As millions of Americans attempt to enjoy their golden years and millions more approach their retirement, it is critical that Congress continue to address the most challenging issues facing retirees and senior citizens today.
The combination of rising health care costs, a poor economy, and the increasing numbers of other Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries have placed an enormous strain on retirees and senior citizens today. First and foremost, health care should be accessible to all people, especially our nation’s seniors. Medicare beneficiaries in Washington State all too often receive notices from their doctors informing them that they will have to purchase a supplemental health insurance plan or they will have to find another doctor. While seniors dependent on Medicare struggle to make ends meet, doctors in the state grow anxious as they see their Medicare reimbursement rates constantly dwindle with threats of even larger cuts hanging over their head.
I believe Social Security is a critical program that must be preserved and protected especially at a time when all Americans, especially seniors, are feeling the pressure of a struggling economy. The program was originally designed to guarantee all retirees in our nation a basic, minimum income, and the need for such a social safety net is just as great today as it was during its conception.
Social Security is a “pay-as-you-go system” in which today’s workers pay into a fund to cover the money paid to today’s and future beneficiaries. The current structure is dependent upon each generation paying into the system to support current eligible beneficiaries and future beneficiaries. We need to recognize that we face serious budget challenges with this model, and for the program to continue in a sustainable way, some changes will be required. Dealing with Social Security’s long-term solvency problem now will be much easier while we have the time and flexibility to consider numerous options rather than waiting until later when our options for reform are limited.
Social Security can be preserved by choosing any number of options. If we wish to give Americans more private investment options, we can do so without taking the money out of Social Security. We could increase the amount individuals can put in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), offer greater tax incentives for 401(k) plans, or take any number of actions that would not harm Social Security.
I strongly support initiatives to encourage individuals to save and create wealth outside the Social Security system to improve retirement security. I have supported increased IRA limits and 401(k) limits as well as making long-term care insurance tax deductible, which would provide incentives for low- and middle-income workers to save, invest, and establish a strong safety net.
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