ISSUES

6 Objectives for Seniors

Secure Social Security for current seniors and future generations. Social Security will be depleted by 2040 if we don’t act. Not opposed to raising the full retirement age to 68 since people are living longer. Support raising the cap on Social Security payroll taxes. Beginning in 2022 taxes will be applied to annual earnings up to $147,000. Any wages earned above $147,000 go untaxed for Social Security. This cap generally increases every year as the national average wage increases. There have been Democratic proposals to raise the payroll tax cap to $400,000. Why not a million? Why is there a cap at all? Or, what about creating a lower tax rate for wages up to $400,000 and a higher tax rate for those making over $400,000. Why does a multi-millionaire even need Social Security? Improvements to Social Security should include higher yearly raises for the bottom 50% and increased benefits for a surviving spouse.

Federal government negotiates Medicare drug prices. Nearly 1 in 4 Americans struggle to afford prescription drugs. Yet Medicare is currently prohibited from negotiating prescription drugs to get the best deal for American seniors (non-interference clause.) We support Medicare negotiating prices for high-cost prescription drugs that seniors obtain (Medicare Part D) as well as creating a price structure for drugs. We support imposing a tax penalty if drug companies increase their prices faster than inflation.

We support dissolving the so-called “donut hole.” The donut hole refers to a gap in prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D. In 2021, once you reach $4,130 in prescription drug costs you enter the coverage gap. To leave this gap, your out-of-pocket costs must reach $6,550. At that point you qualify for catastrophic coverage. We support directly lowering out of pocket costs for seniors and ensuring that seniors never pay more than $1000 a year for their drugs under Medicare Part D.

We reject ad campaigns by pharmaceutical companies saying patients would be stuck with whatever the government says you have, or politicians will decide which medicines you can and can’t get. These objections need to be addressed and completely cleared by the government. The unregulated US pricing system causes huge expenses and poor health care outcomes for people who can’t afford their medicines. US government needs to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry in much the same way as they eventually did with the tobacco industry.

Expand Medicare coverage to include Hearing, Vision, Dental. The recent proposal in congress called for hearing aids every five years, a routine eye exam and fitting service every two years, and two preventive care dental exams each year. Cost for all three was $360 billion over a decade, that’s $36 billion per year. The proposal failed.

We support expanding Medicare by covering Hearing, Vision and Dental. We propose a hearing test and hearing aids every 3 years, a vision exam and new frames/lenses or contact lenses every 2 years, and a discounted Dental Plan covering half of the cost of essential oral health. Since dental costs are much higher than vision and hearing and because dental insurance is expensive and doesn’t properly cover many procedures, it’s important to provide dental coverage. Dental coverage: cleanings, x-rays, fillings, oral surgery, gum disease, root canal, crowns, and bridges. All these procedures are essential, not cosmetic. Dental infections left untreated can make their way through the bloodstream and influence various serious health problems.

Affordable housing for seniors that are affordable & actually first-time home buyers. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines an “affordable dwelling” as one that a household can obtain for 30 percent or less of its income. But this varies from city to city.  Each area establishes an Area Median Income (AMI) which is determined based on where you live and your income. Once the AMI is established for an area, households earning less than 80 percent of that amount are considered low income. Those earning 50% of the AMI are very low income and eligible for Section 8. Basically,affordable housing is housing that is affordable based on the AMI.

Affordable Housing for Seniors is often offered to “first time home buyers” at 80% and 120% of AMI. HUD considers first time home buyers as people who haven’t held ownership for three years, as well as other exceptions. Basically, these people aren’t actually “first” time home buyers. Many have owned houses before and accumulated assets from the sale of their homes. Regulations for Affordable Housing is primarily based on income, not assets.

We object to this method where assets are not used as well as income. Those who have owned and sold their homes have an advantage in terms of assets. They can afford to pay cash for 120% AMI homes and have no mortgage while an actual first-time home buyer may lack the cash (assets) to fully pay off the home and require a mortgage. This creates an unfair playing field and leaves those who really need Affordable Housing in their senior years out of the game.

There is affordable housing for Medicaid as there should be. But the so-called affordable housing for seniors not on Medicaid or Title 10 is not affordable for a real first-time home buyer. Affordable rentals should be no more than 30% of the renter’s monthly income. Assets should also be considered in rentals.  

We support senior Affordable Housing for “actuall” first time home buyers and renters whereby the cost per month is no more than 30% of their total income.

Protect Gay Marriage as it applies to Social Security and finances for seniors. If Gay Marriage is overturned, all the financial arrangements of marriage for same sex couples will be dissolved. If one spouse dies, the surviving spouse will not inherit their rate of Social Security or other rights given to a married couple.

Same-Sex Marriage became law in the US with the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling: Obergefell v. Hodges. Yet most states still have outdated laws on their books and the current Supreme Court is extremely conservative.  In a recent dissenting opinion Justice Thomas and Alito said “same-sex marriage ruling, continues to have ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”

Paul Smith, a professor at Georgetown Law School thinks the conservative supreme court will not overrule Gay Marriage because there is more than a half million households made of same sex married couples.

On Nov 1, 2021, the Department of Justice and the Social Security Administration announced that they dismissed appeals filed by the then-Trump administration in two class-action lawsuits related to Social Security survivors benefits for same-sex partners and spouses. Social Security survivors’ benefits will now be available to same-sex spouses and partners who had been denied access due to previous bans on gay marriage.

We support vigilance in protecting Same-Sex Marriage rights for retired Gay seniors as it applies to Social Security benefits and survivor benefits and other basic rights.

Revise the Medicare deductible taken out of Social Security and rework the 80% formula that Medicare pays towards medical bills. In 2022 the cost of Medicare Part B deducted from Social Security is $170.10 (up 14.5% from 2021). This amount is the same if you make $1200 per month or $7,000 per month in income. If your adjusted yearly income is above $88,000 you pay an income related adjustment amount. We support no deductible for individuals making less than $25,000 per year.

The current 80% formula whereby patients are responsible for 20% of expenses is a hardship on many lower middle-class people. They are forced to purchase supplemental insurance which is expensive.  It’s unfair that a lower middle-class patient pays the same 20% that a billionaire pays. We support a sliding scale type option based on income and assets. Ranging from 5% -35%.  Currently there is Medicaid for the poor and Managed Medicare for lower income. However, both options don’t cover many of the new, higher cost medications and exclude many primary and specialist doctors. Both Medicaid and Managed Medicare offer less quality in terms of healthcare than regular Medicare and government employee supplemental. This is discrimination against those with less means. Money shouldn’t buy better healthcare. Healthcare is a human right.