Maintaining the financial security and health of our nation’s seniors is at the forefront of my policies. Seniors are the foundation of our communities and have worked hard all their lives to build our nation. Unfortunately, like so many Americans, they struggle with income insecurity and high health care costs. Social Security and Medicare are designed to help our citizens as they enter retirement, and we must never neglect our responsibility to keep these programs current and solvent.
Keeping Social Security a Reliable Public System of Shared Commitment
Established in 1935 during the Great Depression as an anti-poverty program for senior citizens and disabled Americans, Social Security is an American success story. It has lifted millions of senior citizens out of poverty and provided financial security for widowed and divorced spouses, children, and persons with disabilities. Forty years ago, more than one third of all seniors lived in poverty. Today, thanks in large part to Social Security, that number stands at less than 11%.
Social Security has never contributed a penny to the deficit and in fact is prohibited by law from doing so. The program has built up a substantial surplus that is expected to reach a peak of $3.7 trillion in 2022. This surplus is invested in government bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law he stated “It is, in short, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.” As an admirer of President Roosevelt, I am fighting to ensure that Social Security provides these benefits for not only our nation’s grandparents, but their grandchildren as well. To help achieve this goal, I oppose privatizing the benefits of Social Security or taking risks with its trust fund. As Americans, we created an enduring promise to America’s seniors through the creation of Social Security, and it is a promise that must be preserved and protected.
Opposing Any Lowering of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) / Opposing “Chained CPI”
Our nation’s seniors rely on Social Security to help them make ends meet. They have earned this economic security by paying into it over the course of their lives. Part of the promise our country makes to those on Social Security is that the benefits they have earned will keep up with inflation.
The Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is set annually according to a formula dating to 1975. The COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). It is calculated by comparing the CPI-W from the third quarter of the current year to the prior year. Over the past decade, these cost of living adjustments have averaged a mere 3 percent per year. This adjustment rate simply does not reflect the inflation experienced by older Americans. For example, Americans 65 and older spend more than twice as much of their total spending on health care costs, which have consistently risen more rapidly than inflation.
Recently, some have suggested changing the way the COLA is calculated by using what is called the chained CPI measurement. Chained CPI is a measure of inflation created by the Bureau of Labor Statistics touted as a more accurate way to factor rises in the cost-of-living into, among other things, social security benefits and the tax code. In April 2014, President Obama unveiled his fiscal year 2014 budget which included a chained CPI provision.
I oppose the use of chained CPI and have supported several measures opposing it, including a letter to President Obama asking that he re-consider his position regarding chained CPI. Chained CPI doesn't rise as quickly as the measure of inflation that the government uses now, therefore if the government switched to Chained CPI to calculate Social Security benefits, benefits would increase more slowly over time. Furthermore, chained CPI rises slower than the measure of inflation that the government currently uses by making different assumptions about how people spend money. Chained CPI hinges on the idea that when the price of one good rises, people are more likely to buy a similar, cheaper good.
Using chained CPI to determine annual COLA would reduce Social Security outlays by an estimated initial $112 billion. According to Social Security’s Chief Actuary, 97% of these cuts will come from current or near retirees. I am concerned chained CPI would result in reduced Social Security benefits and do not support placing these burdens on Americans that have worked hard to earn their Social Security benefits.
Strengthening Medicare / Supporting the Affordable Care Act / Opposing Premium-Subsidy Voucher Schemes
For more than 40 years, Medicare has offered critical health and financial stability for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and those with end-stage renal disease. An earned benefit, Medicare ensures that seniors will get the health coverage they worked a lifetime for. Medicare has provided coverage for at least 49 million individuals this year, and in Pennsylvania alone, over 2.3 million seniors rely on Medicare.
Seniors and older Americans age 55 to 64 face unique and often daunting challenges in finding affordable, high-quality health care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a law which I support, works to strengthen Medicare and is making prescription coverage for seniors more affordable.
The ACA gradually closes the Medicare “donut hole,” which lowers out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. More than 6.6 million seniors in the “donut hole” have already saved over $7 billion on their prescription drugs, or an average savings of $1,061 per senior. This is tremendously helpful to seniors, and may actually reduce the need for some people to purchase Medicare Advantage coverage.
Additionally, by reducing waste, fraud and slowing the cost growth in health care, the ACA will help extend the solvency of Medicare for years to come.
I will always fight to ensure that those who earned the benefits of Medicare do not see any reduction in their benefits and has supported several measures aimed at achieving that goal, including a letter to President Obama opposing any budget compromise which involved proposed cuts to Medicare benefits by some in Congress. I also oppose any effort to privatize Medicare or to turn the program into a premium-subsidy voucher, which would end traditional Medicare and turn seniors out into the private market or health coverage with no guarantees that their costs would not skyrocket. Our budgetary choices reflect our values and priorities. When seniors earn an average of $19,000 a year while millionaires receive an annual average of $140,000 in tax breaks from the government, cutting Medicare benefits in any form does not properly prioritize the welfare of our seniors.
See also Senior Citizens' Resources.
More on Seniors Issues
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) today called on U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to include senior living communities in future distributions of CARES Act coronavirus relief funding.
Washington, D.C. – In a letter to the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to ensure seniors who rely on Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits receive the full value of the economic impact payments owed to them under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as quickly as possible.
Moosic, PA – U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) today held a listening session with leaders of the Area Agencies on Aging. Agencies from Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe and Wayne Counties shared their questions, suggestions and concerns related to protecting older northeastern Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) announced during a video press conference today the introduction of the Senior Legal Hotline Act in the U.S. House, which would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a competitive grant program for statewide legal hotlines serving seniors. The grant program would be authorized at $10 million per year for five years.
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) and Republican U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) introduced the Help Extend Auditory Relief (HEAR) Act to expand hearing benefits for seniors on Medicare.
Clarks Summit, PA – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) visited the Abington Senior Community Center with affordable health care advocacy group, Protect Our Care, to hear constituents’ concerns about access to affordable health care.
Rep. Cartwright discussed the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), and his opposition to Medicare and Medicaid cuts proposed in the White House budget.
We’re facing a health care crisis in this country.
Big drug companies once again began the New Year by hiking the prices of hundreds of medications. In the first week of 2020, they slapped higher price tags on more than 500 drugs, most of which have no generic competitor. As we know very well in northeastern Pennsylvania, that means many people are being forced to choose between filling their prescriptions and paying other bills.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, last week voted to pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act.
“Rising living costs are putting pressure on older Americans to extend their careers longer than ever before,” Cartwright said. “At the same time, many are being pushed out of their jobs before they are financially secure enough to retire. This bill restores strong protections for older workers, enabling them to fight back against age discrimination and demand the dignity and respect in the workplace they deserve.”
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-08) issued the following statement after voting on the House floor to pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (H.R. 1230):
Between 2012 and 2016, the price of insulin nearly doubled in the United States.
Unfortunately, in America’s prescription drug market, price hikes like that have become routine. In the first half of 2019 alone, drug companies increased the prices of over 3,400 drugs, with price hikes averaging five times the rate of inflation.