Social Security
Whacking at Social Security again
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Dec 29, 2006, 00:22

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare reports that once again the Bush administration will whack away at Social Security income and benefits. It�s their goodbye and hello kiss for 2006-07, and it smells.

Increases are predicted in Medicare premiums and are going to claim a bigger and bigger share of recipients� annual Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). This cut comes in the light of rising costs for fuel, food, and housing. Nice going, George.

What�s more, the Part B monthly premium that cost $54 wayyyyyyy back in 2002 (four years ago), has soared dramatically and will reach a wallet-busting $93.50 a month effective January 1, 2007, for most beneficiaries. Thanks again, George and Dick and the whole neocon lot of you who would love to gut Social Security altogether.

In fact, these hikes are just for the coming year. And count on more to come if you don�t get out of your favorite chair and start writing to your congressmen and senators. All of this erosion of future benefits comes under the so-called Medicare Modernization Act, which rhymes with privatization, and is a step backwards not forward, like the Clean Air Act.

What�s more, the continued letters, calls and involvement of seniors with legislators can help to prevent annual increases in Medicare Part B and D premiums from exceeding 25 percent of the annual COLA. In fact, out-of-pocket Medicare costs are projected to rise steadily through at least 2024.

And, as you know, fellow seniors, healthcare costs have been rising faster than the rate of inflation for several years now, another trend that is set to continue for years as the Baby Boomers age. Welcome to Hard Times, kids.

Under the euphemistic Medicare Modernization Act, just about every out-of-pocket cost provision is tied to the soaring healthcare costs, which are emanating of course from our insurance companies, read HMOs, which are in the business of cutting benefits to fatten their profits.

Premiums are now set at a fixed percentage of projected costs for doctor visits and outpatient services: the higher the costs the higher the premium. It�s a little game they are playing with seniors� health and lives.

Of course if the Bushies, protectors of the rich and filthy rich, had raised the income ceilings on the Social Security tax, or eliminated the ceiling altogether, they wouldn�t be picking the money out of our pockets. In fact as the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare noted in its last newsletter, "With a focus on privatizing they [the administration] squandered some TWELVE BILLION DOLLARS on managed-care companies as incentives to take senior patients.�

They�ll tell you all this was for your own good, a �necessary investment� to encourage competition among private companies to keep costs down. Baloney. It was just more free-marketing at your (our) expense.

NCPSSM also tells us that, �the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services project Medicare�s out-of-pocket costs will eventually consume OVER HALF of the average Social Security check.� This will happen while the insurance and pharmaceutical industries continue to experience bonanza years.

Medicare could become Unicare

The bottom line is this. Social Security covers some 42 million seniors. And when it�s properly funded and not improperly looted, it covers those people with what comes closest to a real national health care program, one a good doctor friend of mine tells me could be expanded in principal to cover Americans of all ages. So Medicare could be Unicare if you will, universal health coverage for all Americans. I�m sure Free Marketers will choke on their soup when they read that one. But it could be, with some tooling.

Yet the way we�re going -- the opposite way -- it�s just a matter of time before Medicare�s 42 million beneficiaries lose their entire COLA to raised out-of-pocket costs! You could say that as we speak, what we know to be traditional Medicare is being cold-heartedly taken apart by the Medicare Modernization Act. And many seniors don�t even know it.

The 2007 implementation of �means-tested Part B premiums� pushes Medicare even farther and faster down the privatization road. It forces out so-called �wealthy� seniors whose premiums are planned to double or triple what other beneficiaries pay. That fact again came from NCPSSM.

As a result, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say as many as 30,000 seniors could leave Medicare for a private plan in the next three years. Sooner or later, that will end in Medicare�s costs going up while public support goes down. This will reduce Medicare to a welfare program, not the classic health care program it was meant to be for retired seniors.

At the same time, the "$500 billion in war-making, tax-cuts-for-the-rich Bush" is calling for entitlement spending cuts, which delivers another serious threat to Medicare, as well as to Medicaid and Social Security itself. So realize, brothers and sisters, what and with whom you�re dealing.

I suggest you contact AARP or the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare or your senior action group now. You need some decent groups who care about you to fight for you. And you, you have to fight for your benefits, too. Make your voice heard. It�s your constitutional right. And don�t let these goons take that too away from you, too.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at

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