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REMARKS: LA Dems Executive Director Handwerk Denounces Bill Cassidy’s Agenda To Raise Retirement Age, Make Medicare a Voucher Program

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Cassidy Voted For Rep. Ryan & RSC Budgets Last Week – His Agenda Rewards Billionaires With Tax Cuts At the Expense of Seniors & the Middle Class

Baton Rouge, Louisiana –Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk held a press conference call this afternoon to discuss Bill Cassidy’s recent votes to pass the Rep. Paul Ryan budget, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) budget and his agenda to take care of millionaires and billionaires at the expense of seniors and the middle class.

The Ryan budget raises taxes on middle-class families, ends traditional Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program and forces seniors to pay thousands of dollars more for their health care each year, while awarding tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. The RSC budget raises the retirement age for Social Security to 70, forcing seniors to work for even longer before they can retire. Cassidy voted for both budgets on Thursday of last week, and since becoming a  member of Congress he has voted for every major plan that would slash retirement benefits for seniors.

See Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk’s remarks from today’s press conference call, below:

“Since he became a member of Congress, Bill Cassidy has supported every major plan that would slash seniors’ retirement benefits, cut Medicare and Social Security.

“See, he had the opportunity to change that last week when the House took up the latest versions of Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget, and the Republican Study Committee budget – otherwise known as the RSC budget.

“Instead, Cassidy voted for both plans – the fourth time he has supported each plan – cementing himself as the opponent of seniors in the Louisiana Senate election. By reaffirming his support for the Ryan and RSC budget plans, which would have real consequences for hundreds of thousands of Louisiana seniors, Bill Cassidy has made his agenda for seniors a front and center issue in his campaign for the Senate.

“Let me then walk you through how Cassidy has voted to slash retirement benefits for our seniors.

“Every chance he’s had, Cassidy has voted to enact the Paul Ryan budget, an extreme plan that could hurt as many as 650,000 seniors here in Louisiana.

“The Ryan budget ends traditional Medicare as we know it by privatizing it, and turning it into a voucher program that no longer guarantees the same coverage seniors currently enjoy. It also reopens the Medicare Part D donut hole for more than 65,000 seniors here in Louisiana. It increases the Medicare eligibility age to 67, which increases premiums for everyone on Medicare, and it forces seniors to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket each year.

“While slashing retirement benefits for seniors and forcing them to pay more for their healthcare, it also raises taxes on middle-class families by thousands of dollars, all in order to finance massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.

“Each year that Paul Ryan has introduced the reckless and irresponsible budget proposal – in 2011, 2012, 2013 and again, last week – Cassidy has voted for it, and praised it as the best path forward for Louisiana.

“But Cassidy hasn’t just supported the Ryan budgets. In fact, he is one of the only Senate candidates in the country who has also voted for every single version of the RSC budget – in 2011, 2012, 2013 and again last week.

“In many ways, the RSC budget goes even further than the Ryan budget. It contains many of the same draconian policies that would take care of the wealthy at the expense of seniors and middle-class families, but then it also increases the retirement age for Social Security – and in some versions of the budget, Medicare – to 70.

“This disproportionately hurts seniors in Louisiana, many of whom do physical labor in order to earn their living and take care of their families. To put that another way, a more tangible way: Bill Cassidy would force construction workers in Baton Rouge, family farmers in Moorhouse Parish, refinery workers in Lafayette and oil rig workers offshore in the Gulf, to work for even longer before they can retire.

“That’s the wrong policy for Louisiana, and it’s unfair to hundreds of thousands of seniors in Louisiana who are paying into Social Security and deserve a reasonable retirement.

“To recap, Bill Cassidy has voted to enact every version of the Rep. Paul Ryan budget to end Medicare as we know it, every version of the RSC budget to raise the retirement age to age 70, and he even voted for a 2011 plan called “Cut, Cap and Balance,” which would force massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

“An analysis by the Center for American Progress found that the plan would require cuts to Social Security and Medicare of up to 25 percent, that led AARP – by no means, a partisan group of any kind – to denounce the plan for forcing what they called ‘arbitrary reductions’ to these programs that seniors rely on.

“The country’s leading advocacy group for seniors said to Congress – don’t enact this bill into law – and yet Bill Cassidy still voted for it.

“The bottom line is this: Bill Cassidy has supported every major piece of legislation that would slash retirement benefits for seniors. By casting his support once again for the reckless and irresponsible Paul Ryan budget and the RSC budget last week, Cassidy has cemented his position as the opponent of seniors in this election cycle.

“Bill Cassidy’s agenda for Louisiana seniors is now clear: he wants to raise the retirement age to 70, end Medicare as we know it by turning it into nothing more than a Groupon program, and force seniors to pay thousands of dollars more in order to finance tax breaks for only the wealthiest of Americans. Bill Cassidy wants to take care of millionaires and billionaires at the expense of seniors and the middle class, and his agenda would unquestionably hurt seniors, and Louisiana.”

BACKGROUND

Bill Cassidy Has Voted For Every Ryan Budget And Every Republican Study Committee Budget

2014: Bill Cassidy Voted For The FY 2015 Ryan Budget. [H. Con. Res. 96, Vote #177, 4/10/14]

  • 2013: Bill Cassidy Voted For The FY 2014 Ryan Budget.  [H. Con. Res. 25, Vote #88, 3/21/13]
  • 2012: Bill Cassidy Voted For The FY 2013 Ryan Budget. [H. Con. Res. 112, Vote #151, 3/29/12]
  • 2011: Bill Cassidy Voted For The FY 2012 Ryan Budget. [H. Con. Res. 34, Vote #277, 4/15/11]

2014: Bill Cassidy Voted For The FY 2015 Republican Study Committee. [H. Con. Res. 96, Vote #175, 4/10/14]

  • 2013: Cassidy Voted For The FY 2014 RSC Budget.  [H.Con.Res.25, Vote #86, 3/20/13]
  • 2012: Cassidy Voted For The FY 2013 RSC Budget. [H.Con.Res.112, Vote #149, 3/29/12]
  • 2011: Cassidy Voted For The FY 2012 RSC Budget. [H.Con.Res.34, Vote #275, 4/15/11]

The Ryan Budget Ends Medicare As We Know In Order To Finance Massive Tax Cuts For The Wealthy

The FY 2015 Ryan Budget Will Force Seniors To Pay More To Remain In Medicare. Under the Ryan budget proposal, more than 45 million seniors could be forced to choose between traditional Medicare and a voucher program starting in 2024.  According to a previous Congressional Budget Office report, the proposal would force seniors who want to remain in traditional Medicare to pay $800 more per year than they would have under current law, raising premiums by 50 percent.  Furthermore, seniors electing to stay in traditional Medicare and avoid buying private insurance will pay $1,200 more than seniors in private plans.  Private plans would be permitted to tailor benefit packages to attract healthier beneficiaries and leave the sicker, more expensive patients for Medicare. Over time, Medicare would become less financially viable and would have to raise premiums, driving away more healthy beneficiaries and setting off a premium spiral that could unravel the program. [House Republican Budget Chairman’s Mark, 4/1/14; CBO,  9/13/14; Census, 2010; CAP, 4/1/14; DPCC, 3/13/13; CBPP, 3/15/13]

The FY 2015 Ryan Budget Raises Taxes On The Middle Class By $2,000, Giving Millionaires A Tax Cut Of Over $87,000 Each.  The Ryan budget proposes to lower tax rates for high-income earners from 39.6% to 25%, which would require the middle-class to pay more in taxes in order for the budget to balance as proposed.  A Tax Policy Center analysis of a similar proposal found that the tax reductions for high-income earners would cost $5.7 trillion, making it mathematically impossible “to enact Rep. Ryan’s tax policies in a deficit-neutral tax reform without including big tax increases for low- and middle-income taxpayers.”  Taxpayers with income exceeding $1 million would receive an average net tax decrease of over $87,000, according to a White House analysis.  In order to pay for these tax breaks, the Ryan budget would  raise taxes on middle class families with children by an average of at least $2,000.  [House Republican Budget Chairman’s Mark, 4/1/14; New York Times Editorial, 4/01/14; TPC, 3/15/13; TPC, 8/1/12; CTJ, 4/2/14; WH, 4/1/14; WH, 4/8/14]

  • The Ryan Plan “Would End Traditional Medicare By Capping Spending And Offer Vouchers To Buy Private Insurance.” “The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Obama pushed for doesn’t cut Medicare; it simply reduces projected future increases in costs by $700 billion over 10 years. […] Those same reductions in the future growth of Medicare are contained in the budget bills sponsored by Ryan and approved by the same House Republicans who now say they’ll campaign against the provision. Romney has endorsed the Ryan plan. The difference is the savings in the Republican bill don’t go to help seniors with their prescription drug costs. In fact, Ryan’s legislation increases the amount senior citizens will have to pay for drugs since it repeals the health-care legislation that provides the extra subsidy. Ryan’s budget bill also would end traditional Medicare by capping spending and offer vouchers to buy private insurance.” [Bloomberg, 8/13/12]
  • The Ryan Plan “Would Essentially End Medicare.” “Republicans will present this week a 2012 budget proposal that would cut more than $4 trillion from federal spending projected over the next decade and transform the Medicare health program for the elderly, a move that will dramatically reshape the budget debate in Washington. The budget has been prepared by Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, and it represents the most complete attempt so far by Republicans to make good on their promises during the 2010 midterm elections to cut government spending and deficits. Though Rep. Ryan based the Medicare portion of his budget on a previous plan created in collaboration with a Democrat, Alice Rivlin, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and long-time budget expert, the current plan isn’t likely to get much Democratic support. Instead, it will set up a broad debate over spending and the role of government heading into the 2012 general election. The plan would essentially end Medicare, which now pays most of the health-care bills for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans, as a program that directly pays those bills.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/4/11]

The Ryan Budget Reopens The Medicare Part D Donut Hole And Repeals Important Benefits For Louisiana Seniors

The FY 2015 Ryan Budget Reopens The Medicare Part D Donut Hole For 65,043 Louisiana Seniors. [White House, 4/9/14]

  • AARP: Health Care Reform “Protects And Strengthens Guaranteed Benefits In Medicare,” And “Closes The Dreaded Medicare Part D ‘Doughnut Hole,’ A Gap In Prescription Drug Coverage That Is Life-Threatening For Many.” [AARP, Press Release, 3/10/12]

Over 380,000 Louisiana Seniors Have Taken Advantage Of Free Preventive Services In Medicare Under Health Care Reform. “With no deductibles or co-pays, cost is no longer a barrier for seniors and people with disabilities who want to stay healthy by detecting and treating health problems early. In 2012 alone, an estimated 34.1 million people benefited from Medicare’s coverage of preventive services with no cost-sharing.  In Louisiana, 381,407 individuals with traditional Medicare used one or more free preventive service in 2012.” [HHS, Louisiana, accessed 3/17/14]

Health Care Reform Has Already Saved Over 60,000 Louisiana Seniors Almost $105 Million On Medicare Prescription Drug Costs. In Louisiana, people with Medicare saved nearly $105 million on prescription drugs because of the Affordable Care Act.  In 2012 alone, 60,016 individuals in Louisiana saved over $42 million, or an average of $704 per beneficiary.  In 2012, people with Medicare in the ‘donut hole’ received a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 14 percent discount on generic drugs.  And thanks to the health care law, coverage for both brand name and generic drugs will continue to increase over time until the coverage gap is closed.  Nationally, over 6.6 million people with Medicare have saved over $7 billion on drugs since the law’s enactment.” [HHS, Louisiana, accessed 3/17/14]

Cassidy Supports Turning Medicare Into A Voucher, Which Could Force Over 650,000 Louisianian Seniors To Pay Thousands More

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]

2011: 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]
  • One Kaiser Study Found That Switching Medicare To Premium Support Could Raise Premiums For 60% Of Beneficiaries. “Nearly six in 10 Medicare beneficiaries nationally could face higher premiums for Medicare benefits, assuming current plan preferences, including more than half of beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare and almost nine in 10 Medicare Advantage enrollees. Even if as many as one-quarter of all beneficiaries moved into a low-cost plan offered in their area, the new system would still result in more than a third of all beneficiaries facing higher premiums.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 9/30/12]

Bill Cassidy Voted For The Reckless “Cut, Cap, And Balance” Plan That Could Require A 25% Cut To Medicare And Social Security

2011: Cassidy Voted For The “Cut, Cap, and Balance” Bill That Forced Hard Spending Caps To Balance The Budget As Soon As Possible. In July 2011, Cassidy voted for passage of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill that would make an increase in the debt limit contingent upon the passage of a balanced-budget constitutional amendment. It also would set fiscal 2012 discretionary spending at $1.019 trillion and enforce statutory caps that limit spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) in fiscal 2012 through 2021. The bill passed 234-190. [HR 2560, Vote 606, 7/19/11]

  • 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 End the Medicare Guarantee and Slash Services While Giving a Tax Break for the Wealthy. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The balanced budget constitutional amendment (H. J. Res. 1) recently approved by the Judiciary Committee is a masquerade designed to foster the policy choices of the Republican budget: to end the Medicare guarantee for seniors and slash vital services while providing tax breaks for the wealthy.  This balanced budget amendment would have dire consequences on the economy, on Medicare and other government guarantees to our citizens, and on Congress’s ability to respond to changing needs.” [Democratic House Committee on the Budget, 6/27/11]
  • 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]

Bill Cassidy Has Voted To Raise The Social Security And Medicare Eligibility Ages To 70

The FY 2015 RSC Budget Raised The Retirement Age For Social Security To 70. “This budget would slowly phase in an increase in the Social Security full-retirement age. The full retirement age would continue the current-law’s gradual increase of two months per year beginning in 2022 until the full retirement age reaches 70.” [The FY 2015 RSC Budget, accessed 4/9/14]

  • The FY 2014 RSC Budget Increased 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]

Studies Show That Raising Medicare To 70 Would Lead To Hire Costs For All Seniors, In And Outside Of Medicare

Health Care Cost Institute: Raising Medicare To 70 Would Increase Per Capita Costs, Resulting In Increased Premiums Borne By The Government And Beneficiaries. And “Changes in the eligibility age for Medicare would raise the average per capita cost for the Medicare population because younger and relatively healthier beneficiaries would no longer be eligible. If the eligibility age were changed from age 65 to age 70 for example, while total Medicare spending would decline overall, the per capita cost would increase 12 percent because the 65 to 69 year old participants are generally the lower cost members. The costs of that change would be borne by the federal government and beneficiaries through their subsidized premiums.” [Health Care Cost Institute Independent Report, June 2013]

  • Study Author: “You Are Spreading Claims Across A Smaller Number Of People…Premiums Are Set At About 25 Percent Of The Actual Costs So Those Seniors’ Costs Would Go Up Unless The Law Is Changed.” “‘Overall, it does save money, but one of the things often forgotten is that you increase costs for those who remain in the program because you are taking the lowest cost people out of that average cost calculation for the Medicare premium,’ Dale Yamamoto, an actuary who prepared the report and Health Care Cost Institute board member, said in an interview. ‘You would be taking a good chunk of people out of the Medicare program by raising the eligibility to 70. You are spreading claims across a smaller number of people…Premiums are set at about 25 percent of the actual costs so those seniors’ costs would go up unless the law is changed,’ Yamamoto said.” [Forbes, 5/15/13]

The Kaiser Family Foundation Found That Raising Medicare To 67 Would Increase Seniors Out Of Pocket Costs And Premiums, Even Before Repealing The Additional Protections Afforded By The ACA, “The study estimates that raising Medicare’s eligibility to 67 in 2014 would generate an estimated $5.7 billion in net savings to the federal government, but also result in an estimated net increase of $3.7 billion in out-of-pocket costs for 65- and 66-year-olds, and $4.5 billion in employer retiree health-care costs. In addition, the study projects that the change would raise premiums by about 3 percent both for those who remain on Medicare and for those who obtain coverage through health reform’s new insurance exchanges. The study assumes both full implementation of the health reform law and the higher eligibility age in 2014 in order to estimate the full effect of both the law and the policy proposal.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, 7/18/11]

  • Strengthen Social Security Estimated That Raising Medicare To 67 Could Result In Out Of Pocket Costs Consuming 45% Of Certain Senior’s Social Security Checks. “Out-of-pocket health care costs would increase, on average, by $4,300 in 2014 for 960,000 people aged 65 and 66 who purchase coverage through a health insurance exchange and have incomes exceeding 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($43,560), making them ineligible for subsidies available to exchange participants with lower incomes.  3Under current law, these 65- and 66-year-old retirees’ average out-of-pocket costs would be $6,800 in 2014,4 out of a total Social Security benefit of $24,469.  If forced out of Medicare and onto the health insurance exchanges, their average out-of-pocket health care costs would grow to $11,100, out of a total Social Security benefit of $24,469. [Figure 1] As a result, if the Medicare eligibility age is raised, out-of-pocket health care costs would go from consuming 28 percent to 45 percent of those 65- and 66-year-old retirees’ Social Security check” [Strengthen Social Security, accessed 4/13/14]

The President Of AARP Said Raising The Medicare Age To 70 Was “Pure Folly And Very Dangerous.” “In a speech this week, A. Barry Rand, AARP’s CEO, denounced proposals to increase the eligibility age for Medicare, saying it would shift costs to employers, state governments and individuals. “This is pure folly and very dangerous,’ Rand said.” [CBS, 1/16/13]

Raising Social Security’s Retirement Age Would Reduce Lifetime Benefits While Unfairly Harming Seniors Who Work In Demanding Jobs

CBO: Raising Social Security To 70 Would Reduce Lifetime Benefits For Those Affected By 15%. “After this option was fully phased in, scheduled lifetime benefits for people born in the 1980s and 2000s would be reduced by about 15 percent relative to current law.  Payable benefits would decline by smaller percentages.” [CBO, July 2010]

Raising Social Security To 70 Would Only Reduce Program Spending By 6%. “The CBO said that raising the age to 68 would reduce Social Security spending by only 3 percent, or 0.2 percent of the GDP, in 2040. A retirement age of 70 would save 6 percent, or 0.4 percent of the GDP. The lawmakers stress that raising the full-retirement age should be only one of a series of Social Security changes.” [McClatchy, 7/9/10]

Economic Policy Institute: 45% Of Seniors Reported Having Physically Demanding Jobs Or Working Under Hard Conditions. “Using narrow definitions of risk, some have argued that only a relatively small group, 10 percent of older persons, would be harmed by further increasing the full retirement age to age 69 or older. But such claims ignore many challenges facing older workers. For example, research shows that roughly 40 percent of retirees retire earlier than planned for job, health, or caregiving reasons; 20–30 percent of people in their 60s report that their health is poor; around 45 percent of older workers have physically demanding jobs or work under difficult conditions; and about 20 percent of older adults are caring for a frail relative.” [Economic Policy Institute, 5/30/12]

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