Issues

Strengthening and Expanding Social Security and Medicare

Strengthening and Expanding Social Security and Medicare

Ro knows we need to strengthen and defend Social Security and Medicare. As a member of Congress, he will fight to: 

  • Protect the retirement age.
  • Support increasing benefits for seniors to keep up with the high cost of living.
  • Hold healthcare providers and insurers accountable for cutting costs.
  • Make sure that seniors get every penny of the benefits that they worked for, and oppose efforts to slash Medicare and Social Security.

Protecting Social Security and Medicare is more than just “politics” to me. Like millions of Americans who worked hard and paid into those programs, my parents are retired and rely on Social Security and Medicare today. I believe strongly that they and all of our senior citizens deserve the dignity of a secure retirement in their golden years.

It’s critical that benefits keep up with the rising cost of living – especially in expensive areas like the Bay Area. Unfortunately, many seniors I talk to in Santa Clara and Alameda Counties are struggling to make ends meet. Seniors have told me about having to forgo medications because they can’t afford them. Even those that are better are off are greatly concerned about whether the Social Security and Medicare benefits they paid into for years will remain available to them. 

When I am in Congress, I will work to support increasing Social Security benefits.  We can pay for this by scrapping the cap.  I support Senator Sanders plan to scrap the cap so that everyone who makes over $250,000 pays the same percentage of their income as middle class families.  This would allow us to expand benefits for seniors so that they can keep up with the soaring cost of living in the Bay Area.

Social Security

Protect the retirement age. Many politicians argue for raising the retirement age for Social Security because Americans are living longer and spending more years in retirement than they did when the program was established. However, increasing the retirement age is not the best way to protect the program – and it is a proposal that would unfairly place the burden of solvency on the backs of middle class working families. Raising the retirement age would harm those employed in physically demanding jobs, in addition to those with poor health, disabilities, or in low-income groups where life expectancy has not increased by much. As a member of Congress, I will not support any plan that increases the retirement age.

Eliminate the payroll tax cap for millionaires. While I commend President Obama's courage in addressing the need to ensure Social Security's solvency in the long-term, I respectfully disagree with his proposal to move the system toward the so-called “chained C.P.I.” That change would reduce benefits for current recipients, which I strongly oppose. 

I propose eliminating the current payroll tax cap for incomes above $250,000 a year, asking the wealthiest among us to pay a bit more to ensure the long-term solvency of the program. Those earning between $117,000 and $250,000 would be exempt from any payroll tax increase, so that middle class families in the Bay Area – working two jobs, struggling to pay their mortgage or to send kids to college – are not subject to a harmful tax increase. 

 

Medicare

Allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. Medicare leaves it to private insurance companies to negotiate prices with drug makers. The Department of Veterans Affairs and Medicaid, on the other hand, are allowed to bargain for their prescription drug costs, resulting in lower prices.

Estimates show that if Medicare were allowed to negotiate directly with prescription drug manufacturers, savings could total up to $541.3 billion over the next decade. Congress should immediately change the law to allow them to do so.

Improve Medicare’s transparency. Our health care system wastes as much as one-third of its spending due to inefficient payment systems, mistakes, duplication, and unnecessary paperwork. Medicare alone squandered $44 billion in improper payments in 2012.  

The government is currently prevented from releasing data on payments to Medicare providers. But Americans should know how their public funds are being spent. Releasing payment data would increase the transparency of the system, allowing members of the public – including journalists – to be watchdogs over fraud and improper payments, potentially saving significant amounts of money in the Medicare program.

Cut costs of American health care. American health costs are the most expensive in the world, but our health care outcomes are not better than other countries’. The World Health Organization ranks the American health system 37th out of those in 191 nations.There are several commonsense initiatives we can take to decrease our health care costs. First, generic drugs should be brought to market faster. Some pharmaceutical companies pay generic drug manufactures to slow the speed with which they start selling their products so that they keep a monopoly on the market for longer, keeping health care costs high. A recent Supreme Court decision, Federal Trade Commission v. Actavis, could make it more difficult for pharmaceutical companies to extend their exclusivity. Meanwhile, Congress members should pressure pharmaceutical companies to employ fair market practices.

Second, as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, we should hold health care providers and insurers accountable for reducing fraud and waste. The Institute of Medicine estimates that the U.S. health system wastes up to $750 billion on things like unnecessary services, excessive administrative costs, and fraud.