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Today’s Threat to Medicare and Social Security: The Supercommittee

Published in the November 2011 issue of The Fifty Plus Advocate

As the race for our nation’s next president begins to heat up, we’re hearing about where candidates stand on Social Security and Medicare – from support for the programs to calls for elimination. While the news headlines often focus on this rancor and rhetoric, it is important to note: The most imminent threat to Medicare and Social Security is not from the current presidential candidates – but the so-called “Supercommittee”.

See Also: Bay Staters Speak Out

This past summer, in response to the “debt ceiling” debate, Congress passed legislation to establish a bipartisan Supercommittee, tasked with identifying spending cuts to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years. The Supercommittee is made up of 12 U.S. Senators and Representatives, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Its recommendations to Congress are due in November.

While we fought successfully this summer to stop Congress from cutting Medicare and Social Security, the victory was just a first step. Today, the stakes remain high. Still on the table for the Supercommittee: Possible cuts to these benefits middle class Americans have earned through a lifetime of hard work.

In fact, some proposals under consideration could require cuts to Medicare and Social Security that would dramatically increase health care costs for today’s seniors, threaten access to doctors, and reduce the benefit checks that older Americans rely on to pay their bills. Such cuts could have a disastrous effect on real people – seniors, their families, loved ones, friends, neighbors.

The benefits of Medicare and Social Security are absolutely vital to the well-being of middle class seniors. Here in Massachusetts about one million residents rely on both programs.

Keep in mind: Medicare and Social Security benefits are far from lavish. Even with these programs, half of those age 65 and older have an annual income of less than $18,500 per year. And, those in Medicare pay an average of $5,500 a year out of their own pockets for medical expenses; this out-of-pocket share is rising every year.

We all know that Congress must make some tough choices to address the nation’s growing debt. But, in these tough economic times, Washington shouldn’t be cutting the benefits middle class Americans have worked for over their entire lives – and must depend on to meet a middle class standard of living.

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