Cline’s committee takes aim at Social Security and Medicare

Congressman Cline seems awfully proud to be selected to chair the Republican Study Committee’s Budget and Spending Task Force.

What Cline doesn’t mention is that the RSC wants to slash Social Security and Medicare benefits for tens of millions of aging and retiring Americans.

Under a plan developed by the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservatives in the House, senior citizens would face a five-year delay to claim Medicare, the government health care program for seniors that currently allows people to access the program when they turn 65. And the retirement age for Social Security would also increase to 70, compared with today’s full retirement age of between 66 and 67 years old.

The reason for the push? The “miracle” of longer life expectancies, according to the Republican Study Committee’s documents. But while Americans are living longer than in earlier generations, the average age of retirement is 61 — or 5 years earlier than workers say they had expected to step back from the workforce, according to Gallup. In other words, people may believe they’ll work longer, but on average, Americans are stepping back five to six years before they even reach Social Security’s current full retirement age.

Because of this, boosting the age to claim benefits would likely increase hardship and poverty for older Americans, especially for low-income, rural Americans and those who have to stop working due to health issues or to take care of family members, experts say. 

Older? Low-income? Rural? That’s a big part of the population of the part of Virginia that Cline purports to represent.

That means either missing three years of benefits compared with current retirees, or opting to claim benefits earlier — which Social Security allows retirees to do — in exchange for a permanent reduction in benefits. Generally, retiring three years earlier than the full retirement age equates to a 20% decline in monthly benefits, according to the Social Security Administration.

“That means that for even those people who work to age 70, you never catch up with the cut in benefits,” said Nancy Altman, the president of Social Security Works, an advocacy group for the benefit program.

She added, “It particularly hurts those in low-income, physically demanding jobs” who are more likely to stop working earlier due to health issues.

Postponing eligibility for Medicare “would leave most older Americans age 65 -70 significantly underinsured and threatens their finances and their health,” said Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst, at The Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group for older Americans. 

While Cline claims to worry about the long-term fiscal stability of Social Security, and whether it will be available for his daughters, his only solution is to make it harder for older Americans to achieve financial security in their later years.

Would he support legislation to protect Social Security by lifting the cap on taxes for the highest-income Americans and requiring them to pay more to protect a program that’s essential for the well-being of lower-income Americans?

I think we know the answer to that.

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