Posts tagged ‘Medicare’

11/04/2012

Undecided Voters: Social Issues

The better choice on each issue is in the left column, indicated by a (D) for Democrat, (R) for Republican, or (N) for neither.

(D) VOTING RIGHTS AND ELECTIONS: Which party is more likely to promote a constitution amendment to remove money from campaigns, or appoint Supreme Court justices willing to interpret large contributions as bribery? Romney goes in the wrong direction as he suggests getting rid of campaign finance laws. (1-16-12). Who is more likely to promote and protect the right to vote by removing unnecessary obstacles, and yet preserve the integrity of the system? Democrats clearly win this one.

(D) MEDICARE: Although the nation must get Medicare spending under control, Romney has no solution, for he would block grant it to the states, which would effectively kill it. (10-18-11) (11-12-11) (2-22-12). Not changing things for current retirees is just a way of screwing those who’ll retire later (1-8-12) Romney wants a premium voucher program, which inevitably will not cover increases in insurance company premiums (1-16-12).

(D) MEDICAID: Romney would also effectively end Medicaid by sending it to the states. (1-16-12). As he put it, he would get the government out of Medicaid. (1-19-12). The problem is a large segment of the population will prematurely die off.

(D) HEALTH CARE COSTS: Health care needs tough federal regulation to control doctor and hospital costs, as well as drug prices, but neither party openly proposes a solution. Since regulation is the only answer, and the modern Republican Party never advocates price controls, Romney cannot be the solution.

(D) OBAMACARE: Romney was wrong when he thought Obamacare would be declared unconstitutional. (12-10-11). He repeatedly promised to repeal it. (10-11-11) (10-18-11) (1-7-12) (1-16-12) (1-19-12) (2-22-12). He posed a good question when he asked what we would be replaced with. (10-11-11). He alleged Obamacare raises taxes 500 billion, cuts Medicare 500 billion, and is a government takeover. (10-11-11). He thinks eliminating it would save 95 billion annually (11-12-11) (1-7-12). Romney would give states health care waivers (9-22-11), which effectively would repeal it. Since the current health care system is dysfunctional, the greatest problem with the Republican position is their failure to suggest a rational intelligent alternative.

(D) INDIVIDUAL MANDATE: Romney argued people need to purchase health insurance to show their personal responsibility. (8-11-11) (11-9-11). He said uninsured persons are going to emergency rooms and taxpayers end up picking up the tab. (9-7-11). Romney insulted those who cannot afford health insurance by calling them “free riders.” (1-26-12). He later contradicted himself saying he opposed the individual mandate (1-23-12). The problem is even with a government voucher program, health care providers and health insurance companies will continue raising costs and premiums, and most will be priced out of coverage. Deductibles and co-pays will continue to rise. Prices need to be controlled and regulated. Since Republicans will never regulate, the vote has got to go to the Democrats.

(D) PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Romney said he would not repeal the unfunded Prescription Drug Program started by Little Bush (9-12-11). The problem is we need drug price regulation, but the Republicans will never do it. Our only hope is with Democrats.

(D) SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT: Social Security retirement should never be confused with Medicare, or other social welfare programs. The retirement plan, created in 1935, is the most successful and efficient program ever created by the federal government. It needs nothing, except to be left alone. While Romney called it an “essential program” (9-12-11), Republicans from Reagan to Little Bush have advocated phasing it out. So, even though Romney said we should save the retirement plan (9-7-11), he would be pressured by House Republicans to push a right-wing agenda, which is to privatize it. Although Romney said it would not change for current retirees (1-8-12), he would add a year or two to the retirement age (1-16-12).

(D) WELFARE: Romney would turn poverty programs back to the states (1-8-12), which would kill them. He thinks Obama is creating a welfare state (1-19-12), and the U.S. has become an entitlement society. (1-16-12). Romney would block grant Food Stamps (2-22-12), which would cripple the needs of the hungry.

(D) EDUCATION: Romney apparently thinks there is something wrong with teacher unions, as he said he would stand up them. (9-22-11) While he would test children in math and English (2-22-12), which is fine, too many Republicans push the idea of privatizing schools, a long range threat to our culture.

(D) EDUCATIONAL TV/PUBLIC BROADCASTING (PBS): In an shocking campaign promise, Romney said he would eliminate Public Broadcasting (11-12-11). At a time when more, not less, non-fictional programming on science is needed, why cut PBS? Personally, it’s the only benefit I ever received from the federal government. I can’t believe any candidate would eliminate it.

(D) ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: In Presidential elections, we don’t just elect a man; we choose a party to manage the agencies of government. If Romney wins, House Republicans will name the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Extremists like Republican Michelle Bachmann, who advocated abolishing it, will have influence. If Romney wins, we will have a weak EPA. We should prefer over-regulation, than the other way around. Although Romney said we can’t let pollution flow from one state to another (1-8-12), which implies a need for federal law, modern Republicans cannot be trusted to regulate.

(D) FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (FEMA) The storm that just hit the East Coast is a good reminder of how bad it would be if FEMA had been abolished, or privatized. We need to remember we all sink or swim together.

(D) SUPREME COURT: It is likely the next President will appoint one or more Justices. A Romney win would tip the court to the hard right. The Court currently has four right-wing Justices: Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts (on most issues). Reagan’s appointee Kennedy completes the usual conservative majority, which has existed since 1972.

(D) ABORTION: The secular right to “liberty” found in the 5th and 14th Amendments allows women to have an abortion in the earlier stages of pregnancy, when the fetus is incapable of living outside the womb. As a practical matter, attempts to outlaw abortion have been a waste of time. Even if the anti-abortion crowd had another Justice, who would ignore precedent, and reverse Roe v Wade, subsequent attempts to convict women and doctors would fail. Prosecutors will never get 12 jurors to convict women or doctors, and there would be hung jury after hung jury. We live in a free country which has no official religious creed. People disagree as to whether life begins at birth, or some other point before the fetus can live outside the womb. Romney, a missionary for the very conservative Mormon Church, will almost certainly appoint right-wing Justices. He changed his position on abortion. Most recently, he said he is pro-life (12-15-11) (1-19-12). He said Roe v Wade was wrong, it should be overturned, and the issue should be left to the states. (1-7-12). His stand would only give religious fanatics the power to impose their religious views on a secular society, filled with many who want to be free.

(D) CONTRACEPTIVES: Romney did not think any state wanted to ban contraceptives (1-7-12), but he is part of a right-wing Republican Party willing to turn back the hands of time.

(D) GAYS: Romney, whose Mormon grandfather fled the U.S. and moved to Mexico, because he believed strongly in the right to have more than one wife, ironically wants to amend the Constitution to limit marriages to one man and one women. Why the Republicans want to control the life of gays, who are genetically predisposed, is a mystery. We live in free country. It’s time to leave gays alone. Although Romney opposes same-sex marriage (12-15-11) (1-8-12) (1-16-12), and would amend the constitution to stop gay marriage (1-7-12) (1-8-12), the Democrats have the better position, as they believe in personal freedom.

(D) GUNS: Neither party is doing much to control hand guns in cities. Romney signed an assault weapons ban when he was Gov. in Massachusetts, but now he says he is pro-gun (12-15-11). The Republicans offer little hope to control firearm violence.

(D) RELIGION: Romney served overseas in France as a missionary for the Mormon Church. (12-10-11). He said he would seek guidance and providence in making critical decisions (1-26-12). He thinks Obama is somehow attacking religious freedom. (2-22-12). I have no idea what Romney is talking about.

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12/27/2011

Health Care Law in Plain English

After reading a Health Care Law article by attorneys Skindrud and Cleary in the Wisconsin Lawyer (12-11), I translated it into a plain English version for ordinary Americans.

“Obamacare,” as Republicans put it, was not written by President Obama, it was drafted by lobbyists, enacted by Congress, and handed to the President on March 23, 2010, for his signature. It is actually two laws: the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” and the “Health Care Education Reconciliation Act.”

The purpose the new legislation is to cover most Americans with private health care insurance, and to reduce taxpayer subsidization for ER services, provided to the growing number of uninsured.

The law contains an individual mandate, requiring the purchase of health insurance. The idea of forcing people to buy insurance is not new. For nearly 100 years in Wisconsin, businesses have been under a government mandate to acquire Workers Compensation Insurance, from private carriers, to cover employees in the event of accidents at work. Employers also contribute to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) to provide for laid off employees. They must further pay the Social Security-Medicare system, under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).

What is different about the new health care law is the individual mandate to buy insurance, as opposed to one requiring businesses to do so. The new Act raises Constitutional issues as to whether it exceeds the Congressional power to regulate Commerce, a question that will be ruled upon by the Supreme Court. While states have long mandated the purchase of automobile liability insurance or at least proof of financial responsibility, the opponents of the health care law may be able to show legal distinctions between auto and health.

For the most part, the new law does not kick in until 2014, when individuals must have “minimal essential coverage.” If they do not, penalties may be imposed for each month they went without it. The punishment will be based on a percentage of income, as reflected in annual tax returns.

Although most Americans will see no tax increase as a result of the new law, those earning $200,000, or more, will contribute a certain percent of income to help finance the new Act.

The federal Medicaid program for the poor, administered by states, but paid largely by Washington, will extend coverage in 2014 to those under 65, who are not disabled, if they earn 133% of poverty or less.

Each state will open up Health Insurance Exchanges in 2014, as a place for individuals, and businesses of up to 100 employees, to find affordable insurance. Larger employers must wait until 2017. Individuals and businesses will pay a portion of the premiums, up to certain caps, and to insure affordability, the government will pick up the balance owed to the insurance industry. Those at the poverty level will pay 2% of income in premiums; those at 400% of poverty will pay 9.5%.

Private insurance companies will be required to provide coverage for “essential health benefits,” without lifetime caps. Co-payments and deductibles will disappear in 2014. Children will no longer be subjected to pre-existing condition exclusions, and are now able to stay on their parents plan through age 26. Adults have to wait until 2014 to be free of the pre-existing condition exclusion.

To control health care costs, the government is pushing health care providers through Medicare reimbursements to abandon the fee-for-service system, reduce ER visits, eliminate duplication, and end unnecessary procedures. Payments for excess readmissions for conditions like heart failure will be reduced. The plan is to cut Medicare re-imbursement rates by 30% in 2012.

Although the goal of coverage to all is a noble one, the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court may in a 5-4 vote find the individual mandate unconstitutional. If the law is upheld, some previously without coverage will benefit, but the biggest winner will be the health insurance industry, since the federal government will subsidize their unregulated premiums. The government will probably also lose the struggle with the health care industry to lower reimbursements. While a single-payer system would have been better, and more efficient, we can only wait and see what develops under this law.

10/12/2011

Republican Debate New Hamp (10-11-11)

The Republican candidates met in New Hampshire on Oct. 11, 2011 to debate economic issues.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Romney said we have been run over by China for 20 years, and he would issue an Executive Order identifying them as a currency manipulator, and then prosecute them in the WTO.  He did not want a trade war, but did not want to let them use us either. Huntsman worried if we apply penalties, we will get the same in return, because we also manipulate our currency, and a trade war would hurt our agricultural exporters.

EURO CRISIS: Gingrich said the Greek economy should not be using the Euro-Zone Currency. Ron Paul uncovered the Federal Reserve sent 5 billion overseas to bail out foreign banks.

DEFENSE SPENDING: Romney will not cut defense spending.

BANKING: If the economies of the entire world were collapsing, Romney would take action. He said we need to prevent a contagion from affecting U.S. banks. President Bush had to take action to keep all banks from closing. Santorum opposed the bailout of the Wall Street banks, and the creation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which Romney, Huntsman, Perry, and Cain supported. Bachmann said the banks cannot grow, because they are being required to comply with new rules. Cain thought the Wall Street protesters should target the government.

FEDERAL RESERVE: Gingrich said the fix has been in since the Bush Administration. Newt said Paulsen, Bernanke, and Geithner are not smart, and he would fire Bernanke and Geithner over the crisis. He singled out Bernanke for spending billions bailing out one group, over another. He said it is wrong for one man to have that kind of secret power. He wants all Fed documents released, so we can better prepare for the next crisis. Romney would also discharge Bernanke. Cain had no objection to a Fed audit. Paul called the Fed the engine of inflation and the source of recessions.

INTEREST RATES: Paul said Greenspan kept interest rates too low for too long. Easy credit caused a bubble and then it burst and now we need a correction. We should not have someone at the Fed deciding what interest rates should be, or how much money we should have. We should go back to the gold standard, Paul said. Because the Fed is setting artificially low interest rates, Bachmann blamed the financial meltdown on the government.

HOUSING: We built too many houses, Paul said, and then the Wall Street speculators got bailed out, but the Middle Class lost homes. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae caused overbuilding and distortions, and the government must get out of housing. Bachmann said the government pushed housing goals, as Freddie and Fannie put mortgages in a difficult place. Gingrich said the easy ability to buy homes is where we went wrong the last decade. He blamed the Countryside deal on the lobbyists for Freddie Mac.

JOBS: Romney said funds should not have been used to bail out GM and Chrysler. The NLRB should not be telling Boeing it cannot build in a non-union state. He said we borrowed 800 billion for a job stimulus, but didn’t see any jobs. Huntsman would regain our industrial base by lowering taxes and lessening regulations. Santorum said we are uncompetitive, and must reduce corporate taxes from 35% to zero on those who invest in plant and equipment in this country. Perry wants our manufacturing back.

ENERGY: Perry would repeal regulations that interfere with the energy industry. He would put 1.2 million people to work in the industry, so the U.S. can become energy independent. It was wrong, he said, for Obama to invest in Solyndra, a solar energy firm. When asked about doing the same in Texas, he said his legislature had oversight and created 54,000 jobs. Santorum would drill in Pennsylvania, saying it is a gas capital.

HEALTH CARE: Romney said Americans are not satisfied with the status quo. Although he would repeal Obamacare, he asked, what are we going to replace it with? In Mass, he dealt with the 8% who were uninsured. He said Perry has one million uninsured kids in Texas, while Mass has less than 1%. Romney said Obama’s plan raises taxes and spends trillions. Huntsman wants a health care solution that works in the market. He warned the IRS is already gearing up with 19,500 employees to administer the insurance mandate. Santorum would repeal Obamacare, but not by waivers. He would repeal the taxes and spending for it, so the insurance mandate would have no teeth.

MEDICARE: Gingrich was asked: Are the last two years of life under Medicare wasteful spending? He did not want death panels. Bachmann warned Part B for hospitals will be broke in nine years. She thinks Obama would push people out of Medicare into Obamacare, and 15 political appointees will make major decisions for 300 million Americans. Perry says Medicare needs to be block-granted to the states.

BUDGET & DEBT: Cain wants revenues to equal spending. Perry would propose a Balanced Budget Amendment, because we raise taxes, but never get spending reductions. Paul said the debt is a burden on the economy. Bachmann opposed increases in the Debt Ceiling, because she did not want to give Obama another 2.4 trillion. We spend 40% more than we take in, she said, and cut backs on spending would be only part of the answer. Romney said we cannot have more tax revenues, because that would kill jobs.

TAXES: Romney would not raise taxes. We don’t need Cain’s 999 tax plan, said Perry. The last thing Bachmann would do is let Congress impose a national sales tax, a suggested by Cain. Santorum said Cain’s plan would not pass, because no one supports a national sales tax. Huntsman would not do Cain’s tax plan, but instead something doable, like eliminating loopholes and deductions for individuals, as recommended by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission. Huntsman would also phase out corporate welfare and subsidies. He said he had a flat tax in Utah.

9-9-9 PLAN: Cain would throw out the entire tax code, including the progressive income tax, the capital gains tax, death taxes, and payroll taxes, and he would replace it with a 9-9-9 plan: 9% corporate business flat tax, 9% federal income tax, and 9% national sales tax. He was asked why Americans would be willing to pay more for bread and milk, under his new 9% national sales tax. He gave an incorrect answer, suggesting ordinary people are now paying 15.3%, when in fact they pay only 7.65%. He tried to suggest they would be save 6%. He thought people would have more for sales taxes, since they would pay less in payroll taxes. Cain also appeared ignorant of how Congress works, when he said he would ask them to require a 2/3rds vote before increasing any of his 999 taxes. He would need a Constitutional Amendment.

09/09/2011

American Jobs Act: Pass It Now

President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act last night to put people back to work in: 1) construction: rebuilding roads, bridges, school buildings, homes and railroads; 2) education: by hiring teachers to train engineers; 3) manufacturing: by increasing exports made in the USA; 4) finance: by restructuring home loans at 4% rates; and 5) in health care: by reforming Medicare.

Obama said our economy has eroded over several decades into a crisis, and it now millions of Americans are out of work. Congress needs to stop conducting a political circus, he said, and advocated several steps they could take right now to fix the economy.

CONSTRUCTION: Obama wants construction crews hired to rebuild roads and bridges, tasks requiring bulldozers and asphalt trucks. Millions of unemployed construction workers could build airports and faster railroads. Carpenters could repair and modernize 35,000 schools, by fixing roofs and windows. They could install science labs, and Internet facilities. Obama advocated putting them to work rehabilitating homes. Next summer, disadvantaged youth could work, presumably as helpers.

CUT RED TAPE: Obama suggested cutting any red tape that gets in the way. He has but two criteria: 1) How badly is the project needed? 2) How much good would it do for the economy? We should have no more rules and regulations than health, safety and security require, he said. He rejected any idea of ending collective bargaining rights, saying we need not be in a race to the bottom.

EDUCATION: He wants to put thousands of teachers back to work in the classroom. We need to train 10,000 engineers a year.

MANUFACTURING: He would expand manufacturing jobs by signing trade deals with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea, so Americans could market more goods abroad. We need to sell more American-made goods around the world, he said. The next generation of manufacturing needs take place here in America.

FINANCE: Obama wants to generate work in the finance sector at savings and loans, and at banks, by helping homeowners refinance their mortgage loans at 4% interest rates. This would create savings, and generate spending, and stimulate the economy.

HEALTH CARE: He wants to keep people busy in the health care industry by making additional changes to Medicare and Medicaid.

OFFSET BY MEDICARE CUTS: The President said his plan would be offset by budget cuts, and it need not add to the deficit. We must make additional cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, he said, because their spending is unsustainable.

OFFSET BY TAXING RICH: Obama said we need to eliminate loopholes, deductions, and tax breaks for millionaires.

OFFSET BY ENDING CORPORATE LOOPHOLES: Obama said the Tax Code could be reformed so big corporations paid their fair share. Do we really need oil company loopholes?

TAX BREAKS FOR NEW HIRES: The President suggested tax advantages for companies that invest and create jobs in America. He would give tax breaks to companies who hire new workers, or raise wages. Companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire someone who has spent more than six months looking for a job.

CUT INDIVIDUAL TAXES: Obama proposed cutting in half payroll taxes for working Americans. Families would get a $1,500 tax cut next year, under his plan, again to stimulate the economy.

MUST ACT NOW: Although the next Presidential election is 14 months away, Obama said the people do not have the luxury of waiting that long and they need help now. He asked Congress to pass his plan right away, saying: “Doing nothing is not an option.”

06/15/2011

Republican Debate New Hamp (6-13-11)

Seven Republicans answered questions on CNN on June 13 in their first presidential debate. Four of the seven are unlikely to get the nomination, because voters usually pick Governors or Senators, who have had statewide experience. Since House members Bachmann, Paul, and Gingrich have not served an entire state, and Cain has not held any office, they are not credible candidates. Of the three with credentials, former Sen. Santorum was beaten badly in a re-election bid in Pennsylvania, and he is damaged cargo. This leaves only two plausible candidates: former Gov. Pawlenty of Minnesota and former Gov. Romney of Massachusetts.

Before addressing Pawlenty and Romney, let’s examine what the party stands for by reviewing the statements of the others.

CAIN opposed auto industry loans that successfully saved GM and Chrysler, along with countless jobs. He supports Ryan’s voucher plan, which would destroy Medicare, as we know it. He would phase out Social Security Retirement, the most popular government program ever implemented. He would single out Muslims, in violation of the 1st Amendment, and would solve a problem that does not exist, by baring Sharia Law in U.S. Courts.

BACHMANN would abolish the Environmental Protection Agency (yes, she really said this). She opposed government loans that prevented the recent Great Recession from becoming a Great Depression. She opposes the right to abortion. She criticized President Obama for working with allies like France, as to Libya.

GINGRICH would dismantle the National Labor Relations Board. He would not pay Medicare “crooks,” as he put it. He supports unconstitutional loyalty oaths for Muslims.

RON PAUL, usually an interesting man, would have denied government assistance to all private enterprise. He said average retirees draw three times as much as they contribute to Medicare, but his numbers need a fact-check. As to Afghanistan, he courageously said he would not duck the issue by waiting for the generals to act; he would pull out now, and would save billions of dollars.

SANTORUM criticized sending jobs overseas, yet he historically supported free trade. He opposed loans to help American industry. He supports the Ryan plan to privatize Medicare, and apparently thinks elderly people will somehow be able to afford private health insurance premiums. He would not close U.S. military bases around the world, as he thinks we need every single one of them.

PAWLENTY opposes unions and labor laws that protect ordinary working people. He thinks Congress created the housing bubble, but did not explain. He supports an unspecified option, other than Medicare. When asked about separating church and state, he left non-believers out of the 1st Amendment, as he referred to “people of faith.” He is proudly pro-life. He would allow the 50 states to have their own immigration laws, even though the constitution clearly delegates naturalization to Congress. He promised to bomb other countries.

ROMNEY opposed the auto industry loans that successfully saved thousands of American jobs, saying he would have let them go bankrupt. He dodged a question about Afghanistan, and cowardly failed to indicate a willingness to withdraw, by saying he would instead defer to generals or conditions on the ground.

As a group, Republicans oppose saving American industry and their jobs. They oppose labor laws that protect ordinary working people. They would repeal environmental protection. They wish to destroy Medicare, as we know it. They appear to be ignorant of the problems with private health insurance. Some would end the Social Security Retirement System. They support a Christian Nation, to the exclusion of other faiths and non-believers. They would discriminate against Muslim-Americans and would require loyalty oaths. They would deny women the liberty to have an abortion. They talk about spending too much, but refuse to close unnecessary military bases around the globe, and promise no end to the waste of tax dollars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The only thing they were really good at was convincing me not to vote for them.

05/02/2011

U.S. Medicare: Fee-For-Patient Needed

While the Social Security retirement system is largely solvent, Medicare, also based on payroll deductions, will soon be in deep financial trouble, unless changes are made.

The retirement plan works, because the government bases retiree payments on the contributions the workers themselves have made during their lifetimes. The Medicare program has problems, because the amounts the health care providers are receiving are greatly in excess of the contributions made to the plan.

30 years after Social Security retirement was created (1935), Medicare was added (1965). Medicare provides health care for people age 65, or older. From 1965 through 1991, one deduction of 7.65% was taken from every paycheck for retirement and Medicare. The 7.65% deduction was segregated in 1991, into a 6.20% allocation for retirement, and a 1.45% sum for Medicare. Employers have been making matching contributions all along.

I added up my personal contributions to Medicare since 1991, using my old W-2s, and doubled that sum to account for the matching employer payments. Up to this point, the contributions are only about enough to cover one major surgery. Since life expectancy for men is now 76, and for women it is 81, Medicare has nowhere near enough money from contributions to cover men for 11 years (65 thru 76), or women for 16 years (65 thru 81).

The solution is not the Republican Budget Voucher Plan, introduced by Paul Ryan, which would turn the system over to private insurance companies, and would effectively destroy it. Since Ryan does not regulate insurance premiums, his $7,800 annual voucher would be worthless for most seniors, as they could not afford the premiums in excess of the $7,800 voucher, or the various charges private insurers refuse to pay.

The Medicare solution is to control health care costs. It has been difficult to control them up until now, because they are paid by Medicare, a third party, and neither the patient, nor the health care provider, has had any incentive to keep them down. Economic incentives need to change, if the plan is going to work.

Health care providers must have an incentive to keep costs down. Hospitals and doctors are currently rewarded for billing for every service provided. The more lab tests, X-rays, or scans, and so on, the more that is billed, and the more the health care provider receives. This “Fee-for-Service” system does not work, because it lacks cost controls, and is too expensive.

We should instead adopt a “Fee-for-Patient” system. Every retiree 65 and older would choose a hospital and doctor, within their geographic area. Instead of giving out a $7,800 voucher to a private insurance carrier, the same sum would be paid directly to the patient’s designated health care provider, who would in turn provide all the medical services the patient needs for that year.

Under the “Fee-for-Patient” system: 1) private health insurance companies would have no role; 2) patients would receive only the care they need; 3) health care providers would have an incentive to control costs and would stop running up unnecessary bills; and 4) government outlays would be fixed and finite, and the system would once again gain some fiscal control.

04/25/2011

S.S. Retirement: Don’t Even Touch It

The right-wingers are once again talking about tampering with the Social Security Retirement System and they need to be stopped.

It is very troubling to hear politicians and media pundits discuss all forms of Social Security, in the same breadth, as if they were all the same. Since the programs are as different as night and day, the words used to describe them must be clear. Medicare, Medicaid and SS Disability have legitimate issues that need correction, but the retirement plan does not. So there is no confusion or ambiguity, everyone should use the word retirement when discussing what the elderly receive when they stop working.

Social Security retirement, created in 1935, works pretty well, and needs no major adjustment, or privatization. With every paycheck, .0765 is deducted and paid to the government. Of that sum, .062 is applied to the Old-Age Trust Fund, and 0.145 is paid to Medicare. Employers are required to make matching payments.

Social Security retirement works, because it is universal and mandatory. The deal is, throughout our work lives, we all pay into the system, and we all receive benefits when we stop working. It’s simple to understand and easy to administer. If you retire early at age 62, your monthly benefits are reduced for the rest of your life. If you wait for full retirement at age 65 or 66, you receive the normal sum. Your benefits are based on your average earnings.

I dug out my old W-2s from over the years and added up all of my personal contributions to the retirement trust fund. I then doubled them to account for the matching employer contributions. I then divided that sum by the estimated monthly payment Social Security has told me I will probably receive upon retirement. The bottom line is there is roughly enough money in the trust fund, from principle alone, to cover payments through life expectancy.

The very idea of privatization is foolish and reckless. If the program was privatized, and the money was placed in the hands of private sector funds, there is no guarantee sound investments would be made, or that the money would not be lost. The recent Great Recession of 2008 is a perfect example of how the stock market can take a dive.

The reason we need to maintain a mandatory government-run retirement trust fund, is that many Americans earn so little, they are unable to save for their golden years. If the deductions were not mandatory, those on the margin, which is about half the population, would spend all of their paychecks as soon as they were received. They would not be able to build up any savings on their own, because they have so little discretionary income.

Since most people are also living longer now, they cannot continue working, until they die. Modern American medicine is keeping men alive for 75.6 years, and women for 80.8 years. Most stop working as they turn 62 or 65, because they are simply physically or mentally unfit to continue. With no income, most absolutely need their SS retirement benefits to survive.

When it comes to the retirement system, I just don’t see a serious problem. The next time a right-wing politician tries to scare you by saying the money you paid into the Old-Age Trust Fund is not there, ask him for the names of those who stole it, because they need to be prosecuted for theft. Ask for the names of the irresponsible politicians who voted to take the country to war, but lacked the courage and responsibility to raise taxes to pay for it. If they think they can cover the cost of their wars with our trust for retirement, they should be warned: Don’t even think about it!