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Biden Promises to Protect Social Security, Medicare

President also supports family caregivers in his State of the Union address

President Joe Biden promised Americans that he would not allow cuts to Social Security or Medicare under any circumstances and urged Congress to help older adults get the care they need to remain in their homes, in his second State of the Union address on Feb. 7. 

"Tonight, let’s all agree to stand up for seniors," Biden said. "Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare. Those benefits belong to the American people. They earned them." Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle stood and made it clear from their extended applause that cuts to these two programs were, in the president's words, "off the table."

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Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Biden also promised that the budget he will send to Congress will extend the Medicare Trust Fund by at least two decades, but he didn't say how he planned to accomplish that. The latest report from the trustees who oversee the Social Security and Medicare trust funds estimates that Medicare's hospital insurance fund could run short of money starting in 2028. According to the trustees, if nothing changes, in 2028 incoming revenue would still cover 90 percent of Medicare costs.

"I won't cut a single Social Security or Medicare benefit," Biden said. "Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever."

Social Security is the main source of income for more than 34 million households. For many, it is nearly all their income. And of the 65 million people covered by Medicare, about half have annual incomes of less than $27,000.

“AARP has been crystal clear with Congress and the President: Americans should be able to trust that our leaders will safeguard their hard-earned Social Security and Medicare benefits they have contributed to and earned throughout their lives," AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said after Biden's address. In January, Jenkins had issued a statement saying that AARP would fight "any cuts to the Social Security and Medicare benefits workers and retirees have paid into and earned." 

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Law lowering drug prices will remain

While the president renewed his pledge to continue to support Ukraine in its war with Russia and to win the competition with China, the vast majority of Biden's address was devoted to his domestic agenda. He highlighted the 2022 law that made some historic changes to Medicare, including the $35 a month copay cap on insulin covered by Medicare prescription drug plans, making federally recommended vaccines free and requiring drug companies that raise their prices more than the rate of inflation to pay Medicare back for the increases. The new law also allows Medicare for the first time ever to begin negotiating the prices of some widely used and expensive prescription drugs and will put a $2,000 limit on how much Medicare beneficiaries will have to pay for their covered medications.

Biden said the new prescription drug law "will cut the federal deficit, saving taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars on the prescription drugs the government buys for Medicare."

AARP’s Jenkins also applauded "the President’s pledge to ensure that the law enacted last year to reduce the price of prescription drugs will be fully carried out. Already, millions of seniors are saving thousands of dollars a year on insulin and life-saving vaccines. AARP will keep fighting to protect lower drug prices for people on Medicare from big drug companies’ efforts to overturn the new law.”

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Biden called on Congress to expand the reach of that new law to include limiting the cost of insulin for people with private health insurance. In 2021, 3.4 million people ages 45 to 64 used insulin, according to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

Support for family caregivers

Biden also addressed the importance of allowing older Americans to remain in their homes as they age, something that AARP research has found they overwhelmingly want to do. "Let’s get seniors who want to stay in their homes the care they need to do so," Biden said. "And give a little more breathing room to millions of family caregivers looking after their loved ones." ​ ​The president also urged Congress to "pass my plan so we get seniors and people with disabilities the home care services they need and support the workers who are doing God’s work."

An estimated 48 million Americans provide care to their loved ones, "without compensation," Jenkins said. "AARP calls for action on recommendations in the National Strategy to Support Family Caregivers — such as access to better respite care and paid leave to family caregiver tax credits and reimbursement programs. These steps will make it possible for millions of additional older Americans to live independently in their own homes as they age, where they want to be."

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