Seniors and the Obama Agenda
Because of the intensive nature of a presidential campaign, any time several candidates are vying for their party's nomination potential voters are going to have plenty of chances to hear those candidates answer questions about every issue under the sun. This has certainly been true with respect to the fight for the 2012 Republican nomination, as the candidates have been debating and campaigning with a vengeance all across the United States.
On the other hand, when an incumbent president is running for re-election, in virtually every instance he (or someday she) will be running unopposed. Consequently, it may be necessary to look a little harder to find out what an incumbent president is hoping to accomplish if elected to a second term, since he or she will not be required by the demands of a competitive primary campaign season to pontificate frequently about where he or she stands on the most important issues of the day.
In the 2012 Race for the White House, things will obviously change once the general election campaign begins, but for now anyone hoping to get a good reading on what kind of plans President Obama intends to pursue if he is granted another term in office will need to do a little bit of their own legwork, so to speak, in order to find out what the President might be thinking. Fortunately, in the modern hyper-media reality a sitting president is inevitably going to be under the microscope most of the time, with all of his words and actions receiving intensive coverage and scrutiny. As a result, it is not all that difficult to find information about where things may be headed if President Obama is re-elected in 2012.
Obama and Social Security
The president has repeatedly stated his desire to “strengthen Social Security” for the benefit of future generations, which has led many to conclude that he is signaling a willingness to consider cuts to the program in the short-term, based on the rationale that such reductions in benefits may be necessary to keep the program solvent in the future. At the present time, however, all indications are that the president plans to essentially hold the line on Social Security. His promises to strengthen the system appear to be based on his determination to create more jobs and grow the economy, so that more revenue can be collected under the current system.
Some Republican candidates have proposed saving money on Social Security by raising the retirement age, and privatization schemes of various types are also popular with some on that side of the aisle. President Obama opposes both of these ideas, and has promised to protect the benefits of all who are receiving Social Security now, or are scheduled to do so in the immediate future, from those who are proposing changes in the system that might ultimately lead to a reduction in post-retirement income.
While not supporting privatization of the Social Security system because of his concerns over the vagaries of the financial markets, the president has proposed a plan that would automatically enroll workers without access to workplace pension plans in IRAs. The idea is to encourage an increase in private savings accounts so that with or without Social Security workers will be better prepared to care for themselves financially following retirement.
Obama and Medicare
As a part of last summer's budget deficit reduction negotiations, the president proposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67. This proposal was abandoned after those negotiations did not lead to a deal, but the president's latest budget does include $248 billion in cuts to Medicare, as well as another $72 billion in reductions to various health care programs including Medicaid.
While President Obama does appear ready to include Medicare recipients on the “shared sacrifice” list, he did previously take steps under his new health care legislation (derisively designated “Obamacare” by his Republican opponents) to expand the availability of free preventive services for those included in the program. The Affordable Care Act also provides financial assistance to businesses that agree to provide health insurance to employees over the age of 55 who are not yet eligible to receive Medicare, and so far over 5000 employers have signed up to participate in this initiative.
One of the biggest moves the Obama Administration is taking to help those on Medicare is to gradually close the “donut hole” in prescription drug coverage, which up until now has left many of those needing significant amounts of medication holding the bag for all of the costs. Medicare coverage now lapses when the costs of medicine rises above a certain amount (currently around $800-$900), before kicking in again when those costs rise to the so-called “catastrophic” level (around $4300-$4500). The Affordable Care Act already includes some financial discounts for those needing to buy drugs in the uncovered price range, and the ultimate plan is to close the donut hole completely by 2020.
Reading the Crystal Ball
President Obama will no doubt be elaborating on his plans for policy initiatives dealing with issues of concern to seniors during the general election campaign that will begin in earnest next summer. But at the present time, there are two things that can be said with certainty. The first is that because of the ongoing federal budget deficit, and the apparent determination of all parties involved to eventually reach an agreement that all will be able to live with, the possibility that President Obama may ultimately agree to cuts in Medicare and Social Security that go well beyond what he is talking about now cannot be definitively ruled out. The second thing that can be said for sure is that if the president is defeated in his bid for re-election, the future of the Affordable Care Act – including the parts that affect seniors - will be in grave doubt, given the fact that every single one of his opponents has called for its repeal.
Author: Sheila Martin
Publish Date: Tue, 01/10/2012 - 10:35