Social Security/Health Care

What will health care look like under President Trump? (November 26, 2016) “President-elect Donald Trump has promised to dismantle Obamacare as one of his first acts after taking office. Yet he can’t eliminate Obamacare on day one with the stroke of a pen. Killing the massive program that provides insurance to 20 million Americans would take time to work its way through Congress.” Read at CNN Money

According to Social Security Administration records, the U.S. has 6.5 million people who are aged 112 years or more! (March 2015) That is the number of people for whom Social Security has no record of death, yet there are only 42 people – world wide – known to be that old. It is likely that the Social Security numbers of many of these people are being used for nefarious purposes – such as identify theft, Social Security fraud, welfare fraud, and illegal immigration. Read more.

Martin Feldstein: “Obamacare’s Fatal Flaw” The US healthcare plan is unraveling precisely because of the feature its supporters most praise (November 24, 2013) Key points from this very insightful article: Many employers will find it less expensive to pay the Obamacare penalty while giving their employees extra compensation to help them buy insurance subsidized on a federal or state exchange. Many of those individuals won’t buy the insurance anyway, however, because of the modest cost of the individual penalties, and because there is no financial penalty for having pre-existing medical ailments. What if someone gets ill between Obamacare enrollment periods? Private insurers will sell “emergency insurance” to cover medical costs incurred in those interim periods. By purchasing such insurance the individual who gets sick in the months between enrollment periods will protect himself from any serious financial costs. Read in the Economic Policy Journal.

Trustees: “Lawmakers should address the financial challenges facing Social Security and Medicare as soon as possible.” (2014 Annual Report) In their annual report the Trustees report that the Social Security Disability program will run out of funds by late 2016, after which time automatic benefit cuts will be necessary. The Social Security retirement fund is projected to be fully depleted by 2033, after which time a one-quarter cut in benefits will be necessary. The status of Medicare is heavily dependent on whether or not lawmakers continue to override Medicare cuts to physician fees. Read more.

Found: a young person who signed up from the Affordable Care Act (October 3, 2013) In the Washington Examiner, Ashe Schow reports that she found a young male who has already signed up for health care. However, the premiums are not at all low. Read more.

“Glitches” are the least of our worries with respect to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) (September 30, 2013) Rich Lowry (New York Post) has a good summary of the challenges facing the Affordable Care Act: “It depends on young, healthy people buying insurance even as it reduces their incentive to do so; it encourages employers to dump workers off their current insurance; it suppresses full-time work, through the employer mandate; in 10 years, the law still leaves 30 million people uninsured.”  Read more.

Will young people sign up for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)? (September 25, 2013) James Taranto writes that Obamacare is a bad deal for young people: ObamaCare makes insurance a bad deal for young adults in numerous ways…. Price-fixing to keep premiums down for older policyholders necessarily raises costs for younger ones. Mandated coverage for routine expenses, such as Sandra Fluke’s pills, raises prices further. Meanwhile, ObamaCare’s prohibition on the denial of coverage for “pre-existing conditions” both pushes up costs for healthy policyholders (who again are disproportionately young) and reduces the benefits of–or the need for–insurance. Read more in the Wall Street Journal.

Some Medicaid recipients will lose out with Obamacare Politico reports: “As millions of low-income adults gain access in just a few months to Medicaid coverage under Obamacare, those already in the program could be shut out of some of the key preventive services included in the law. And the new enrollees could have a hard time actually getting a doctor.” Read more.

Democrats are slow to embrace Medicare and Social Security benefit reductions The Washington Post reports, “While Democratic leaders are offering quiet support for Obama’s renewed campaign to strike a grand bargain with Republicans that would include cuts to Social Security and Medicare, a significant number of Democratic lawmakers are digging in their heels and vowing to protest any reduction in promised benefits.” Democratic opposition to entitlement cuts was most evident on Wednesday (March 13, 2013) when Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash) proposed a budget plan that contained only minor reductions in Medicare and Medicaid. Read more in the Washington Post.

Medicare- America’s big transfer-of-wealth program (December 2, 2012) Currently, a person earning $1 million per year pays Medicare premiums of $29,000 per year, while someone earning $10,000 pays just $290 per year. Yet, these two people are entitled to the same benefit, starting at the same age – 65. To the Obama Administration this is unfair, and the millionaire needs to pay even more! Therefore, he will be subject to an additional 3.8% tax on his investment earnings. However, this is still not fair in the eyes of many politicians, so there are proposals to “means test” benefits for the rich people who don’t need them. Undoubtedly, some rich people have more cars than they need. Perhaps we should take those also. Read about the new tax. Read about Senator Claire McCaskill’s plan for “more aggressive means testing from higher co-pays from those people who can afford it.”

President Clinton dissembles during his Obama convention speech (September 7, 2012) On Wednesday night, President Clinton said Candidates Romney and Ryan lied when they “attacked the president for allegedly robbing Medicare of $716 billion.” However, a Washington Post fact checker says that Clinton is the one who is not telling the truth. In addition, Clinton was disingenuous when he said, “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because that $716 billion is exactly, to the dollar, the same amount of Medicare savings that [Ryan] has in his own budget.” Well… yeah! Once something becomes the law of the land (as is the case with Obamacare) it has to be factored into budgets – by both Democrats and Republicans. However, Clinton implied that Ryan was endorsing the cuts, and that is not the case. Indeed, Mitt Romney has stated that, if elected, he will work to eliminate those cuts. See Washington Post article.   Mitt Romney’s welfare ad is misleading, but the Obama Administration changes do seem to weaken the welfare work requirement (August 8, 2012) A thoughtful article in the Daily Caller takes Romney to task for exaggerations. However, it also argues that the welfare work requirement has been weakened. This is worth reading. See Daily Caller.

A lack of jobs is a factor in the recent surge in disability claims (July 17, 2012) There are several reasons for the recent surge in disability claims, one of which is an economy that has not produced enough jobs. Read more.

“Life of Julia” misleads on Social Security, per Washington Post “Note how carefully the Obama campaign’s statement is worded. It says that, under Obama, Julia ‘receives monthly benefits that help her retire comfortably.’ It does not promise that projected benefits will not be cut, but it certainly implies that.” Read more.

New Program: Senior Medicare Patrol (May 16, 2012) A new program called Senior Medicare Patrol uses senior-citizen volunteers to help other seniors learn about Medicare fraud and how to detect it. Read more.

107 Charged in Medicare Fraud Busts in 7 Cities (May 2012) Per the Associated Press, 107 doctors, nurses and social workers have been charged with defrauding Medicare of $452 million. “Patient charts were doctored to show services that were billed to Medicare but often never given, according to an indictment.” Medicare fraud is estimated to cost $60 to $90 billion each year. Read more.

News is more bleak for Social Security and Disability funds (April 2012) The Social Security Board of Trustees has stated that the combined assets of the Social Security and Disability Insurance Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2033, three years sooner than projected last year. The DI Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2016, two years earlier than last year’s estimate. Read more.

Romney has said little regarding Social Security and Medicare plans (February 2012) So far, we don’t know much about Governor Mitt Romney’s plans with respect to Social Security and Medicare. However, in February 2012 the presidential candidate proposed that we raise the Social Security retirement age for younger workers, and that we index the benefits of higher earners to cost of living  inflation, rather than wage inflation. He also advocated the creation of a voucher system that could provide future senior citizens with the funds needed to buy private insurance, in lieu of normal Medicare benefits. These are sensible proposals, but lacking in detail. Read more in the Detroit Free Press.

Bi-partisan Medicare reform proposal wins praise (December 2011) The Wyden-Ryan plan is, simply put, a much better version of Ryan’s previous proposal. Starting in 2022, it would give seniors subsidies that they could use to buy insurance through new regional marketplaces called exchanges, similar to the ones created by the 2010 healthcare reform law. But rather than eliminating Medicare for anyone not yet 55 years old, as Ryan proposed, Wyden-Ryan would continue to make the current Medicare program available as an option through the new exchanges. Read more.

Choosing a Medicare prescription drug plan can be confusing. (November 2011) The more you know, the easier it will be to find one that makes the most sense for you. This article in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel has some valuable tips.

The long-term health care problem (October 24, 2011) AP: The Obama Administration has pulled the plug on its Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program (CLASS), leaving the long-term health needs of Americans in doubt. Read more.

Associated Press: Obama’s Deficit Plan Tightens Squeeze on Medicare (September 2011) AP reports that the President’s plan would do some heavy cost cutting or shifting.  “Drug companies, hospitals, nursing homes and state health care programs assessed the damage Tuesday from the president’s latest deficit-reduction proposal to Congress. While Medicare and Medicaid would be spared radical reengineering, the plan spreads plenty of pain. Future retirees would be on the hook for a greater share of their Medicare costs.” It is estimated that payments to the pharmaceutical industry would be cut by $135 billion over 10 years, leading some to wonder if drug research would be affected. Read more.

Heritage Organization: Obama’s Medicare Plan is an Open Secret (July 2011) Robert Moffitt claims that President Obama’s health care proposals will “end Medicare as we know it” by slashing payments to providers. This will result in fewer health care providers. Says Moffit: “If the president’s Medicare payment cuts continue, the number of Medicare providers who find themselves in the red will jump to 25 percent by 2030, when the Medicare rolls reach an esti�mated 80 million beneficiaries.” Read more.

The Ryan Plan – What’s good about it, and what is not (April 7, 2011) Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare is “by far the most significant – and revolutionary – proposal” in his budget. While it is far from perfect, the plan represents a serious effort and reining in costs by promoting competition among health care providers. We hope it will be debated seriously, without demagoguery. Read an evaluation by Shawn Tully, senior editor-at-large of CNNMoney. Click here.

Washington Post: Republican Rep. Ryan’s Social Security plan would cut benefits for high earners (October 2010)Lori Montgomery writes: Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan “would reduce benefits by gradually raising the retirement age and gradually trimming benefits for the top 70 percent of earners.” Read more.

Mayo Clinic, a role-model for health care, drops Medicare patients  (January 1, 2010) Although cited by President Obama as a model provider of good health care, the Mayo Clinic has decided to stop accepting Medicare patients at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona. The decision, which will take effect immediately, is due to U.S. government reimbursement rates, which Mayo says are inadequate. The two-year pilot program will not affect patients in other states.  Read More>>

Is Medicare really a model for health insurance reform?  (December 5, 2009) During the recent health insurance debate more than one politician or pundit has made note of the contentment most senior citizens have with regard to Medicare benefits.  That may be true, but before we get too happy about it we should remember that Medicare is bankrupting the country. This is no exaggeration.  It is estimated that a single woman who earns $20,000 dollars per year will get a net benefit of a quarter million dollars.  That is, she will get medical benefits that cost Medicare $250,000 more than the total of payroll taxes she paid during her entire working career.  If that same woman (or man) is married and has a stay-at-home spouse, her (his) net benefit will be one-half million dollars ($500,000). Since there are millions of such people who are in Medicare, or soon will be, common sense tells us that such an imbalance cannot be sustained (no matter how much we try to “tax the rich”). The truth is, Medicare is a mismanaged mess, and should not be expaimage002nded or replicated. Evidence of the waste in Medicare is found in the “60 Minutes” story found a little further down on this page (see Miami Vice).   The chart, below shows net Medicare benefits for various people at different income levels and with different familial status. It is reproduced (with permission) from Democrats and Republicans – Rhetoric and Reality, by Joseph Fried.  Fried obtained the benefit estimates from tables created by Economists C. Eugene Steuerle and Adam Carasso. Notice that, no matter what the income level, everyone gets a net benefit (ranging from a low of $142,000 to a high of $525,000).  If everyone is a Medicare “winner,” who is going to pay the tab?

The old “Miami Vice” TV show focused on the Florida cocaine trade:     It should have focused on Medicare. Medicare is the government insurance program that provides health care to 46 million elderly and disabled Americans but it also provides criminals with a steady stream of illicit income.  In fact, Medicare fraud, estimated to be about $60 billion per year, may now be one of the most profitable crimes in America. Recently, “60 Minutes” ran a story that will raise your blood pressure and raise troubling questions about our government’s ability to manage a medical bureaucracy. It was a timely story, given the fact that, in the current debate over health insurance reform, many cite Medicare as the model program to emulate. FBI Special Agent Brian Waterman told reporter Steve Croft that evidence of Medicare fraud is found in the thousands of tiny clinics and pharmacies that dot low-rent strip malls in south Florida. In these clinics and pharmacies you will find no one – no doctors, nurses, or patients. Standing outside one of those small, unstaffed businesses, Waterman stated: “This office number should be manned and answered 24 hours a day. The tiny medical supply company he referred to billed Medicare almost $2 million in July and a half million dollars while 60 Minutes was there in August. However, 60 Minutes was unable to find anybody inside, and their telephone calls were never returned. To read the whole story, click here: Medicare Fraud: A $60 Billion Crime – 60 Minutes – CBS News

Plurality of Americans want private option for Social Security (3/12/09) By 46 to 38 percent, Americans believe workers should be allowed to opt out of Social Security to provide for their own retirement planning, according to a  recent Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. A majority of voters also agree with President Obama’s proposal for workers to pay Social Security taxes on more of the income they earn each year. Sixty percent (60%) say people should pay Social Security taxes on all or most of their annual income. Twenty-nine percent (29%) disagree, and 11% are undecided. Sixty-two percent (62%) of voters also say people who pay more in Social Security taxes should receive more in retirement benefits when they retire. Twenty-two percent (22%) are against that idea, with 16% undecided. Currently, a worker pays Social Security withholding tax equal to 6.2% of his or her gross wages, up to but not exceeding $102,000 per year. The same 6.2% tax is imposed on employers. As part of his plan for shoring up Social Security, Obama has proposed levying the 6.2% tax on wages of $250,000 and above but not on earnings between $102,000 and $250,000. [Note:  Under current law, the benefit payment rate on wages over $54,000 per year is only a small fraction of the benefit rate for lower wages.  In other words, there is already a large transfer of wealth from higher-earning workers to lower-earning workers.] The survey results are from a national telephone survey of 1,000 Likely Voters conducted by Rasmussen Reports on December 21, 2008. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

Democrats resist President Obama on Social Security (2/22/09) The New York Times reports that Democrats are resisting President Obama’s call for a bipartisan panel to study Social Security reform.  Some liberal Democrats say they will resist plans to cut benefits, and that Obama’s “political capital” would be better spent on health care and other issues.

Fake janitors skim $2.2 billion from SS trust fund?!

Investigations by Joe Fried and the PPTO lead to Inspector General finding of $2.2 billion in unauthorized Social Security payments!  For full story click here>> (Updated 1/6/09)

Other Important Issues

A Conversation on Strengthening Social Security with– President George W. Bush –– Cedar Rapids, Iowa, March 30, 2005 -PPTO Director Joe Fried participated in an informative “Conversation on Strengthening Social Security,” held on March 30, 2005 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  The program, which was hosted by Des Moines’ Newsradio1040 radio host, Jan Mickelson, included many topics related to Social Security, and involved the following participants:  President Bush, Senator Charles Grassley, former Congressman J.C. Watts, and American Spectator contributor David Hogberg.  Audio clips of each speaker are available at this link>>.

Interviews To arrange an interview with Joe Fried, to discuss any subject on this Web site, call 216 524 2143, or e-mail  Joe is the director of PPTO, and is a CPA and public auditor.  He has published three books:  How Social Security Picks Your Pocket (Algora Publishing, 2003), Democrats and Republicans – Rhetoric and Reality (Algora Publishing, 2008), and Who Really Drove the Economy Into the Ditch? (Algora Publishing, 2012)