Medicare is Not an “Entitlement.” It’s an “Earned Benefit.”

Social Security and Medicare

The GOP likes to portray Social Security and Medicare as undeserved handouts.

As I read about the current GOP attacks on Social Security and Medicare, they are referred to as “entitlements.” This clever word choice by Republicans suggests that the programs are welfare — a free handout to undeserving, lazy people.

What you call something makes a big difference. It’s a way to frame the discussion so that it leads to a pre-determined outcome.

Social Security and Medicare are “earned benefits.” I have paid into both programs every day of my working life. Anybody who has made it to age 65 has paid taxes to support both programs. I have worked for 50 years and resent the notion that these programs are freebies or giveaways.

Attack on Social Security

Social Security was enacted in 1935, when the lifetime savings of millions of people had been wiped out. It supports 59 million Americans over age 66. Social security is not going broke — it is projected to deliver full guaranteed benefits until at least 2037.

Well into the 1950s, Republicans tried to repeal Social Security. They continue to attack this earned benefit in Trump’s 2018 budget proposal by cutting Social Security by $72 billion. This includes explicit cuts to Supplemental Security Income programs and Social Security Disability Insurance programs, both managed by the Social Security Administration.

The real goal of the Republicans is to “privatize” social security. This is a plan to dismantle Social Security, cut benefits and increase retirement risks. If this sabotage becomes law, you can expect to see seniors living in cardboard boxes on the street.

An Even Worse Attack on Medicare

The Trump budget calls for cutting Medicare by $266 billion to “eliminate wasteful federal spending.” It would change the way patients are reimbursed for post-acute care, making it harder for physicians to refer patients to other providers, and “limits hospital payments associated with early discharge to hospices.”

Trump promised six times not to cut Medicare, but these were all deceptive lies. The real goal is to turn Medicare into a voucher system that would limit benefits and force people to pay more for health care.

In 1965 under President Johnson, Congress enacted Medicare to provide health insurance to people age 65 and older, regardless of income or medical history.

I love Medicare…it’s great! I get comprehensive health insurance at a great price. My doctor bills and prescriptions are all covered regardless of my pre-existing conditions. It gives me a free gym membership.

Today, 55 million people over age 65 are covered by Medicare — 15% of the population. Cuts in this earned benefit will shift costs to people in their 70s and 80s, who will have to choose between buying food or getting medicine.

Let’s frame the issues as they really are:

“Reducing Social Security cost” is really “betraying working people,” and “cheating seniors from what they earned,” and “breaking America’s promise.”

“Reforming Medicare” or “eliminating Medicare waste” is “ripping seniors off when they least can afford it,” or “abandoning Americans in their time of need” or “shifting costs to seniors.”

 

5 responses to “Medicare is Not an “Entitlement.” It’s an “Earned Benefit.”

  1. Sen. John Kavanagh

    “This is a plan to dismantle Social Security…”

    Rs and Ds have been doing that for years by spending the SS taxes instead of putting them into a “lockbox.” That was and is the dismantling.

    But I suspect nobody but conservatives would back putting the monies into a real lockbox going forward because that would cramp government spending.

    • Frances Perkins

      I wonder if multiple government pensions are an entitlement or an earned benefit?

    • I have no idea why you do not consider the Social Security Trust Funds a lockbox. Rather than repeat all the public information available I suggest you go to http://www.ssa.gov/oact/progdata/fundFAQ.html to get informed.

      I also would like to point out that the Republican controlled Arizona legislature has repeatedly “raided” many of the funds designated for some particular purpose and spent the money for some other purpose. It is often to make it possible to cut taxes that wealthy people and corporations would otherwise pay.

  2. Another phrase, perhaps more general, is “deferred compensation”. The employer’s part of the payment made to Social Security is well described by this phrase. I think it’s also useful to remind people who complain about former government employees who get retirement benefits that they too are getting deferred compensation. Any reduction in Social Security, Medicare, or retirement benefits is equivalent to asking for former employees to give back income they have earned!