No Grand Bargain; Elderly Women Hit Hardest

Nurses Warn: Cuts Would Do Serious Harm in Communities Already Hurting

Silver Spring, Maryland–(ENEWSPF)–April 9, 2013.  The largest U.S. organization of registered nurses, National Nurses United (NNU), issued its strongest warning yesterday: Cuts in Social Security and Medicare would do harm to America’s elderly and disabled, vulnerable populations whose resources already place them in the margins. NNU called upon lawmakers to withdraw from all considerations of these cuts. Although Social Security contributes nothing to the federal deficit, Congress could increase revenue for the Social Security trust fund by raising  the payroll tax income limit.

“RNs see this as a very critical issue,” said Deborah Burger, RN and co-president of NNU. “Taking money away from Social Security and Medicare recipients will deal a severe blow to many who already cannot afford anything close to a decent standard of living.  It is shameful to take away from elderly and disabled Americans.”

The “Grand Bargain” proposed by President Obama would replace current cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits with a “Chained-CPI” scheme, applying a lower adjustment for inflation.  NNU cited a column by John Nichols in The Nation where he wrote, “The change will harm not just seniors, children and people with disabilities, but a fragile recovery.” Applying chained CPI to Social Security reduces the benefits of every single Social Security beneficiary, now and in the future.”.

NNU nurses have been working in communities across the country to combat the ill-effects on health of the Great Recession. This proposal would undermine that effort, worsening individual health and access to healthcare, say nurses.

Seniors already pay 20 to 40 percent of their incomes for healthcare, including pharmaceuticals. Reducing Medicare benefits makes a difficult situation worse.

Especially vulnerable are elderly women. According to the National Women’s Law Center, a typical single elderly woman’s monthly benefits will be reduced by $56 at age 80 if proposed cuts become law. That’s equal to the cost of one week’s worth of food each month, reported the Center. Social Security represents virtually the only source of income for nearly 40 percent of women over 80, according to The Nation.

Most Americans have seen there incomes stagnant over the last 30 years, while the overall economy has more than doubled in size. Almost all gains from growth have gone to the top, leaving a majority unable to save enough for retirement. “Social Security and Medicare are barely adequate as is,” wrote former Labor Secretary Robert Reich in a recent blog.