While the fiscal cliff agreement reached on New Year's Day includes important retirement security provisions, we still need lasting solutions to the long-term challenges facing Social Security and Medicare. But we cannot allow our elected leaders to shift the cost of balancing the budget onto the backs of resource-strapped seniors.
The fiscal cliff deal included important provisions for older Americans and their families:
- The agreement delays for another year a drastic pay cut for Medicare doctors. (This is the so-called doc fix.)
- Benefits for the long-term unemployed have been extended.
- The "tax holiday," which reduced by 2 percent the share that working Americans pay into Social Security, ended. This will help restore the program's dedicated funding stream.
- The deal also protects funding for key Medicaid programs, which will help millions who rely on them for their health and long-term care.
- Sadly, the agreement repealed the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act, a voluntary long-term care insurance system. But Congress set up a Commission on Long Term Care, which will explore ways to support family caregivers and to help people stay in their homes and communities.
Long-term solutions, not quick fixes
As the budget discussions continue over the next few months, AARP remains deeply concerned about proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare. Instead of implementing harmful cuts, Washington should seek responsible solutions that address the long-term concerns facing these programs — such as reducing health care costs for everyone.
And while the doc fix offers a temporary patch, AARP urges Congress and the president to find a permanent and fiscally responsible way to provide fair pay to Medicare doctors.
On behalf of our 37 million members and all Americans who have earned their Social Security and Medicare benefits, AARP will continue working to foster an open, thoughtful public conversation about how best to strengthen these programs for today's older people and for future generations.
Strengthening Social Security
Americans have been paying into Social Security for more than 75 years and collecting these earned benefits when they retire. Currently, Social Security has enough money in its coffers to pay 100 percent of the promised benefits for the next 20 years. After that, there are sufficient funds to cover 75 percent of promised benefits. However, with gradual and modest adjustments, we can ensure that future generations will receive the benefits they've worked for.