Ever since the midterm election campaign last year, President Biden and other Democrats have been frequently arguing that Republicans want to jeopardize the security of Social Security and Medicare, while Republicans have strongly denied it.
While it looks likely the government is headed into fights this spring and summer over the debt ceiling, this fight is being had again, most recently in reaction to a Democratic initiative to cut down on overpayments to insurance companies as part of Medicare Advantage.
“Joe Biden is trying to gut Medicare benefits. Seniors can’t trust Democrats to protect Medicare,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Philip Letsou said last week, in relation to that debate, per a Roll Call report. But David Lipschutz, associate director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, replied in the same piece that “implying that what they perceive to be cuts to Medicare Advantage payments runs afoul of President Biden’s promise or pledge not to cut Medicare … that’s disingenuous.”
The Promised Medicare Plan
Now, ahead of the planned Thursday release of Biden’s budget for the year, the president has authored an op-ed piece for the New York Times, titled “My Plan to Extend Medicare for Another Generation.”
Biden described Medicare as “more than a government program. It’s the rock-solid guarantee that Americans have counted on to be there for them when they retire.”
The president went on to make clear that he disagrees with the notion that cutting the program is necessary in order to save it. He added that he plans to shore up Medicare in the budget he is introducing this week, and he claimed that the biggest “health reform bills” that have saved Medicare the most were President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and his own Inflation Reduction Act. The latter, he argued, got rid of the “ban on Medicare negotiating lower drug prices.”
“The budget I am releasing this week will make the Medicare trust fund solvent beyond 2050 without cutting a penny in benefits,” the president writes. “In fact, we can get better value, making sure Americans receive better care for the money they pay into Medicare.”
And Biden plans to expand on that progress with his new budget.
“My budget will build on drug price reforms by strengthening Medicare’s newly established negotiation power, allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for more drugs and bringing drugs into negotiation sooner after they launch. That’s another $200 billion in deficit reduction,” Biden added. “We will then take those savings and put them directly into the Medicare trust fund. Lowering drug prices while extending Medicare’s solvency sure makes a lot more sense than cutting benefits.”
He added that the budget will propose to “increase the Medicare tax rate on earned and unearned income above $400,000 to 5 percent from 3.8 percent.” This, Biden writes, will extend the solvency of Medicare beyond 2050. But the tax increase will remain true to Biden’s pledge to not raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000.
Just Part of a Negotiation with GOP?
Of course, as is usually the case with presidential budgets, Biden’s budget is only his proposal, and will not be the budget that ultimately passes. The proposal will be subject to negotiations with the Republicans in Congress, which are likely to be contentious, and those Republicans are highly unlikely to agree to any tax increase. More likely, after months of negotiation, the two parties will ultimately agree to a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown or debt ceiling-related default, one that doesn’t include any type of ambitious Medicare reform.
“Republican plans that protect billionaires from a penny more in taxes — but won’t protect a retired firefighter’s hard-earned Medicare benefits — are just detached from the reality that hardworking families live with every day,” Biden writes in the Times op-ed.
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.