President Obama May Include Cuts to Social Security COLA in Budget Proposal

April 05, 2013

Press reports indicate that President Obama will include cuts to Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs) and Medicare in his budget proposal next Wednesday http://nyti.ms/14T0YSY. The President will reportedly propose the use of the chained CPI to calculate cost of living adjustments (COLAs) if it is linked to taxes on the wealthy and infrastructure investments. In Medicare, savings would reportedly come from payments to health care providers, such as hospitals and drug companies, but the President may also propose further means-testing benefits.

The Social Security COLA cuts via the chained CPI is troubling because it is an immediate benefit cut to Social Security beneficiaries. Please send the White House a message – tell the President to protect Social Security and to safeguard benefits using this easy link http://bit.ly/12kHExe.

The chained CPI is a back door way of attempting to balance the budget on the backs of America’s seniors. The chained CPI would hit today’s Social Security beneficiaries and is a continuous cut to the benefits Americans have earned each year into the future. “Not only does the current cost of living allowance not keep up with inflation for seniors, it does not accurately account for the large health care cost increases faced by seniors and people with disabilities. The chained CPI would further underestimate the cost of living adjustments for seniors,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. More realistically, we need a more accurate and higher COLA, one that reflects the cost of living for Social Security beneficiaries. Robert Reich put out a video this week that clearly explains the chained CPI – watch it here http://huff.to/17fHYxa.

The chained CPI calculation assumes that a lower COLA is accurate because consumers can substitute cheaper products when prices go up but that does not hold true for many of seniors’ expenses. Seniors cannot substitute a triple bypass surgery with a double because it is cheaper, for example, and there are no easy substitutions for a hip replacement. According to Social Security Works, an average earner retiring in 2011 at the age of 65 would experience a benefit cut of over $6,000 over 15 years if the chained CPI were adopted. “Social Security benefits are already quite modest for most recipients. The median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year and for 70 percent of them, Social Security makes up the majority of their livelihoods. It’s very troubling that our President would propose cuts to this critical lifeline,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

It is doubtful that the chained CPI proposed in the President’s budget will become law through the federal budget process, because the House and Senate have already passed very different budget resolutions with little chance of a House-Senate conference to reconcile the differences. However, we must remain very vigilant that the chained CPI could end up in discussions in the so-called “Grand Bargain” on the deficit this spring and summer.

Patriot Coal Meets Masses in Charleston, WV
More than 6,000 people joined elected officials and labor leaders Monday in a march on Patriot Coal headquarters in Charleston, WV to protest the company's move to use bankruptcy to cut pension and health care benefits for more than 20,000 workers and retirees. Patriot Coal was spun off from St. Louis-based Peabody Energy in 2007, with approximately 43 percent of Peabody’s pension and health care liabilities, but just 11 percent of its assets.  Patriot also later assumed pension and health care obligations for retired union miners who had worked for Arch Coal, which had previously shed its liabilities in a similar way as Peabody.

Shirley Inman, a retired miner whose health care benefits are threatened by Patriot’s actions in U.S. bankruptcy court, said, “I never worked a day for Patriot Coal … I don’t care what the corporate name is, those executives made us a promise: We’d mine their coal, and in exchange we’d have good health care while we worked and after we retired. I kept my promise; they should keep theirs.” Ron Thompson, President of the Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans, at the march with several Virginia retirees, said “We were showing solidarity on their behalf. We were also standing up for them because the next group could be us.”

Sixteen people were arrested at the protest. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) is challenging Patriot’s action in court, has launched a public education advertising campaign about Peabody, Patriot and Arch Coal, working with Sens. Jay Rockefeller, Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall to develop and introduce federal legislation to assist retired miners. Click here to support the workers and retirees by signing the petition, participating in events or liking their campaign on Facebook http://bit.ly/12pxUhw.

“Turning Age and Experience Into Opportunity” – Jobs for Seniors Filled by Seniors
About 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, according to the Pew Research Center. The needs of our aging population are creating millions of jobs to serve and assist seniors, many of which are being filled by seniors. According to NBC News (http://nbcnews.to/12pvwY0), men and women in their fifties, sixties and seventies are filling positions or creating new opportunities to serve our aging population by working in roles such as patient advocates, specialized gym instructors for senior classes, home modification professionals and errand-runners.

Whether directly serving the senior population or not, older workers are pursuing second and third careers. According to the Kauffman Foundation, 1 in 5 new entrepreneurs in 2011 were aged 55-64 and almost half of all new entrepreneurs were between the ages of 45 and 64.

Medicaid Matters
The Iowa Alliance went on the road last week to celebrate and tout the state Senate-approved expansion of Medicaid coverage for over 100,000 Iowans, over objections of Gov. Terry Branstad and some of his GOP allies in the divided Legislature. Iowa’s governor is one of many across the country to reject offering Medicaid services provided for by the federal Affordable Care Act for adults between the ages of 19 and 64 with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Approximately seventy percent of all seniors in nursing homes rely on Medicaid to support themselves. Medicaid expansion supporters will continue statewide rallies and the “Medicaid Madness” tour this weekend, especially on Sunday, to encourage a community show of support for a program that affects so many families.

Download a Printable Version