As a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, Senator Merkley is working to help Oregon’s seniors. Senator Merkley believes we have made promises to our seniors that they have honored through decades of hard work and that we must keep to seniors today and tomorrow.
Social Security and Retirement Savings
Since its enactment in 1935, Social Security has provided millions of American workers with a guaranteed level of financial security during their retirement years. At the same time, this critical program provides a safety net for workers and their families in the event that they become disabled or die. Today Social Security provides nearly 40 percent of income for seniors and disabled Americans, and plays a critical role in lifting Americans out of poverty.
Senator Merkley is adamantly opposed to proposals that would fundamentally alter Social Security’s make-up by privatizing the program or diverting Social Security revenues into risky Wall Street private accounts. Senator Merkley is committed to preserving the promise of Social Security, which is on solid fiscal footing for another generation, and will work with his Senate colleagues and President Obama to further strengthen the Social Security system and ensure that future generations of Americans can receive all of the benefits that they are promised.
Merkley also supports fixing the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security so it accurately reflects real living costs for our seniors.
Medicare provides health coverage for nearly 45 million Americans and is one of the most successful programs the federal government has undertaken. Merkley takes seriously the promise to working Americans that Medicare will be there when they retire, and will fight any efforts to weaken it or take it away. While opponents of Medicare suggest that the program is in crisis, Merkley knows that in fact, Medicare is among the most efficient elements of the entire health care system. He also recognizes that an aging population will put increasing strains on Medicare’s funding.
Senator Merkley is dedicated to working to ensure Medicare remains solvent and will protect it against ideological crusades to dismantle it. Senator Merkley has supported reforms to extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by more than nine years. This will provide security to current Medicare enrollees, and their children, by ensuring that Medicare will be there when they need it.
Senator Merkley has also voted to ensure that preventive care will be available to Medicare beneficiaries at no cost starting in 2011.
Senator Merkley strongly supports improving Medicare reimbursement rates for Oregon and creating incentives to reward health care providers for the quality of care they deliver, not simply the quantity of services they provide.
Prescription Drug Costs
Our seniors should never have to pick and choose which medicines they can afford. The rising cost of prescription drugs poses a huge problem for seniors struggling to afford the medicines they need.
Senator Merkley voted to close the Medicare “donut hole” that forces seniors to pay full price for their prescription drugs in the gap between the initial coverage limit and the catastrophic coverage threshold.
Merkley supports requiring the Federal Government to negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices with the drug companies. Merkley also supports bulk purchasing programs like the one instituted in Oregon, which is designed to secure discounted prescription drugs for seniors in need.
Senator Merkley also believes that it is important that we increase access to affordable generic drugs for American seniors while encouraging research and development of innovative pharmaceutical advances. On average, generic drugs cost 63 percent less than brand-name versions, and Americans with fixed incomes could greatly benefit from increased access to these cost-effective medicines.
Long Term Care
The costs of long-term health care for an elderly parent or relative can put undue strain on an already tight family budget. Senator Merkley believes it is important to ensure that family members who care for elderly relatives receive the requisite support and services needed to provide quality care for their loved ones.
Merkley supports full funding of the Lifespan Respite Care Act to provide grants to fund respite care for family care givers. Respite care provides temporary relief from continuous care giving of family members with disabilities or chronic conditions. The nation’s 50 million family care givers provide 80 percent of long-term care. This service provides family care givers with needed rest and relief time to maintain their own health, employment, and finances.