News Release

Debate Disinformation on Social Security and Medicare


ERIC KINGSON [email], via Sarah Shive [email]
Kingson is co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign. He said today: “In her opening question on Social Security to Mr. Ryan, Martha Raddatz drew on and reinforced a common myth — that Social Security ‘is going broke’ and that dramatic change is needed for it ‘to survive.’ Her assumptions were wrong. Social Security has a dedicated stream of income, the payroll contributions of working Americans and their employers. In the totally improbable event that Congress chose, over the next 75 years, to do absolutely nothing to strengthen the our Social Security system’s financing, under the most reliable estimates, Social Security would still have sufficient revenues to pay all the benefits earned by the American people until 2033. After that it would still have on-going revenues from payroll contributions to meet three-fourths of its obligations. Of course we should address this shortfall before 2033, but there is no crisis and no need to talk about Social Security in these cataclysmic terms.

“In choosing to frame the Social Security discussion in this manner, Ms. Raddatz missed an important opportunity to ask the candidates about a more important and immediate problem — the emerging retirement income crisis confronting tens of millions of working persons, especially those in their late 40s and 50s, who have lost home equity, occupational pension protections, 401K and other retirement savings, and in some cases their jobs. Public discourse would have been far better served if Ms. Raddatz had invited the candidates to give a sober assessment of what they plan to do to deal with this emerging crisis.”

STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER [email] also, via Mark Almberg [email]
Woolhandler co-authored a just-released report titled “Medicare Overpayments to Private Plans, 1985-2012” (forthcoming in International Journal of Health Services) which states that privately run Medicare Advantage plans have cost the traditional Medicare program $282.6 billion in overpayments over the past quarter-century by cherry-picking healthier patients and engaging in other schemes to maximize their bottom line at taxpayers’ expense.

She said today: “Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare goes 180 degrees in the wrong direction, pouring even more Medicare funds into private insurance plans, also known as Medicare Advantage plans or Medicare HMO’s. But such plans have already cost the taxpayers $283 billion dollars more than traditional Medicare, $283 billion that should have been used to improve coverage for seniors and lengthen the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.” See PDF of report.

Woolhandler is professor of public health at the City University of New York and visiting professor of medicine at Harvard.