Government Watch / Politics

A Budget that Works for Seniors: House GOP takes Bold Steps Forward to Guarantee Retirement Programs

By – Peter A. Finocchio

On Tuesday, the House Budget Committee unveiled its proposal for the FY 2016 budget. Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) held a press conference to discuss what the new budget means for the American people. Chairman Price argued that instead of the “insecurity of the President’s plan,” the House budget confronts the nation’s needs with “real hope and real optimism.” The budget promises to save $5.5 trillion and balance in ten years without raising taxes. Like the budget proposed by the Committee’s former chairman, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the new House budget promises a path to prosperity. “We responsibly lay out a plan for a healthy economy, an opportunity economy,” Chairman Price stated. The new budget is named “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America.”

Individual Members spoke to different aspects of the budget during the press conference. “We spent hours of Member meetings putting this budget together,” the Committee’s Vice Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) noted. The ten-year path to a balanced budget “is the quickest of any of the recently passed house budgets and it is also a very stark contrast to the President’s budget that never balances,” the Indiana Republican added. Congressman Rob Woodall (R-GA) discussed how the new House budget would fuel economic growth. “A budget is a moral document,” Congressman Woodall said. “It talks about what your values are and what this Committee values are opportunities for job creation.” By providing certainty in the tax code, getting government spending under control, and altering the distorted incentives for unemployment in the welfare state, the new budget creates opportunities for work, job creation, and financial security. Congresswoman Diane Black (R-TN), a former nurse of over 40 years, discussed the full repeal of ObamaCare that is included in this budget. In eliminating the fiscal and economic burdens of ObamaCare’s mandates, empowering the states to adopt meaningful reforms, and setting the stage for responsible, patient-centered reform, the House budget gets Americans back on the road to the quality health care we need. In its scope, the House budget is more than just a budget: it is a blueprint for conservative governance.

The House GOP budget takes aggressive action to rein in out-of-control spending and balance the budget. Bolder still are the recommended reforms to America’s ailing entitlements. “We save and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid without leading them on the path to insolvency that the President’s budget would have,” Chairman Price affirmed. The proposal notes that in Medicare’s current structure, government, not the patient, is the health care customer. The House budget would end this fee-for-service model and place patients, not government, at the center of health care decisions. The House Budget Committee proposes a premium support program in Medicare that would allow beneficiaries to choose from a range of guaranteed-coverage options, including traditional Medicare. The changes would not take effect until 2024 so that those in or near retirement would not be impacted, but it would result in greater quality care and health care affordability for tomorrow’s seniors. In September 2013, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that such a program would result in savings for beneficiaries as well as the federal government.

For Medicaid, the proposal offers equally bold solutions. The House proposal repeals the Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare and grants flexibility to the states to meet their own needs. Through the appropriation of State Flexibility Funds, it effectively block grants Medicaid to the states, eliminating a flawed one-size-fits-all approach and resulting in greater efficiency and access to care. It also combines the Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) into a single program. Such a change would enable state governments to expand coverage for populations that need it, implement work requirements for the able-bodied, promote personal responsibility and healthy behaviors, and encourage a more holistic approach to care that considers economic, social, and family concerns as well as health conditions.

After the press conference, Congressmen Price and Woodall hosted a Google hangout wherein they answered a variety of questions about the budget proposal. “We believe the government ought to be no different than you in your personal lives” Chairman Price explained during the online forum. “We believe the government shouldn’t spend more than it takes in.” AMAC had the opportunity to ask the leaders a question during the hangout. The question, offered by AMAC President Dan Weber, pertained to an issue that is our top advocacy priority and a concern that most seniors share: the looming insolvency of Social Security. With Social Security’s disability program projected to become insolvent by the end of 2016, we asked if this budget compels Congress to introduce long-term legislative solutions to preserve and protect not just the disability program, but also the general retirement program. Congressman Woodall reiterated the mounting Social Security crisis. “More young Americans believe they are going to see a UFO in their lifetime than see Social Security,” he shared. Congressman Woodall noted that one of the first actions the House took this year was to pass a rule preventing legislators from diverting funds from the retirement program to the disability program without working to address Social Security’s long-term finances. “When our friends on the other side of the aisle lay out a budget they never address the insolvency of these programs,” Chairman Price added. While the budget’s proposal for Social Security is less detailed than its recommendations for Medicare and Medicaid reform, it calls for a bipartisan commission to study the structural flaws within the current Social Security system and report back to Congress and the President with specific legislative proposals.

AMAC applauds the bold leadership of the House Budget Committee in their plan to balance the federal budget and achieve lasting solutions to our nation’s entitlement programs. As an organization that represents 1.3 million Americans over the age of 50, we know how essential these programs are. Most older Americans depend on Social Security as their sole source of income in retirement. But Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are all on the path to insolvency, and in the absence of swift systemic solutions to save and secure the programs, they will face cuts that will devastate current as well as future retirees. The House Budget Committee’s very serious efforts to preserve and protect senior programs and to put America on a path toward greater financial and economic prosperity are worth considering.

The complete proposal from the House Budget Committee can be found here: http://budget.house.gov/uploadedfiles/fy16budget.pdf

For a complete recording of Tuesday’s press conference, please click here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?324868-1/house-budget-committee-news-conference-fiscal-year-2016-budget-resolution

 


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