Retirees prepare to stand firm in a hostile new world

Social Security and Medicare targeted by majority party

Candidate Donald Trump told the American people he didn’t want to cut Social Security, but Republicans have opposed the system since its creation during the Depression.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has talked about “means testing” Social Security. In other words, wealthy seniors wouldn’t get benefits because they don’t need them. But they wouldn’t pay into the system, either, and losing the top 10 percent of contributors could lead to financial havoc.

If that happens, the leader of the CFT Council of Retired Members expects conservatives to argue for ending Social Security or making the system voluntary because it no longer benefits all Americans. “They hate single payer plans because they work,” said John Perez. “When everyone pays into it, costs go down and everyone benefits.”

And while Trump hasn’t yet attacked Medicare, or even tweeted about it, for tens of millions of seniors who could not afford health coverage without it, the stakes couldn’t be higher. More than 55.5 million Americans — including nearly 6 million Californians — are Medicare beneficiaries. 

The average teacher in California retires at 62, but Medicare doesn’t kick in until 65. During those three years, retirees pay more for coverage than active employees of any age. When Medicare does become their main insurer, premiums plummet. At Kaiser, for example, they decrease by 80 percent and at Anthem, by 60 percent.

Ryan has wanted for years to turn Medicare into a voucher plan. “And he doesn’t want a voucher that increases with the cost of living,” Perez said, “so its value will go down every year because of inflation. That means retirees will pay more of the cost, plus any increases in the premium.”

The California Retired Teachers Association and others are channeling a growing wellspring of support for Medicare and Medicaid into sending the Republican majority in Congress a message: Protect, improve, and expand Medicare and Medicaid. 

“Congress is already discussing ‘reforms’ to Medicare and the Affordable Care Act,” said CalRTA Executive Director Angelique Hill, “but Ryan has blocked his office email and toll-free phone to prevent opponents from sharing their opinions.”

Hill said retirees are mailing cards directly to Ryan’s home address: Honorable Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, 700 St. Lawrence Ave. Janesville, WI 53545.

By Steve Weingarten, CFT Reporter