Americans love their Social Security and Medicare yet these earned benefit programs continue to be the focus of attacks like the GOP/Ryan Budget or the endless slew of “bipartisan” commissions like Simpson Bowles or the Gang of Six. Here are 10 reasons why workers, retirees, the disabled and their families love Social Security and Medicare and how these benefits are so vital to middle class Americans:
1. Social Security benefits are guaranteed. Unlike savings and investments, you can’t outlive your benefits. Social Security benefits are especially vital to women, who live on average longer than men.
2. Social Security benefits are protected from inflation. Social Security is one of the few retirement programs that provide an automatic annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to beneficiaries. The annual COLA is intended to ensure that retirees, survivors and the disabled maintain their purchasing power.
3. Social Security is a valuable life insurance policy. Besides old age insurance, for the average wage earner with a family, Social Security insurance benefits are equivalent to a $476,000 life insurance policy.
4. Social Security provides disability insurance. Social Security ensures workers will have steady income if they become disabled and can no longer work. The insurance benefits are equivalent to a $465,000 disability insurance policy.
5. Medicare provides comprehensive health care coverage for seniors. Since its creation in 1965, Medicare has provided universal, reasonably affordable health care to millions of seniors. Before Medicare, more than half of seniors lacked hospital insurance. Today, virtually all people ages 65 and over are covered by Medicare.
6. Medicare provides free preventive health screenings. Seniors do not have to pay for Mammograms, Diabetes or Cancer screenings thanks to new provisions in the Affordable Care Act.
7. Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus. Since 1982, Social Security has maintained a budget surplus. Social Security remains strong, despite the lingering effects of the recession, and will be able to pay full benefits for the next 25 years – until 2036. Despite the gloom and doom rhetoric of those who want to cut Social Security to balance the budget, the program continues to run an annual surplus.
8. Medicare’s costs rise slower than private insurance. Medicare spending per beneficiary rose more than 400 percent from 1969 to 2009 but inflation-adjusted premiums on private health insurance rose more than 700 percent. Although high healthcare costs system-wide affect Medicare, it’s clear we have a healthcare problem, not a Medicare problem.
9. Social Security’s administrative costs are low. Less than 1% of Social Security’s budget goes to administrative costs. In a privatized system, commissions and fees could easily burn up as much as 15 cents out of every dollar of a worker’s annual investment as they do in some countries with privatized systems.
10. Social Security and Medicare are social insurance programs. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why Social Security and Medicare are universally cherished is that in return for the contributions to these programs we make during our working years, we receive guaranteed retirement, disability or survivor benefits. These are, for most people, a lifeline of support; insurance for what President Roosevelt once aptly described as the “hazards and vicissitudes of life.”