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San Francisco | Health, Housing, and Public Services

San Francisco Rally To Save Social Security ("Crisis My Ass)
by Rubble
Tuesday Aug 17th, 2010 10:08 PM
A rally to save Social Security was held in downtown San Francisco on Saturday, August 14, the 75th anniversary of the program’s inception. Hear Hene Kelly, the Legislative Director for CARA, the California Alliance Of Retired Americans, speak passionately on the need to preserve Social Security, both for older citizens and future generations. (9:03)
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Social Security and Medicare are under attack through the Obama Administration and Congress. When it was announced that a deficit reduction committee would be formed, the media portrayed it as intending to explore ways to reduce government spending. At this rally and elsewhere, it sounds more and more like this committee has two preconceived tasks - cut Medicare and Social Security benefits. This committee work seems to be intertwined with the same politics that resulted in the health care financing reform bill.

How will this be accomplished? According to Ms Kelly, the plan is to make further step increases in the retirement age, bringing it all the way up to age 75 for younger people. People in their 50’s and early 60’s are having difficulty finding work and many have health problems that either prohibit work or make them a less attractive choice for employers. We paid in and we need full benefits! Social Security takes in a surplus yearly. Even if financial issues do develop, it can be easily solve by making the tax less regressive. Employers and employees pay in up to $113,000 annual wages for the employee. Increasing this rate will charge more to those well off enough to pay. The Social Security “crisis” appears to simply be a disinformation campaign.

At a recent Single Payer Health Care event, I learned it is already decided that half of the $1 trillion dollars the deficit reduction committee is looking to cut from the deficit over the next ten years will come from Medicare. One of the positive features of the health care financing reform is the increased funding of Medicaid (currently Medicaid is so under funded that many recipients cannot find practitioners because reimbursements are so low that most doctors have opted out of the program), eventually up to the current levels of Medicare. This along with substantial funding for community health centers is valuable and needed. What sense does it make to turn around and de-fund Medicare?

Future Medicare funding increases already planned for will be reduced overall by $500 billion dollars over the next 10 years to meet this objective. Most of the cuts will come from community-based hospitals, which are already under funded and over-filled with patients. A formula will be used to determine which hospitals are “performing” well in a cost-benefit approach that makes no sense for this type of institution.

Public hospitals show cost structures based on what populations they serve and what procedures they provide. In other words, a hospital like Highland Hospital in Oakland, which is the hospital of last resort for the uninsured and underinsured in Oakland, could show a worse performance due to the horrible living conditions for low and no income residents in that city and can lose precious dollars. If implemented this way, it will have some of the same ill effects as No Child Left Behind has on public schools.

There is talk of turning Medicare into a voucher system. In such a scheme, recipients will be given a voucher with a net dollar value that will pay for part of their care. People will have to take the voucher to a practitioner who agrees to take it, with the patient on the hook for whatever that voucher does not pay for. These changes will further hurt the structure of Medicare. Healthy older adults will be funneled into private insurance while sicker ones go to Medicare. This would result in increasing gaps between the voucher value and the cost of care.

These are some of the things I learned from talking to people at the rally and at other recent health care and labor events. Overall, these changes sound horrible and, continue the right-wing politics of the day that the Obama Administration and Congress continue to push on us. I’m told that the website for Physicians for National Health Care is very informative on these issues. Single Payer Now is also great for activist events and organizing. Save Social Security and Medicare!

Many in organized labor and across the population are calling for a jobs program, for the government to get back into the business of putting people back to work at living wages. Hene Kelly announced that labor and other organizations are working towards a Fall rally, I think a march on Washington D.C., to demand a jobs program.