Standing Up for Social Security & Medicare

Standing Up for Social Security & Medicare

"Those who suggest that we should privatize Social Security, or turn Medicare over to the health insurance industry, are blind to what life would be like for Rhode Island seniors and their families without these important programs."

Taking Care of Our Seniors

For generations, we have made a promise to senior citizens that they will be able to count on Social Security and Medicare for a measure of dignity at the end of their lives.  Today, these programs stand as twin pillars of economic fairness and retirement security.

Some in Washington say we can no longer afford to keep our promise, and that we need to scrap these programs on which so many seniors rely.  I strongly disagree, and I’m working to strengthen Social Security and extend its solvency without jeopardizing benefits.  And I’m fighting for reforms to Medicare that bring down costs, improve delivery of care, and eliminate fraud and abuse–again, without cutting benefits for our seniors.

How I’m Fighting to Protect Social Security and Medicare

The Rhode Island seniors I have heard from at my community dinners and at senior centers around the State are very concerned about what would happen if their benefits were cut.  That’s why I’m standing up against efforts to balance the budget on the backs of Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries.

Here are some of the ways I’m working to keep Social Security and Medicare secure for Rhode Island seniors:

Defending Social Security and Medicare from Budget Cuts

In 2011, when Social Security and Medicare were being targeted for cuts, I introduced a resolution in the Senate asserting that any agreement to reduce the budget deficit should not include benefit cuts to these vital programs.  I also fought to defeat the House Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it.  I led a coalition of my Senate colleagues urging House and Senate budget negotiators to close unjustifiable tax loopholes that overwhelmingly benefit large corporations and the wealthiest Americans, rather than slashing the programs on which tens of millions of elderly and disabled Americans rely.

Standing Up Against Benefit Cuts

In 2011, I held in Rhode Island a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, entitled “Protecting the Promise to Our Seniors.”  State and federal health care officials and Rhode Island seniors discussed the gains that Social Security, Medicare and the Older Americans Act have made for seniors, and the need to protect critical benefits from the threat of potentially devastating budget proposals. I heard how Rhode Island seniors stretch every dollar to make ends meet.  I then sent a letter to President Obama, along with several of my Senate colleagues, urging the Administration to reduce health care costs by improving the quality of health care, not by cutting benefits for our seniors and disabled citizens who are already struggling. 

Fighting for Lower Prescription Costs

I was proud to have helped lead the successful fight in the health care reform law to end the costly Medicare Part D prescription drug “doughnut hole.”  Prescriptions are often among the costliest items in a senior’s budget.  I am a cosponsor of the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act, which would authorize Medicare to use its broad purchasing power to negotiate lower prices directly with drug companies, saving up to $24 billion annually.  I am also a cosponsor of the Medicare Drug Savings Act, which eliminates a sweetheart deal for brand-name drug manufacturers that allows them to charge higher prices for millions of low-income enrollees in the Medicare Part D program. This would save Medicare $112 billion over ten years.

Preventing Fraud and Abuse

In an effort to rein in the costs of federal health care programs, I helped pass legislation to crack down on fraudulent Medicare claims by requiring Medicare to use predictive modeling technology (like credit card companies use to detect fraud) to stop unlawful Medicare payments before taxpayer funds are spent.  I am a cosponsor of the Medicare and Medicaid Fighting Fraud and Abuse to Save Taxpayers' Dollars Act (the Medicare and Medicaid FAST Act) to take steps to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.  I have also requested Government Accountability Office audits of several key programs to analyze and identify potential fraudulent or abusive activity.

Standing With the Defend Social Security Caucus

I am a founding member of the Senate’s Defend Social Security Caucus.  This group is standing strong to protect seniors and Social Security from Wall Street’s privatization efforts and other proposals to cut benefits.

Successes for Seniors

Here are a few of the things I have done in the Senate to defend Social Security and Medicare:

Closing The Medicare Doughnut Hole
2011 Medicare Doughnut Hole Savings Map
See The 2011 Savings By Zip Code On This Interactive Map
  • Led the successful fight to close the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” which previously left thousands of Rhode Island seniors paying the total cost of their prescription drugs every year.  In 2011, 14,822 Rhode Island seniors benefitted from the closing of the doughnut hole, saving more than $8.2 million, an average of $554 per beneficiary. See the 2011 savings by Rhode Island zip code on this map.
  • Guaranteed seniors’ access to checkups and screenings by fighting to pass the Affordable Care Act, which allows Medicare beneficiaries access to free preventive services. In 2011, over 16,400 Rhode Island Medicare beneficiaries received a free annual wellness visit.
  • Expanded access to care for patients with chronic conditions by helping the Rhode Island Chronic Care Sustainability Initiative receive enhanced payments from Medicare for their innovative, coordinated efforts to improve patient care.
  • Helped secure a one-time payment of $250 in 2009 for seniors and disabled individuals receiving Social Security.
  • Helped secure a $300 rebate for seniors and Social Security Disability Insurance recipients in 2008.
  • Honored by the Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans with their Social Security and Medicare Hero Award for advocacy on behalf of Rhode Island seniors.

Your Ideas:  How Can We Best Support Our Seniors?

I’m working to make sure that Social Security and Medicare serve Rhode Islanders as reliably and efficiently as possible.

I’d like to hear from you.  What policies would you like to see enacted to improve Social Security and Medicare?

Share your thoughts and ideas.

Your Name

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Please note that if your message concerns a request for assistance with a federal agency, I ask that you visit my Casework page and utilize the online form available there. The Services for Rhode Islanders section of this site includes other information that may be helpful to you, including materials on my community dinners, visiting Washington, and applying for a nomination to one of America's military service academies.