The top advocacy group for seniors, AARP, is sounding the alarm over reports that cuts to Social Security and Medicare may be included in a deficit deal.
CEO Barry Rand issued a lengthy statement on Thursday demanding that the White House and Republican leaders take the issue off the table and address any changes to the programs in separate negotiations.
“AARP is strongly opposed to any deficit reduction proposal that makes harmful cuts to vital Social Security and Medicare benefits,” Rand said.
Rand singled out some of the specific savings that have been floated in the press over the last 24 hours, most notably changes to the program’s formula for annual Cost of Living Adjustments that would reduce benefits over time by indexing them to stingier inflation measures.
“AARP will fight any cuts that are proposed to this important program, including proposals to reduce the cost of living adjustment for beneficiaries (COLA)—such as the proposed chained CPI—which AARP also believes should not be considered as part of the debt ceiling or deficit reduction negotiations,” he said.
Even before news of a possible grand bargain leaked on Wednesday night, there had been murmurs among Congressional aides that changes to COLA, which also would affect federal pensions, could be a way forward for deficit talks.
The full statement from AARP:
“AARP will not accept any cuts to Social Security as part of a deal to pay the nation’s bills,” said Rand. “Social Security did not cause the deficit, and it should not be cut to reduce a deficit it did not cause. As the President and Congress work to negotiate a deal to raise the debt ceiling, AARP urges all lawmakers to reject any proposals that would cut the benefits seniors have earned through a lifetime of hard work.
“AARP is strongly opposed to any deficit reduction proposal that makes harmful cuts to vital Social Security and Medicare benefits. Social Security is currently the principal source of income for nearly two-thirds of older American households receiving benefits, and roughly one third of those households depend on Social Security benefits for nearly all (90 percent or more) of their income. The deficit debate is not the time or the place to talk about Social Security. AARP will fight any cuts that are proposed to this important program, including proposals to reduce the cost of living adjustment for beneficiaries (COLA)—such as the proposed chained CPI—which AARP also believes should not be considered as part of the debt ceiling or deficit reduction negotiations.
“AARP also strongly urges the President and congressional leaders to reject any proposals that would impose arbitrary, harmful cuts to the Medicare program or shift additional costs onto Medicare beneficiaries. Half of all beneficiaries live on incomes of less than $22,000, and many already struggle to pay for their ever-rising health and prescription drug costs.
“Some have proposed requiring Medicare beneficiaries to pay even more for their Medicare benefits, either through higher co-payments or higher premiums. AARP strongly urges you to reject higher costs for people in Medicare. Before we shift additional cost burdens onto beneficiaries, Congress should address the real problem of increasing health care costs throughout the entire system.
“Throughout the deficit reduction and debt ceiling debate, AARP will continue its efforts to raise the voices of our members who depend on Social Security and Medicare for their health and economic security.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.