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Deborah Ross Launches "Putting People First" with Plan to Protect Social Security & Medicare

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Location: Raleigh, NC

US Senate Candidate Deborah Ross today launched her "Putting People First" initiative with a plan that will protect Social Security and Medicare for North Carolina seniors. The plan focuses on strengthening the programs to allow for secure retirement and affordable health care.

Deborah's opponent, incumbent Senator Richard Burr, has taken more than $1 million from insurance companies while writing a plan to privatize Medicare and raise the eligibility age. His plan would help his big money insurance donors profit, but force seniors to pay more. Burr also supported cutting Social Security.

"I've met with people all over North Carolina who are putting off retirement because they don't know if they or their family can afford it," said Deborah. "And when they see politicians like Richard Burr trying to give away Medicare to the insurance lobby while collecting over $1 million from them, it makes folks worry about their retirement security. My plan represents a sound approach to making sure all Americans pay their fair share, weeds out waste and puts North Carolina first."

Deborah has been endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Deborah's plan is outlined below and available here.

Deborah Ross' Retirement Security Plan

Social Security financing that treats everyone fairly. To honor the promises we've made to our nation's seniors and meet the needs of future retirees, we must make common sense changes to our tax code. Right now, average Americans pay into our Social Security system for the entire year, while someone earning $1 million a year stops paying into the Social Security system by Valentine's Day--more than 10 months sooner than everyone else. We must make changes to our payroll tax system so that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. Data also shows they live longer and collect more so it is only fair.

Encourage more employers to sponsor retirement plans. About half of all private sector workers are not covered by any sort of employer-sponsored retirement plan. For some businesses, particularly new and small businesses, it is not easy to provide that benefit to their employees, even if they'd like to. Maintaining reporting requirements, administrative fees, and potential matching requirements present significant financial hurdles. That is why we need to defray these costs for small businesses that provide these benefits, as well as those that automatically enroll their employees into existing retirement plans.

Pay for Quality, not Quantity. Last year, the Quality Payment Program was put in place. Under this new system, payments to doctors under Medicare are driven by the quality of the care, not the number of procedures and tests performed. As the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) moves to implement the most significant payment reform attempted in nearly two decades, we must remain committed to controlling costs. Congress must be open to sensible improvements that protect the care of seniors everywhere, including those who receive care at smaller practices and in rural communities. At the same time, our nation must fundamentally shift away from payment methods that create spiraling health care costs.

Crackdown on Inefficiencies, Errors, and Those Trying to Abuse the Medicare Program. Medicare beneficiaries now number more than 55 million, a jump of more than 10 million in less than a decade. As the Baby Boomers age, and more seniors enroll, we should redouble our efforts to crackdown on inefficiencies, errors, and those trying to abuse the Medicare program. In 2015, Medicare's fee-for-service programs filed $43 billion in payments that were improper in some way, amounting to more than 12% of total payments. We cannot afford to make mistakes in Medicare. Investing in oversight, personnel, and technology will be critical to ensuring costly Medicare dollars are properly spent. In the State House, Deborah worked to cut down on fraud and abuse by sponsoring a law that protected whistleblowers who exposed those that cheated the North Carolina government.

Engage Consumers: We need to new ways to engage consumers with information and incentives so they can make efficient and effective healthcare decisions. Something as simple as a medical discussion guide can remove the confusion that many patients feel when trying to choose the health care plan that is right for them. Studies show that in one year alone, hundreds of thousands of excess surgeries were performed under Medicare. A simple discussion guide can lower the rate of unnecessary surgeries and lower costs. States around the country are innovating with tools to better inform consumers. Future wide implementation could save Medicare billions in the decades to come.

Make prescription drugs more affordable. The innovators, entrepreneurs, and scientists that develop life-saving drugs deserve to be fairly rewarded for their time, expense, and risk. But it is clear that more must be done to bring the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs down, particularly for seniors on fixed incomes and those living paycheck to paycheck. In 2014, the spending on prescription drugs increased by more than 11%, which is only made worse by the long backlog of FDA approvals for generic drugs. When it takes more than four years for the FDA to act on a single generic drug application, there is less competition and fewer choices for consumers. We can lower spending on prescription drugs by clearing the FDA backlog for generics, bringing lower cost drugs to the market, and giving consumers the choices they deserve.

BACKGROUND

Burr on Social Security

Burr Voted Against Protecting Social Security From Benefit Cuts Or Privatization. In March 2015, Burr voted against a: "Wyden, D-Ore., motion to waive the Budget Act with respect to the Enzi, R-Wyo., point of order against the Wyden amendment no. 471 for not being germane. The Wyden amendment would create a 60-vote point of order against any legislation that would reduce Social Security benefits, increase the retirement age for benefits or privatize Social Security." The motion was rejected 51-48. [CQ, 3/24/15, S.Amdt. 471 to S.Con.Res. 11, Vote 84, 3/24/15]

Burr Supported Reducing Social Security Payments. "There is a deep need in the long term for change so it is fiscally sound and sustainable for future generations,' Burr said. That might include determining whether to reduce the size of the payments "to reflect what's available in the reserves,' he said." [Winston-Salem Journal, 4/19/11]

Burr on Medicare

BURR TOOK OVER $1 MILLION FROM INSURANCE COMPANIES

Burr Has Received $1.1 Million From Insurance Interests. Over the course of his political career Burr has received a total of $1,129,864 from insurance industry interests. [opensecrets.org, accessed June 1, 2016]

BURR INTRODUCED A PLAN TO REFORM MEDICARE WHICH WOULD TURN IT INTO VOUCHERS AND RAISE THE ELIGIBILITY AGE

2012: Burr Unveiled His Own Medicare Voucher Plan, Similar To The Ryan Plan. "Two Republican senators unveiled a Medicare overhaul Thursday that features an accelerated transition to private health insurance for many seniors, a gradual increase in the eligibility age, and higher premiums for middle-class and upper-income retirees. […] Like Ryan, Coburn and Burr would gradually raise the eligibility age to 67. But their plan also differs in several important ways. It would start the transition to a system dominated by private insurance plans in 2016 instead of waiting a decade, as Ryan has proposed. Private plans would compete with a government-sponsored program, a retooled version of today's Medicare. Seniors would get a fixed amount from the government which they could apply toward a private plan or the government plan modeled on Medicare. Benefits would not be spelled out, but all plans would have to meet a test of basic insurance value." [Associated Press, 2/16/12]

Burr Proposed Turning Medicare Into Vouchers, Raising The Eligibility Age, And Increasing Premiums By 9 Percent. "Republican U.S. Sens. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem and Tom Coburn on Thursday unveiled their plan for changing Medicare, the government-run health-care program for seniors. The plan would offer seniors, starting in 2016, the choice to stick with the government-run fee-for-service program, or choose health insurance policies offered by private companies that would bid for the right to participate in the Medicare program. According to Burr, the Seniors' Choice Act also would: Provide a maximum out-of-pocket protection so that a senior would not have to pay more than $7,500 per year in medical expenses. Gradually raise the age of eligibility for participating in Medicare by two months for each year until age 67, starting with people born in 1949. Gradually increase the premiums on Medicare by an average of 3 percent each year beginning in 2013 so that a 9 percent increase is accomplished by 2016." [Raleigh News & Observer, 2/18/12]
Burr-Coburn Plan Increased Medicare Part B Premiums By 9 Percent Of Part A And B Program Costs Prior To Implementation Of Premium Support, And Beneficiaries Would Pay The Difference Between Their Defined Federal Contribution And Their Plan. "Burr-Coburn "Seniors' Choice Act' February 16, 2012 Part B premiums would be increased by 3 percent of Part A and B program costs each year, beginning in 2013, to achieve a 9 percent increase prior to implementation of premium support in 2016. Beneficiaries would pay the difference between the defined federal contribution and the bid for the plan in which they chose to enroll. Unclear how the Part B and Part D formulas would be calculated or applied beginning in 2016." [Comparison Of Medicare Premium Support Proposals, Kaiser Family Foundation, 7/26/12]

Burr's Proposal For Medicare Included An "Increased Shift Toward More Privatization Of The Medicare Industry." "Under the legislative proposal put forward by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., seniors would be limited in how they use private supplemental Medicare insurance and maximum out-of-pocket medical expenses under Medicare Parts A and B would also be limited. The proposal would also increase out-of-pocket requirements for wealthy seniors. But perhaps the biggest change is a provision that would give seniors the right to choose the Medicare plan that best meets their needs. That means that in 2016, there would be an increased shift toward more privatization of the Medicare industry. Traditional Medicare fee-for-service plans and private plans would "be forced to compete head-to-head,' Coburn said in a statement." [A.M. Best, 2/21/12]

BURR'S PLAN WOULD HELP INSURANCE COMPANIES PROFIT

Insurance Companies Are Prospering Through Expanding Their Roles In Government Health Care Programs. "Despite the sluggish economy, the nation's major health insurers have prospered in large part by expanding their role in government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, according to a study released Thursday. The share of large insurers' revenues contributed by their Medicare and Medicaid business has jumped from 36 to 42 percent over the past three years….During last year's first three-quarters, the combined operating margin of the five largest publicly traded insurance companies averaged 8.65 percent -- the best three-quarter performance of the past three years. This occurred even as revenues from traditional private-insurance business have remained virtually flat since the end of 2008." [Washington Post, 1/4/12]''

Private Plans Through Medicare Advantage Cost The Government 113 Percent More Than Traditional Medicare. A paper by the Kaiser Family Foundation stated that "The government pays 113% more for beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage than for beneficiaries in traditional Medicare… While some have supported the expanded role of Medicare Advantage plans as a means to improve benefits and lower costs under Medicare, the role of private plans in Medicare has been called into question in part due to the fact that the government actually pays these plans more per enrollee than if they were in traditional FFS Medicare, according to analysis by government entities." [kff.org, accessed June 2, 2016]


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