Jeff 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.
For 56 percent of beneficiaries, Social Security makes up over 50 percent of their income. For 35% of beneficiaries, Social Security makes up more than 90% of their income. Social Security plays a critical role in lifting Americans out of poverty.
Jeff 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. Jeff 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.
Jeff also supports boosting the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security so it accurately reflects real living costs for our seniors and gives them a modest raise. He opposes “chained CPI,” which would cut the COLA.
Medicare provides health coverage for nearly 45 million Americans and is one of the most successful programs the federal government has ever undertaken. Jeff 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, Jeff 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.
Jeff is dedicated to working to ensure Medicare remains solvent and will protect it against ideological crusades to dismantle it or turn it into a voucher program. Jeff has supported reforms that extend the life of the Medicare trust fund by more than 10 years -- without simply shifting health care costs onto the backs of seniors. This will provide security to current Medicare enrollees and their children by ensuring that Medicare will be there when they need it.
Jeff has also been a proponent of strengthening the Medicare Advantage program, in which Medicare beneficiaries choose to be covered through private insurance companies, without asking taxpayers to subsidize the health insurance companies. Prior to health care reform, Medicare Advantage cost 14% more to operate than traditional Medicare. Those overpayments cost Medicare $12.7 billion in 2009.
Since 2010, when changes were made to Medicare Advantage rates, enrollment in Medicare Advantage has increased more than 30% and premiums have decreased 9.8%, saving taxpayers money and extending the life of the Medicare trust fund. While trimming the fat from health insurance companies who were profiting at taxpayer expense, though, it’s critical that we not unintentionally harm the beneficiaries who rely on these programs. That’s why, with these reforms already in place, Jeff has urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to protect seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans by maintaining current payment levels in 2014 and 2015.
Jeff has also voted to ensure that preventive care is available to Medicare beneficiaries at no cost. Last year alone, more than 250,000 Oregon seniors benefited from free preventive care, including more than 30,000 annual wellness check-ups.
Jeff 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.
He would fight any efforts to raise the Medicare eligibility age, and believes if we are to make any changes to the eligibility age, we should lower it.
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.
Jeff 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. Since 2010, more than 7 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved almost $9 billion on prescription drugs because of the so-called “donut hole” fix. In 2013, 34,381 seniors in Oregon saved $92,000 in prescription drug costs, an average of $794 per beneficiary that was in the donut hole gap in coverage.
Jeff supports requiring the Federal Government to negotiate Medicare prescription drug prices with the drug companies. Jeff also supports bulk purchasing programs like the one instituted in Oregon, which is designed to secure discounted prescription drugs for seniors in need.
Jeff 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. Jeff 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.
Jeff 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.