Open Season on Old People

Outside the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit, a group of angry people gathered Friday. They were standing together to defend Medicare, and to let Senator Carl Levin know he better not vote for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The three social safety nets that so many Americans rely on are in the crosshairs of the Republican gun, but it may be the Democrats that pull the trigger. The bipartisan “Gang of Six,” led by Democratic Senator Mark Warner, put forward a plan last week that would cut the social programs. President Obama has endorsed the cuts.

The group, Retirees for Single Payer, is made up mostly of Auto Worker retirees who meet every Monday at UAW Local 22’s hall to educate and agitate for a Medicare-for-all health care system. But with Medicare itself on the line, they find themselves having to defend what folks 65 years and older have now.

Why put the old people out to dry? Why them? What did they do? Did they not buy enough gas last week, so we need to take from them and give to big oil?

The latest news out of Washington is that a deal to raise the amount of debt the government can hold (the “debt ceiling”) would come with deep cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.

The agreement would mean seniors who depend on Social Security would see increases of three-tenths of a percent less each year. Because the cost of living will grow faster than increases, payments 10 years from now will be 3 percent lower than they would be otherwise.

The age at which retirees can qualify for Medicare may increase too, from 65 to 67, just when fewer employers are providing health coverage for people who retire before they’re eligible for Medicare. Employers that do offer coverage, union and non-union alike, are making it much more expensive.

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A survey of employers released last month said 42 percent are considering dropping coverage for pre-Medicare retirees completely. Lawmakers have discussed increasing co-payments and deductibles for Medicare as well.

Death Panels for Baby Boomers

Anybody 62 or older would be affected by these cuts. The baby boomer generation isn’t going away; they’ll keep retiring and keep needing Social Security and Medicare.

Are the politicians doing this for population control? This would be the real death panels, Republicans.

My father, a UAW retiree after 42 years at GM, collects his Social Security check every month and loves his Medicare. If either were cut, I’m not sure what he would do.

My father-in-law would be in the same boat. He isn’t on Medicare but Medicaid. He has multiple sclerosis and can no longer work; he needs Social Security and Medicaid to survive.

I’m sure everyone out there has somebody in his or her life who would be greatly devastated if cuts to any of these programs were to happen.

On Friday, our picket called for taxing the rich. We held Medicare for All signs, while handing out literature. But if things keep going the way they are, and Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid don’t come off the table, the next time a group of angry people gather, it shouldn’t be signs and literature but pitchforks and torches.