By Robby Stern
Roberta Riley has a very informative piece in this newsletter on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). October 1 is the kick off to the January 1, 2014 implementation of some of the most important pieces of the act. A significant number of people will gain health care coverage as a result of the passage of the ACA and PSARA will do all that we can to help make it work. (Obviously, many things are out of our control like the delay of the employer mandate and the decision by the Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner to exclude certain Medicaid networks as options within the WA State Exchange. This decision will make continuity of coverage more difficult for low income residents whose incomes fluctuate.)
The complexity of the ACA and the continuation of predatory private insurers under the provisions of the act are precisely why PSARA remains committed to advocating for a universal coverage, single payer system. It is a basic human right that everyone have health care coverage. While we will try to assist with getting coverage to as many people as possible under the ACA, we continue the struggle for a genuine universal coverage system.
One of the provisions of the ACA provides that, beginning in 2017, states can apply for waivers to create a universal health care, single payer system. Vermont is ready to go! Winning this battle in Washington is a huge political lift but we are committed to working with a coalition of organizations to prepare the ground work for an all out effort in Washington.
Western Washington Physicians for a National Health Program are the conveners of a new coalition which will set a course to build momentum for Washington to apply for waivers in 2017.
Additionally, PSARA will join with other organizations to force onto the national stage expansion of Medicare. We want to make sure that expanding Medicare becomes part of the debate as the shortcomings of the ACA become apparent.
The real solutions for strengthening Medicare and assuring its solvency can be found in some of the following proposals:
– Require the Secretary of Health & Human Services to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients saving billions of dollars. The Medicare prescription drug law passed in 2003 prohibited the Secretary from negotiating.
– Stop paying private Medicare plans more than traditional Medicare.
– Include a drug benefit in traditional Medicare giving beneficiaries a choice they do not now have. This would encourage people to stay in traditional Medicare, saving money for taxpayers. The appeal of a number of the Medicare Plus plans is they do offer a prescription drug benefit.
– My favorite is lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare. This would bring a healthier cohort into Medicare and actually allow people who are holding on to their jobs only for health care coverage to exit the work force and create opportunities for younger people.
There will be opportunities for PSARA members who are interested to participate in these efforts.
Survey on Social Security
The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation’s leading experts on social insurance conducted a multigenerational study. They want to better understand American’s perspectives on Social Security and their preferences regarding options to strengthen the program for the future. Two thousand Americans, aged 21 and older, were involved in the research. Here are the key findings:
– Americans do not mind paying for Social Security because they value it for themselves (80%), for their families (78%) and for the security and stability it provides to millions of retired Americans, disabled individuals, children and widowed spouses of deceased workers (84%).
– 84% believe current Social Security benefits do not provide enough income for retirees, and 75% believe we should consider raising future Social Security benefits in order to provide a more secure retirement for working Americans.
– 82% agree it is critical to preserve Social Security for future generations even if it means increasing Social Security taxes and 87% want to preserve Social Security for future generations even if it means increasing taxes paid by wealthier Americans.
– 71% would prefer a package of changes that increases Social Security revenues, pays for benefit improvements and eliminates more than 100% of the projected financial gap. These changes include: eliminating the cap over 10 years; raising the Social security tax rate from 6.2% to7.2% for workers and employers over 20 years; raising Social Security’s basic minimum benefit; increasing the Social Security COLA to more accurately reflect the level of inflation experienced by seniors.
This package of changes is preferred over the status quo by 76% of people born before 1946; by 71% of baby boomers born between 1946 to 1964; 73% of Generation X born between 1965 and 1979; and by 67% of Generation Y born in 1980 and after.
PSARA members are clearly not alone! We have a solid majority on our side. The elected officials who continue to propose cuts and fail to heed this majority do so at their own peril!