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July 4, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

Social Security, Medicare need help

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In his letter “Social Security not part of the problem,” Daniel Olivier says any talk about Social Security and Medicare being part of the debt problem is fiction dreamed up by conservative politicians and media types.

The facts are that Social Security deficits already average more than $40 billion a year; there is nothing in the Social Security trust fund but IOUs, and roughly half of Medicare expenditures are paid for with public funds. So unless these programs are fixed, they will continue to increase the debt.

It’s time for Washington to stop denying that these programs are a major part of the deficit problem. These programs must be fixed, and doing it sooner will mean less pain down the road.

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  1. The Medicare and Social Security Trustees have warned in their recent reports that both funds will be insolvent and bankrupt. Medicare in 10 years and Social Security in 20. President Obama can have a legacy of fixing both for future generations. Clock is ticking and he's burning daylight.


  2. There is a reason President Obama does not want Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid reform to be his 'legacy'. It is because he knows that in order to save these programs, they must be changed in ways where future recipients will get fewer benefits than current or past beneficiaries.

    Paul Ryan's premium support for Medicare would reduce benefits but he won't admit that.

    Neither President Obama and the Democrats or the Republicans will tell the truth about these programs. Benefits must be reduced for future recipients, taxes must be raised and means testing must be implemented for the programs to survive.


  3. In other words Michael, President Obama doesn't want to butt horns with his base. I agree, he's a coward. But he's so good at blaming others, he need only say that the evil Republicans made him do it. Then take the credit.


  4. In the past, the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds brought in more in payroll taxes than they paid out in benefits. When this happened the Treasury issued notes that are part of the National Debt to the Trust Funds. Treasury took in the surplus cash which reduced the budget deficit in those years by the amount of that surplus.

    Now Treasury redeems the Trust Fund IOUs by issuing new debt and retiring the older debt held by the Trust Funds. The net increase in the National Debt is ZERO.

    The budget deficit increases by the amount of Trust Fund debt redeemed but, as Dick Chaney once said "deficits don't matter". In this case they are at least less important because they don't change the National Debt.

  5. People have to be reminded that Social Security has been broken a long time. It was put in that position by politicians from both parties who took out funds and used then for other programs.Politicians don't want to talk about how they put a perfectly run Social Security trust fund with a surplus of money into a nearly bankrupt situation.Instead of finding a way to fix what they nearly destroyed. We are told everything under the sun of how benifits may have to be cut,taxes will have to be raised to cover shortages,as well as raising the retirement age for future recipients. All the while never mentioning how they and they alone put Social Security where it is today.

  6. It's true. The federal government uses SS money to buy non-marketable bonds (IOU's) and places them in a file cabinet.If this money was placed into the marketplace, like stock purchases, it could so distort that market as to make it unstable.

    Most financial wizards know that the financial fix for Social Security is simple and relatively painless. The problem lies with the politics.

    The fact that Americans spend $2.8 trillion dollars every year on health care isn't a Medicare problem it is a healthcare system problem. Corporations, workers and healthcare related companies have been milking this cash cow for more than 60 years now. It's time that employees and/or employers begin to pay taxes on their now "tax free" healthcare benefits. Once this is done more attention will be paid to cost.

    The private healthcare industry operates in the dark and with impunity. Here is just one simple example. Call your insurance company and ask for the cost of a covered procedure like an MRI. Even be specific, if I receive this diagnostic procedure (covered by my plan) at facility "X" what will it cost? Is this the least expensive facility or are there others? If they have a "sole source" diagnostic supplier ask then why? In any event you will not receive the information you seek so you have no control over cost. That's fine except what if you have a high deductible? You pay the full freight. The diagnostic facility won't release the cost information unless your doctor has ordered the procedure in advance. Ninety-nine percent of doctors have no idea what any procedure they order costs. How many places do you think your doctor is willing to call and place the order so that you can then get a competitive rate? So in a nutshell this system's broken and today there is no way to fix it. Sad. Your paid for your insurance but you cannot find out in advance what it cost you to use it.

  7. As an aside I noticed that the Ryan budget has a poision pill, "kill Obamacare, AKA the Affordable Health Care law" straw horse proposal. I wonder why he has never attacked the Medicare part "D" drug law which the Bush 43 and his administration push through in the 11 hour (actual a 3 AM vote)? After all, this was and still is an unfunded $350 billion dollar mandate. Strange isn't it?

    All you have to do is a comparative cost analysis and look at what Americans pay for basic medical procedures and what those same procedures cost in the rest of the world. You'll see why Medicare is bleeding money. The entire system is preposterous. We have $150 trillion worth of medical bills coming due in the next 30 years and Medicare and Medicaid are going to get stuck with the lions share of the cost.

    Medical costs are the drivers of our deficit, bankruptcies, reduced business margins and practically everything else that ails the country fiscally.

    Ryan is not attacking Medicare part D because millions of seniors get their drugs paid for by that program and those folks vote.

  9. Richard says that doctors don't know what medical procedures cost. They may not tell you but they know exactly what procedures cost. They get sick just like the rest of us. The reality is they could care less because they're part of a totally corrupt multitrillion dollar system.

  10. A recent proposal with some logic: change Medicaid to block grants to the States. Allow the states to manage the money and root out abuse. We HAVE TO limit Medicaid to 2/5 years, like TANF limits, rather than 24/7 constant care for the same people who refuse to work and find dependent children to maintain coverage (to maintain Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8 housing, LIHEA utility grants, child care....) These same people wind up as "low income" indigents on Medicaid funded assisted living and nursing homes--on our dimes. The feds cannot police it and don't even look at beneficiary fraud and abuse. They do a modest look at PROVIDER abuse. States and large cities could do much better with less funding. There is NO OBLIGATION for the federal government to fund any form of welfare. We would save megabucks, perhaps 50%, by reducing federal taxes and letting local government deal with NEEDED emergency care.

  11. Social Security is not "broken." The consensus is that it needs tweaks now to head off a possible break in the future.

    Medicare is not broken. The entire U.S. Health Care system, however, is very definitely broken. Why do we pay considerably more for our total health care bill than most other developed countries? And why, for all that money, do we receive overall worse outcomes than do residents of most other developed countries??

  12. Social Security is not "broken." The consensus is that it needs tweaks now to head off a possible break in the future.

    Medicare is not broken. The entire U.S. Health Care system, however, is very definitely broken. Why do we pay considerably more for our total health care bill than most other developed countries? And why, for all that money, do we receive overall worse outcomes than do residents of most other developed countries?

  13. Apologies to all for messing up and double posting!

  14. Ms. Anderson... The vast majority of Medicaid recipients are the working poor. Not people who refuse to work. Walmart has several hundred thousand employees on Medicaid. Medical costs will soon exceed $20,000 per family. Far more than the vast majority of the people in this country can come close to paying. A substantial number of all of the major medical procedures are being paid for by either Medicaid or Medicare. Without these two insurance programs the US healthcare system would be bust by happy hour. Every major hospital in the country would go under.

  15. Carmine,

    President Obama deserves blame for avoiding this issue but Paul Ryan and the Republicans are little better. Here is the truth that nobody says and nobody wants to hear:

    These programs will need to be changed in ways that result in fewer benefits for future recipients and even with that change, higher taxes and means testing will also be required.

    You tell me if ANYONE in government has said the above in those simple but unpopular terms.


  16. Michael:

    If you are correct that no one in government has said these things, and you're not, THEN the President, as the leader, should and act on it. Like I said, Clinton tried. Bush tried. Obama is AWOL.


  17. SS and Medicare will survive. Politicians lack the commitment to steward our economic interests. Surprised? Our longevity is declining, again, so SS might not need too much tweaking. Seems women under age 50 are passing due to chronic conditions. So many more will never collect SS. As for Medicare, it just is NOT that we are getting good or even moderate health care. We get whatever care is most expensive. The insurance companies do all they can to deny coverage, deny payment, and spend more on administrative costs, salary and bonuses to executives. Unless something changes in HEALTH CARE (not within Medicare alone), Medicare will HAVE TO BE changed to a stipend for recipients and/or stipend towards a premium. Only then, when CONSUMERS have decision-making authority will heath care costs stop skyrocketing. In the mean time, we'll hear all sorts of hype and arguments. Sure we can do some things to help or delay real solutions: We can moderate the end-of-life care that is 25% of Medicare costs--"care" that does NOT ENHANCE quality or length of life--excluding of course that being a comatose vegetable doesn't qualify as life. And sure, we could refuse to carry indigents endlessly on MEDICAID--we could stop paying for their nursing homes and assisted living--which career indigents get long before they need health-care assistance but timed right after they run out of young children, foster kids and grandchildren in their custody that award them welfare benefits. THIS is why SS and Medicare are the low-hanging fruit of SPENDING REFORM--the real issues are in "discretionary" and "defense" spending while we ignore the illegal invasion and threats to our way of life, threats to our nation.

  18. notacon: NON-medicare patients make up the difference in health care "costs" so it just would not work for more people to buy in. Medicare does continue to pay any and every charge hospitals and doctors come up with even when the treatment is predictably BAD FOR THE PATIENT.

  19. Zippert 3:53: Career indigents are among the working poor--since SOME government programs require that they work or pretend to be employed to keep collecting. So we spend more on the benefits than what they make. Career-indigents are those who never take responsibility for themselves--never decide to figure out how to. We have NO OBLIGATION to support them from cradle to grave. If they had to, some would find real work and/or manage their income and prospects. Thus, there is NO NEED for MEDICAID. We can TRANSITION OUT OF MEDICAID by limiting it to 2 years consecutive and 5 years lifetime. All programs need these limits. Sure, a body can have a bad spell but when it exceeds 5 years, it's up to you to deal with it. If you don't qualify for disability, maybe your issues are NOT legitimate restrictions hindering you from being self supporting. There is no way that "WE" can administrate whether or not an individual is "trying" or not. So, we need administrative limits on how much you can live off the "land", off taxpayers. Face it, some people will subsist on others whether those others be relatives, women, government, taxpayers, employers/programs.