Six weeks before the midterm elections, President Joe Biden will spotlight Medicare and Social Security, two hot-button issues that could have a big impact on upcoming elections.
His speech at the White House came a few days after the House Republicans unveiled their plan for if voters give them power in November.
In that plan, the popular programs got little to no attention.
Both Medicare and Social Security will have trouble paying for themselves in the long run.
Most of the solutions Democrats have come up with involve raising taxes on people with higher incomes while also expanding benefits.
Republicans say that Democrats’ recent efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs are putting more pressure on Medicare.
As part of a plan to keep Medicare and Social Security going without raising taxes, many Republicans have supported raising the age at which you can get Medicare and the age at which you can retire on Social Security.
Because the government spends more on Social Security benefits each month than it gets in taxes, it is expected to only be able to afford to pay for 80% of benefits by 2035.
After the year 2028, the Medicare trust fund, which pays for hospital stays, will only be able to pay 90% of scheduled benefits.
Biden was going to go to Florida, a popular place for retirees, to talk about Social Security and Medicare.
However, Hurricane Ian was headed toward Florida, so Biden spoke at the White House instead.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said Monday that Biden will talk about how he is trying to strengthen Social Security and Medicare while Republicans want to “put these programs on the chopping block.”
Social Security and Medicare are always the most important things to older Americans, who vote more than younger Americans.
Republicans’ Stance on Social Security and Medicare
Last Week the “Commitment to America” House Republicans vowed to “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare” without defining how.
Democrats quickly pointed to a budget plan that conservatives in the House had put forward earlier this year.
The plan says that raising payroll taxes to pay for Social Security’s shortfall is “fundamentally immoral.”
Instead, conservatives want to slowly raise the eligibility age because life expectancy has increased since the program started. Benefits would also go up for people who make less money and down for those who make more.
For Medicare, the age at which people could join would go up, and the program would be changed into subsidies for certain health plans based on income.
Democrats have also criticized Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s plan, as head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, to require that all federal laws be rewritten every five years.
Democrats say that Republicans want to end Social Security and Medicare or “sunset” them. Scott has said that he wants to “fix” and “keep” these programs, but he hasn’t said how.
What Democrats have proposed
A bill backed by almost all Democrats in the House would raise Social Security benefits differently and put the payroll tax on wages over $400,000 for the first time.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research tank in Washington, D.C., the majority of the new benefits would be temporary, and the higher taxes would only provide the trust fund with an additional four years of solvency.
This summer, Senate Democrats made an unsuccessful attempt to increase taxes on some high earners in order to support Medicare.
The Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law by Biden, has a number of features that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries.
The act mandates that drug manufacturers pay rebates if their costs increase more quickly than inflation and that the government negotiates prices for popular medications.
Additionally, it caps Medicare enrollees’ out-of-pocket prescription expenses at $2,000 per year.
Republicans Are Pushing Back
Republicans have said that the Democrats’ plan to control the prices of prescription drugs, which they call the “Democrats’ drug takeover scheme,” will cause drug companies to spend less on research and development, leading to fewer new drugs.
Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, has said that repealing the provisions will probably be a top priority for Republicans if they gain power in November.
Republicans have also said that Democrats should fix Medicare’s finances with the nearly $300 billion that the government is expected to save by negotiating drug prices.
What Republicans Are Saying
- “They want Medicare to come to an end. “Republicans want to end Social Security,” Jean-Pierre said Monday.
- In March, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said, “We will not have on our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half of the American people and ends Social Security and Medicare within five years.”
- Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said, “We are way past the time for talking points and partisan entrenchment.”
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