October 29, 2004

No-Win Situation for Hispanic American Seniors :  Higher Medicare Premiums Mean They’ll Lose Up to Half of Social Security COLA

Washington, D.C. — A new report released by the Democratic staff of the Joint Economic Committee yesterday shows that increasing Medicare premiums are erod-ing  Social Security  benefits of Hispanic American seniors. Under the Bush Administration, next year’s Medicare premiums for seniors will increase a record 17.4 percent — the largest increase in Medicare’s history — while their Social Security benefits will increase by only 2.7 percent. That means that almost half of seniors’ Social Security cost of living adjustment (or COLA) will be spent on Medicare premiums alone.

Social Security and Medicare are critical for millions of Hispanic American seniors. There are approximately 2.2 million Latino seniors on Social Security and Medicare. And, without Social Security, the poverty rate for Latino seniors would increase from 16 percent to 55 percent. 

“We have long known that the Republican Medicare prescription drug law is a cruel hoax on America’s seniors and that it fails to reduce prescription drug prices,” said  House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “But yesterday’s report makes clear that Republicans’ refusal to control drug prices has led to escalating Medicare premiums and cuts in seniors’ Social Security COLAs.  That’s unacceptable.”

The new report concluded that 2.1 million beneficiaries will lose their entire COLA and 12 million beneficiaries will lose over 50 percent due to the record Medicare premium increase. Republicans have a dismal record on seniors’ issues. Not only did they force through a Medicare bill that bans buying drugs from Canada, blocks Medicare from negotiating the best price for seniors, and gives billions to HMOs and the insurance industry before seniors see a dime in benefits, but their Medicare bill that drives up Medicare premiums by 17 percent, practically wiping out the Social Security COLA increase that millions of seniors depend on for financial security. That’s on top of wanting to privatize Social Security. 

Democrats in Congress have proposed the “Social Security COLA Protection Act of 2004” to combat the rising Medicare costs. This bill would ensure that no more than 25 percent of a Social Security recipient’s COLA could be taken away be increases in Medicare premiums, including the existing “Part B” premium for outpatient care and the new “Part D” premium for prescription drugs. It would ensure that Hispanic American seniors could use their Social Security COLAs as intended—to pay for annual increases in food, housing and energy costs.

In 2007, the legislation would help more than 14 million Social Security recipients.  By 2014, it will help more than two-thirds of seniors and people with disabilities, approximately 23 million Americans.

“While Republicans are considering privatizing Social Security, Democrats are fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare.  We will not allow the Republicans to undermine the retirement security of our seniors,”  Pelosi said.

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