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4 Questions Bill Cassidy Should Answer At Today’s “Seniors Town Hall Meeting”

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Cassidy Should Finally Explain Why He Wants To Raise the Retirement Age To 70, Turn Medicare Into a Voucher Program & Slash Retirement Benefits For 600,000 In Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana – Congressman Bill Cassidy is in Gonzales today, hosting a town hall meeting to “discuss issues related to senior citizens.”

Here are four questions Bill Cassidy should answer about his record of voting to slash Social Security and Medicare, and his agenda for seniors if he’s elected to the Senate:

1.    Bill Cassidy, you’ve repeatedly voted to raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare to 70. Do you really think that seniors, many of whom do physical labor to earn their living, should have to work for five more years before being able to retire?

2.    Bill Cassidy, you have repeatedly voted to privatize Medicare by turning it into a voucher program that would force Louisiana seniors to pay thousands more for their health care each year. Do you also support privatizing Social Security as you’ve indicated in the past?

3.     The Ryan budget you voted for contained the exact same Medicare savings included in the Affordable Care Act, except instead of using the savings to extend the solvency of Medicare for nine years, it used the money to pay for massive tax breaks for billionaires. Why are you attacking Democrats for supporting the same cost savings that you voted for?

4.    You’ve said, “our country will go bankrupt” if we don’t make changes to Medicare and Social Security. You’ve voted for numerous budget plans that would enact cuts to both programs. What specific changes to Social Security and Medicare would you enact as our Senator?

Bill Cassidy voted to raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare to 70, forcing Louisiana seniors to work for even longer before they can retire. He voted to enact a plan that would force “massive cuts” to Social Security, an extreme plan that would cut seniors’ benefits by tens of thousands of dollars, and was opposed by the AARP for not shielding Social Security and Medicare from “arbitrary reductions.” And Cassidy voted for a plan to end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program, ending the Medicare guarantee and forcing seniors in Louisiana to pay $6,800 more for their health care each year.

“Bill Cassidy has repeatedly voted to slash Social Security and Medicare benefits for up to 600,000 Louisiana seniors, and if elected to the Senate he would hurt them even more,” said Campaign for Louisiana Communications Director Andrew Zucker. “Bill Cassidy ought to finally come clean today and explain why he wants to raise the retirement age to 70, slash Social Security and Medicare and turn Medicare into a voucher program that forces hundreds of thousands of Louisiana seniors to pay thousands more for their health care each year.”

BACKGROUND

Bill Cassidy Voted For The FY 2014 Republican Study Committee “Back To Basics” Budget Plan. [H.Con.Res.25, Vote #86, 3/20/13]

  • The Republican Study Committee Budget Would Increase The Social Security Retirement Age To 70. “This budget would slowly phase in an increase in the Social Security full-retirement age for individuals born in 1962 (currently 51) and after to an eventual full retirement age of 70.” [Republican Study Committee FY 2014 Budget, accessed 5/10/13]
  • The Republican Study Committee Budget Would Increase The Medicare Retirement Age To 70. “To address the increased demands on Medicare, this budget proposes raising the age of Medicare eligibility, beginning in 2024, by two months every year beginning with those born in 1959 until the eligibility age reaches 70, bringing Medicare eligibility in parity with Social Security.” [Republican Study Committee FY 2014 Budget, accessed 5/10/13]

Bill Cassidy Voted For The FY 2012 Republican Study Committee “Honest Solutions” Budget Plan. [H.Con.Res.34, Vote #275, 4/15/11]

  • The Republican Study Committee Budget Would Increase The Social Security Retirement Age To 70.  “The RSC proposal would begin phasing in reforms today that protect seniors and preserve Social Security for future generations. This proposal would not affect those currently 60 years old and older. Specifically, we propose slowly increasing normal retirement age to 70 years of age. This would be accomplished by increasing the normal retirement age in two month per year increments for workers currently under 60 years old.” [Republican Study Committee FY 2012 Budget, April 2011]
  • The Republican Study Committee Budget Would Increase The Medicare Retirement Age To 67. “To address the increased demands on Medicare, this budget proposes raising the age of Medicare eligibility by two months every year beginning with those born in 1952 until the eligibility age reaches 67 for those born in 1963. This proposal would not affect individuals currently 60 years old and older.” [Republican Study Committee FY 2012 Budget, April 2011]

Cassidy: Options To Save Social Security Are To Decrease Benefits And increase The Eligibility Age, Increase Taxes, Or Invest In Stocks. In September 2008, The Advocate reported: “Cassidy said the options to save Social Security are limited – decrease benefits and increase the eligibility age, increase taxes, or invest in something with greater return such as stocks.” [The Advocate, 9/25/08]

  • On Social Security, Cassidy Said He Would Support Voluntary Personal Investment Accounts As Part of A Solution. In August 2008, The Advocate wrote: “Cassidy said he supports voluntary personal investment accounts as part of the solution, if it is fiscally sound. ‘Institutional investors often get a better rate of return than individual investors,’ he said.” [The Advocate, 8/11/08]
  • Cassidy Voted Against Protecting Social Security and Medicare Benefits from Privatization. In March 2011, Cassidy voted against a measure that would have prohibited continuing appropriations funds for fiscal year 2011 for being used in developing or implementing a system that cuts Social Security benefits or that privatizes Social Security.  The amendment also prohibited funds from being used to develop or implement a system that cuts Medicare benefits, eliminates guaranteed health coverage for seniors or establishes a Medicare voucher plan that limits payments to beneficiaries in order to purchase health care in the private sector. The motion failed, 190-239. [HJR 48, Vote178, 2/15/11]

Cassidy Voted For The Republican Budget Blueprint For FY 2012 That Ends Medicare As We Know It. In April 2011, Cassidy voted for the House Republican budget blueprint drafted by Paul Ryan that effectively ends Medicare. It calls for converting Medicare for persons currently younger than 55 into a “premium support system” through which the government would pay private insurance companies directly for each enrollee. The resolution was adopted 235-193. [H Con Res 34, Vote 277, 4/15/11]

  • Louisiana Would Be Forced To Pay $6,800 More Per Year. According to a report by the Joint Economic Committee, the average Louisiana senior would be forced to pay $6,830.40 more in out of pocket expenses under the Ryan budget plan. [Joint Economic Committee, 5/20/11]
  • Potentially 654,375 Louisiana Seniors Would Be Forced Out Of Traditional Medicare And Into A Voucher  Program. Under the Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it, all Louisiana seniors will receive  a voucher instead of guaranteed benefits under traditional Medicare beginning in 2024. For the 654,375 Louisianans aged 45-54 at the time of the most recent Census, the value of their vouchers would be capped at growth levels that are lower than the projected increases in health care costs, forcing them to spend more out of pocket and diminishing their access to quality care. Private insurance plans will aggressively pursue the healthiest, least expensive enrollees, thereby allowing Medicare – currently the lifeline for 718,037 Louisiana seniors – to “wither on the vine.” [House Republican Budget, 3/12/13; CAP, 3/20/12; Census, accessed on 3/10/13; KFF, accessed on 3/10/13]

Cassidy Touted Paul Ryan’s Medicare Plan To Shift Retirees To Private Insurance And Raise The Eligibility Age. The Gonzales Weekly Citizen wrote about a Cassidy town hall: “An entitlement reformer in his own right, Cassidy didn’t share details of his own plan for Medicaid reform but instead touted Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan which would shift retirees to private insurance. The Ryan plan would gradually raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 from 65 and turn it into a voucher-like program where future seniors would receive subsidies to purchase health care on the open market.” [Gonzales Weekly Citizen, 8/23/12]

  • Cassidy Believed Switching Medicare To A Voucher System Would Introduce Competition To Help Keep Costs Down. The Gonzales Weekly Citizen wrote about a Cassidy town hall: “Cassidy argued that switching to a voucher system would bring competition among health care providers and help keep costs down. He said Ryan’s plan with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., gives seniors a choice of options.” [Gonzales Weekly Citizen, 8/23/12]

Congressman Ryan’s 2013 Budget Preserved the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare Savings. According to the New York Times , “House Republicans will preserve Medicare cuts that their presidential nominee loudly denounced last year and accept tax increases they sternly opposed just months ago in a new tax-and-spending blueprint that would bring the federal budget into balance by 2023, senior Republicans said Wednesday.New York Times , 3/06/13]

  • Congressman Ryan Confirmed This Year’s Budget Will Contain the Affordable Care Act’s Medicare Savings.”In an interview on Morning Joe today, Paul Ryan, projecting his usual seriousness and existential deficit angst, lamented that President Obama’s new budget moves so far to the left that he fears compromise will be impossible. And yet, in the same interview, Ryan also drew a line against conceding any new revenues in the form of closing loopholes enjoyed by the wealthy, and even better, confirmed that his forthcoming budget will contain the Medicare Advantage cuts that Republicans have been attacking Democrats over for three years. [Washington Post , 3/05/14]
  • Forbes: “The [Ryan Budget] Keeps, But Repurposes, Obamacare’s Medicare Cuts And Tax Increases, While Repealing The Law’s Spending On The Uninsured.” [Forbes, 3/16/13]
  • Tax Policy Center: GOP Budget Increases After-Tax Income for Millionaires by 20 Percent. As reported by the Washington Post, “The tax plan embedded in the House Republican budget would cut taxes by $5.7 trillion over the next decade, with the benefits flowing disproportionately to very wealthy households, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Taxpayers earning more than $1 million a year would benefit the most from the GOP tax plan, the analysis shows, reaping an average $400,000 tax break that would send their after-tax income soaring by nearly 20 percent.” [Washington Post, 3/15/13]

Cassidy Voted for FY 2013 Republican Study Committee “Cut, Cap and Balance” Budget Plan. In March 2012, Cassidy voted for the Republican Study Committee “Cut, Cap, and Balance” budget substitute amendment, offered as a more conservative alternative to the Ryan budget. The substitute amendment reportedly “more closely resembles the Tea Party budget” than the Ryan budget offered for FY 2013. It would convert Medicare into a “premium support” plan that would provide premium subsidies to enrollees to offset the cost of health insurance policies. Additionally, the budget plan would reform Social Security by raising its eligibility age. The budget would also cut the top corporate and individual tax rate to 25 percent, eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax and the estate tax and repeal President Obama’s healthcare reform plan. Lastly, the budget plan would convert the federal share of Medicaid spending into a block grant to states that would be level-funded at $267 billion per year for the next 10 years. [CQ Floor Votes, 3/29/12; The Hill, 3/27/12] The amendment was defeated 136-285. [H.Con.Res.112, Vote #149, 3/29/12]

  • Cut, Cap and Balance Will Force Deep Cuts to Social Security and Medicare. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The measure does not cut Social Security or Medicare in 2012.  And it does not subject them to automatic cuts if its global spending caps are missed.  It is inconceivable, however, that policymakers would meet the bill’s severe annual spending caps through automatic across-the board cuts year after year; if they did, key government functions would be crippled. Policymakers would have little alternative but to institute deep cuts in specific programs. […] Reaching and maintaining a balanced budget in the decade ahead while barring any tax increases would necessitate deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”  [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 7/16/11]
  • Cut, Cap and Balance “Would Require a 25 Percent Cut to Everything in the Federal Budget – From Social Security to Veterans’ Benefits to the Pentagon to Education.” According to the Center for American Progress, “Of that $4.4 trillion in 2016, about $520 billion will be interest payments on the debt—an area Congress can’t directly cut. That leaves about $3.9 trillion in noninterest spending, from which Congress would have to slash about $1 trillion in order to bring total spending down to 18 percent of GDP. This would require a 25 percent cut to everything in the federal budget—from Social Security to veterans’ benefits to the Pentagon to education. Congress could try to protect some programs from such severe reductions but then, of course, other areas would have to be slashed even more.” [Center for American Progress, 7/18/2011]
  • AARP Opposed Cut, Cap and Balance Because It Did Not Shield Social Security and Medicare From “Arbitrary Reductions.” In a July 2011 letter to Senators, AARP CEO Addison Barry Rand wrote, “The Cut, Cap and Balance Act requires that a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution be transmitted to the states as a pre-condition of increasing the debt ceiling.  Social Security and Medicare, which are not excluded under the balanced budget amendment, would therefore be at risk for arbitrary reductions under the constitutional amendment, and as such, AARP is opposed.” [AARP Letter, 7/21/11]

Cassidy: The Country Will Go Bankrupt If Entitlement Spending Is Not Addressed. “On other issues, Cassidy said entitlements are driving much of the nation’s debt, including Medicare and Social Security. He said that, when Medicare was enacted in 1965, the nation had 4.9 workers for each Medicare beneficiary compared to 1.9 workers per beneficiary today. ‘If we don’t address that, our country will go bankrupt,’ Cassidy said.” [The Advocate, 8/30/11]

  • Cassidy: It’s Crucial To Portray Any Cost-Cutting Efforts With Medicare As Reforms. The Fiscal Times spoke to Cassidy about Medicare’s role in deficit reduction: “Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a physician, said it’s crucial to portray any cost-cutting efforts with Medicare as reforms. ‘The political issue is, how well we can connect someone’s interest in having a strong [social] safety net with the need to reform and strengthen those programs,’ he said. ‘Frankly, the president has demagogued bipartisan plans to reform Medicare, so we know it’s going to be a political issue. It’s easier for him to demagogue than it is for him to offer a plan that would strengthen and preserve Medicare.’” [Fiscal Times, 3/7/13]
  • Cassidy Believed Medicare And Medicaid Remaining Unreformed Constituted The Greatest Threat To National Security. Cassidy said at a Ripon Society panel: “We all know that Admiral Mullen’s quote that ‘Our nation’s indebtedness is our Nation’s greatest threat to national security.’ Ergo, Medicare and Medicaid — unreformed — are our greatest threat to our national security. Now it isn’t just our Nation’s security we should be concerned about. States are spending for the first time more on Medicaid than they are on education. That’s a recipe for future disaster.” [Ripon Society Press Release, 7/13/12]

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