retirement crisis. More than ever, Americans are hitting their retirement years with less savings and more debt. Pensions are disappearing, being replaced by 401(k) plans that leave retirees at the mercy of the stock market. The squeeze on America’s middle class is now a squeeze on America’s retirees, and it’s time for an all-hands-on-deck approach. That’s why I worked with Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to write and pass a law improving investment returns for federal retirement plans. It’s why I’ve worked with Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana) to develop innovative legislation to help workers locate and re-invest their lost retirement funds from old jobs. And it’s why I will always oppose cutting Social Security.
Cutting Social Security will not solve our impending retirement crisis. Social Security benefits are modest – just $1,300 a month, on average – but two-thirds of America’s seniors rely on those checks for the majority of their income. For 15 million seniors, Social Security is all that stands between them and poverty. It’s time to repair our retirement system so Americans have more and better options. And we need to expand and strengthen Social Security, not cut it.
Replacing Medicare with a voucher program is one of the worst zombie ideas in Washington that just refuses to die. This scheme doesn’t do anything to reduce the cost of health care; it simply reduces what the government covers – and that means skyrocketing costs for seniors.
Cutting Medicare benefits we’ve guaranteed to our seniors is morally bankrupt – and it’s also terrible policy. Instead of slashing Medicare benefits and increasing prices for seniors so politicians who hate government can feel better about themselves, we should focus on solving the actual problem – lowering the cost of health care. For example: It’s ridiculous that Washington cut a deal to prevent Medicare from using its bargaining power to negotiate for lower prices on prescriptions. That doesn’t help seniors, and it doesn’t help taxpayers. It’s just a giveaway to big drug companies.
Changing that rule will save money, and it’s just one example of the countless changes we can make that would improve efficiency and reduce costs to preserve Medicare for future generations. Another involves looking for ways to reduce waste, so that we can provide the same or better care at a lower price tag. For example, I have been working across the aisle to make sure that medical devices are tagged with Unique Device Identifiers (UDIs) on health insurance claim forms, so that we can better know which devices work and which ones fail or get recalled. That will help keep the public safer and cuts down on unnecessary expenses.
Medicaid provides essential health coverage and economic security to tens of millions of Americans. Medicaid helps families all across the country get the care they need. It ensures that people with disabilities and other long-term care needs can live independently at home and be part of their communities. Medicaid is there when a little baby is born too soon with serious medical needs, a grandparent requires nursing home care, or a mom needs to make sure her kids can see a doctor.
The Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress are intent on gutting Medicaid. They want to break the basic guarantee at the heart of Medicaid – that we will be there for our neighbors and our loved ones when they need it the most. But for many families, access to Medicaid is a matter of life or death. Preserving Medicaid is an important part of making our health care system as strong as it can be, and I won’t back down when it comes to making sure Medicaid is there for everyone who needs it.