II. PROTECT AND STRENGTHEN MEDICARE AS WE KNOW IT AND ENSURE QUALITY, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL OLDER AMERICANS
On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, with Vice President Biden standing by his side, and made history. It was a victory 100 years in the making. It was the conclusion of a tough fight that required taking on Republicans, special interests, and the status quo to do what’s right. But the Obama-Biden Administration got it done.
Today, the Affordable Care Act is still a big deal – especially for older Americans. Because of Obamacare, over no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a – whether cancer or diabetes or heart disease or a mental health challenge. Insurance companies on coverage. The law limited the extent to which insurance companies may charge you higher premiums just because of your age. And, the Affordable Care Act strengthened Medicare by ; giving Medicare beneficiaries access to , such as an ; and closing the prescription drug coverage gap, often referred to as the “.”
But, every day over the past nine years, the Affordable Care Act has been under relentless attack.
Immediately after its passage, Congressional Republicans began trying again and again to repeal it. , Republicans in Congress have only doubled down on this approach since January 2017. And, since repeal through Congress has not been working, President Trump has been unilaterally doing everything he can to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Trump Administration is trying to get the entire law – including protections for people with pre-existing conditions – .
As president, Biden will protect the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes every effort to get rid of this historic law – including efforts by Republicans, and efforts by Democrats. Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance, he has a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate. You can read Biden’s full health care plan [here]. In addition, to improve older Americans’ access to affordable, quality health care, Biden will:
- Protect Medicare as we know it. Today, Medicare provides health insurance coverage to over older Americans and people with disabilities. As president, Biden will continue to defend our nation’s commitment to older Americans and people with disabilities through Medicare, and he will keep Medicare as a separate and distinct program, and ensure there is no disruption to the current Medicare system.
- Protect Medicaid and ensure its beneficiaries can access home and community-based long-term care when they want it. Medicaid pays for more long-term care than any other insurer in the country. In fact, roughly individuals residing in nursing homes are enrolled in Medicaid, including many older Americans. Yet, the Trump Administration is considering a plan to cut Medicaid funding by turning it into a block grant. And Republican leadership in states like Iowa, where Medicaid has been privatized with for some of its most vulnerable residents, are not fulfilling their obligations under the program. The Biden Plan will protect Medicaid funding and make sure the program gives those on Medicaid who need long-term care the flexibility to choose home- and community-based care. In addition, the Biden Administration won’t let states skirt their duties under Medicaid and will take enforcement action against any state that allows profiteering to get in the way of Medicaid beneficiaries’ health.
- Provide tax relief to help solve the long-term care challenge. The Biden Plan will also help Americans pay for long-term care by providing relief for Americans needing long-term care by creating a $5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers, modeled off of . These informal caregivers – whether family members or other loved ones – have for too long been doing tireless work without any financial support. In addition, Biden will increase the generosity of for older Americans who choose to buy long-term care insurance and pay for it using their savings for retirement.
- Care for our caregivers. The physical, emotional, and financial challenges of caring for a loved one is enormous. As president, Biden will work to enact at the federal level the , which has already been passed in . This legislation will help our caregivers by ensuring hospitals equip them with instructions and information when their loved ones are discharged. Biden also supports additional proposals to support caregivers, such as funding to give them access to .
III. PRESERVE AND STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY
Social Security is the bedrock of American retirement. , and rely on Social Security for all, or almost all, of their income. The program has not only ensured that middle-class workers can enjoy the sound and secure retirement they worked so hard for, it also lifted older Americans out of poverty in 2017 alone.
The Biden Plan will protect Social Security for the millions of Americans who depend on the program. With Social Security’s Trust Fund already in deficit and, we urgently need action to make the program solvent and prevent cuts to American retirees.
But the Biden Plan doesn’t stop there. As president, Joe Biden will strengthen benefits for the most vulnerable older Americans – including widows and widowers, lifelong workers with low monthly benefits, and old-age beneficiaries who may have exhausted their other savings. Specifically, the Biden Plan will:
- Put Social Security on a path to long-run solvency. The impending exhaustion of the Social Security Trust fund imperils American retirement as we know it. Waiting to act only jeopardizes the program further, and will make an eventual solution that much more difficult. The Biden Plan will put the program on a path to long-term solvency by asking Americans with especially high wages to pay the same taxes on those earnings that middle-class families pay.
- Preserve the nature of Social Security. Social Security is one of our nation’s great public policy successes, in large part due to the fact that participation in the program is shared across almost all workers. Efforts to privatize the program – such as an approach suggested under the Bush Administration – will undermine the program’s solvency, while putting at risk individuals’ income in retirement. Similarly, proposals to make the program “means-tested” – so that only low-income retirees workers receive benefits – jeopardizes the program’s universal nature and key role as the bedrock of American retirement. Ultimately, the success of Social Security is largely due to the fact that almost all Americans can rely on the program to make their retirement more secure.
- Provide a higher benefit for the oldest Americans. At advanced ages, Americans become more vulnerable to exhausting their savings, sometimes falling into poverty and living a life of hardship. The Biden Plan will provide the oldest beneficiaries – those who have been receiving retirement benefits – with a higher monthly check to help protect retirees from the pain of dwindling retirement savings.
- Implement a true minimum benefit for lifelong workers. No one who has worked for decades and paid into Social Security should have to spend their retirement in poverty. The Biden Plan will revolutionize the Social Security’s minimum benefit, which has deteriorated over time to the point of being entirely ineffective. Under the Biden Plan, workers who spent 30 years working will get a of at least 125% of the poverty level.
- Protect widows and widowers from steep cuts in benefits. For many couples, the death of a spouse means that Social Security benefits will be cut in half – putting pressure on the surviving spouse who still needs to make the mortgage payment and handle other bills. The Biden Plan will to keep a higher share of the benefits. This will make an appreciable difference in the finances of older Americans, especially women (who live longer on average than men), raising the monthly payment by about 20% for affected beneficiaries.
- Eliminate penalties for teachers and other public-sector workers. Current rules penalize teachers and other public sector workers who either switch jobs or who have earned retirement benefits from various sources. The Biden Plan would eliminate these penalties by ensuring that teachers not eligible for Social Security will begin receiving benefits sooner – . The Biden Plan will also get rid of the benefit cuts for workers and surviving beneficiaries who happen to be covered by both Social Security and another pension. These workers deserve the benefits they earned.
IV. EQUALIZE SAVING INCENTIVES FOR MIDDLE-CLASS WORKERS
In the modern retirement landscape, a sound retirement begins with years of diligent saving. While other aspects of the Biden Plan will help raise wages for workers and reduce costs for spending like child care and health insurance, the Biden Plan will also ensure that middle-class families get a leg up as they grow their nest egg.
Under current law, the tax code affords workers billion each year for various retirement benefits – including saving in 401(k)-type plans or IRAs. While these benefits help workers reach their retirement goals, many are poorly designed to help low- and middle-income savers – about two-thirds of the benefit goes to the wealthiest . The Biden Plan will make these savings more equal so that middle class families can enter retirement with enough savings to support a healthy and secure retirement. President Biden will do so by:
- Equalizing the tax benefits of defined contribution plans. The current tax benefits for retirement savings are based on the concept of deferral, whereby savers get to exclude their retirement contributions from tax, see their savings grow tax free, and then pay taxes when they withdraw money from their account. This system provides upper-income families with a much stronger tax break for saving and a limited benefit for middle-class and other workers with lower earnings. The Biden Plan will equalize benefits across the income scale, so that low- and middle-income workers will also get a tax break when they put money away for retirement.
- Removing penalties for caregivers who want to save for retirement. Under current law, people who work as caregivers without receiving wages are ineligible to get tax breaks for retirement saving. The Biden Plan will allow caregivers to make “catch-up” contributions to retirement accounts, even if they’re not earning income in the formal labor market, as has been by Representatives Jackie Walorski and Harley Rouda.
- Giving small businesses a tax break for starting a retirement plan and giving workers the chance to save at work. As proposed by the Obama-Biden Administration, the Biden Plan will call for widespread adoption of workplace savings plans and offer tax credits to small businesses to offset much of the costs. Under Biden’s plan, almost all workers without a pension or 401(k)-type plan will have access to an “automatic 401(k),” which provides the opportunity to easily save for retirement at work – putting millions of middle-class families in the path to a secure retirement.
V. PROVIDE HELP FOR OLDER WORKERS WHO WANT TO KEEP WORKING
With longer lifespans and the changing nature of work, many Americans are choosing to stay in the workforce longer. Despite their valuable contributions, these workers often face illegal discrimination or steep tax penalties when they try to continue to earn a living. Joe Biden believes that all workers deserve an opportunity to earn a living and will fight to change the laws to allow all people – regardless of their age – to get the pay they deserve. The Biden Plan will:
- Protect older Americans against harmful age discrimination. As president, Biden will back bipartisan legislation protecting older workers from being discriminated against in the workforce. , this practice is widespread – with more than 60% of older workers reporting discrimination because of their age. The Biden Plan will put in place workplace safeguards making it easier for older workers to prove that they were treated unfairly at work.
- Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to older workers. The EITC is one of the most effective strategies for helping low-wage workers achieve a living wage. Unfortunately, the EITC is not available to workers once they turn 65, putting them at a distinct disadvantage relative to their younger peers. As president, Joe Biden will allow low-wage older workers to claim the tax credit they deserve.