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2chambers
Posted at 04:48 PM ET, 05/13/2011

Medicare and Social Security Trustees report: Capitol Hill reaction


(AP Photo/Bradly C. Bower)
Members of Congress weighed in Friday evening on a new report by the Medicare and Social Security Trustees projecting that the federal entitlement programs could become insolvent sooner than expected.

Republicans argued that the report underscores the need to make sweeping changes to the entitlement programs and that the most dangerous thing to do is keep the status quo. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that the current debt-limit fight “is the perfect time to pass significant spending reductions and reform entitlement programs.”

Democrats, meanwhile, contended that the national health-care law strengthened Medicare but that the report’s findings on the programs’ solvency reflect the slow pace of the country’s economic recovery. Democrats also took aim at House Republicans’ 2012 budget blueprint, arguing that it would dismantle Medicare, rather than preserve it.

Below is a round-up of some of the congressional reaction to the report:

(Click here for earlier reactions from Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).)

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio):

“For decades, politicians in Washington, DC have looked up at the size and scale of the fiscal challenges facing our country, particularly in Medicare, and chosen to kick the can down the road. Today’s trustees report is another reminder that we’ve run out of road. With tens of millions of Baby Boomers beginning to retire, this is the moment to act. The time is now. We’ve outlined a proposal that would mean no changes for anyone age 55 and up, while making reforms to ensure that Medicare is around when younger Americans and future generations are ready to retire. The biggest threat Medicare faces right now is the status quo. The trustees’ report makes it clear that if we do nothing, Medicare will not be able to pay promised benefits to American seniors – and sooner than we thought. That is the real challenge our nation faces. It’s time for the grown-ups in the room to stand and be counted. We have laid out a plan to address the threat of Medicare insolvency. We’re still waiting to see one from President Obama and the Democrats who run Washington.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

“Today’s report makes it clear: Social Security and Medicare are strong, but Republican economic and fiscal policies have taken a direct hit at their finances. Democrats remain committed to strengthening and preserving Medicare and Social Security, while continuing to focus on growing the economy and creating jobs. Unlike the Republicans who voted to end Medicare as we know it, we must build on the reforms in the Affordable Care Act, which strengthened Medicare and extended its solvency without reducing benefits to our seniors. Republicans have now voted to end Medicare while giving billions to Big Oil and millionaires. Republicans have long been up to the same tricks with Social Security, putting the economic security of America’s seniors at risk. Democrats created Social Security and Medicare; we have sustained them for generations; we are working to strengthen, not end them.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

“As the trustees’ report makes abundantly clear, there can no longer be any doubt or denial: our nation’s Medicare and Social Security programs are unsustainable, and will run out of money sooner than expected. According to the trustee’s report, the Medicare trust fund will be exhausted five years earlier than last year’s estimate, while the Social Security fund will be exhausted a year earlier than the last estimate. The Trustees are clear on this point: ‘If action is taken sooner rather than later, more options and more time will be available to phase in changes so that those affected have adequate time to prepare.’ The President’s request to raise the debt limit is the perfect time to pass significant spending reductions and reform entitlement programs. If we want these programs to be sustainable in the future, without creating an unsustainable burden for future generations, we must take this opportunity to get serious, now. The Medicare trustees say ‘prompt action is necessary.’ The time to act is now.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.):

“Today’s Trustees Reports show that the Social Security and Medicare programs have the resources to meet their obligations well into the next decade, but have taken a hit due to economic conditions. The programs will be solvent into the next decade, due in part to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, which strengthened Medicare by taking significant steps to constrain cost growth through innovative delivery system and payment reforms that will increase efficiency, improve quality, and generate long-term savings for both beneficiaries and the government. According to the Trustees, Medicare’s financial outlook was substantially improved by this critical law. However, today’s reports also serve as a reminder that we must continue our efforts to strengthen our entitlement programs and ensure their solvency for generations to come. I will support responsible reforms designed to keep our entitlement programs strong. But the Republican budget plan, which ends Medicare as we know it and raises costs for seniors, is not the solution. We must also make sure that we protect Social Security and ensure its strength for generations to come.”

House Democratic Caucus Vice-Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.):

“Today’s report confirms what we already know: Social Security will weather the storm once again. Over the last seventy-five years Social Security has survived thirteen recessions and kept its promise to pay earned benefits to our seniors, disabled workers, widows and children on time and in full. This year $69 billion will be added to the trust fund, bringing the balance to $2.7 trillion, and enabling Social Security to pay workers the benefits they have earned for many years to come. You simply can’t buy the kind of retirement, disability and life-insurance protection on the private market that Social Security provides.”

Freshman Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.):

“Two days ago, I joined my fellow Republican freshmen on the House Triangle calling for President Obama to get serious about our looming entitlement crisis. Today’s trustees report shows again that if the President and Congressional Democrats continue to demonize those who are working for reform, their inactivity is a decision to end Medicare and Social Security and bankrupt our country in the process. Indeed, there will be no Medicare or Social Security for future generations if we do nothing. We cannot maintain the status quo. Today’s trustees report is a sobering reminder about this predictable crisis that we see on the horizon though many continue to do nothing about.”

Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.):

“Today’s report by the Trustees that Medicare will be exhausted five years earlier than anticipated only stresses the urgency of the House Freshmen’s call this week on President Obama to stop his own Administration’s fear mongering tactics and have a commonsense conversation to prevent the collapse of institutions from which millions of Americans rely on. House Republicans have put forward what the President referred to as a ‘serious proposal.’ This plan saves Medicare for current seniors and protects the program for future generations. Scare tactics and politicizing must be replaced by serious conversations over reforming spending on entitlement programs and addressing the debt crisis now before it is insurmountable. History will judge us by whether we worked together to solve our country’s problems or played politics to score points in the next election. We have a responsibility to the American people -- The time to act is now, Mr. President.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.):

“The Medicare Trustees’ report projects that Medicare will remain solvent through 2024. This is a slight reduction from last year’s projection, caused largely by the pace of economic recovery. Without the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare would have gone bankrupt in 2016. Clearly, the ACA extended the solvency of Medicare. It also laid the foundation for system-wide savings and quality improvement through reforms to our delivery system. We should build upon that foundation by implementing those delivery system reforms that reward quality, promote prevention, simplify administrative processes, realign payment systems, and encourage information technology. This approach will save money by improving quality of care: a win-win for our health care system and the American people. We owe it to our country to reach for those savings – not compromise the care on which millions rely.”

By  |  04:48 PM ET, 05/13/2011

 
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