August 9, 2023

Whitehouse, Union Officials, and Retirees Call for Passage of New Legislation to Buoy Social Security and Medicare

Whitehouse’s Medicare and Social Security Fair Share Act would strengthen these bedrock programs by closing inequities in our tax system

North Providence, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse this morning joined labor officials and retirees from Rhode Island Council 94 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO and senior advocates to call for passage of Whitehouse’s legislation to protect the solvency of Social Security and Medicare by making the nation’s highest earners contribute a fairer share.  AFSCME has endorsed Whitehouse’s legislation, and today’s event was hosted at Rhode Island Council 94’s headquarters in North Providence.

“Rhode Island seniors have earned the dignity and independence that come with Social Security and Medicare after paying into these programs over a lifetime of hard work,” said Senator Whitehouse, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.  “We can secure the financial footing of Social Security and Medicare without cutting benefits, and the best way to do that is ensuring the ultra-wealthy pay their share into a system they’ve benefitted much from.”

“It’s immoral that owners of pass-through businesses, such as hedge fund owners, can pay lower rates of taxes to Social Security and Medicare than hard-working Rhode Islanders. This legislation is about fundamental fairness.  It’s past time that wealthy individuals pay their fair share of taxes to Social Security and Medicare,” said J. Michael Downey, President of Rhode Island Council 94, AFSCME, AFL-CIO.

“Last year I had a severe medical emergency.  Without the essential medical care, paid for by Medicare, and financial support, provided by Social Security, I would be bankrupt.  Rhode Islanders of all ages need S-1174 to pass so that future generations can depend upon Medicare and Social Security,” said Michael Connolly, President of AFSCME Rhode Island Retirees Chapter 94. 

“The Alliance for Retired Americans strongly supports Senator Whitehouse’s work to strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations.  His new bill achieves these important goals by requiring those who earn $400,000 a year from all sources, not just wages, to pay their fair share.  Right now, the wealthiest Americans are paying a significantly lower percentage of their income into Social Security than everyone else.  That’s why the Alliance is proud to endorse the Medicare and Social Security Fair Share Act,” said John Pernorio, President of the Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans.

Medicare and Social Security are twin pillars of economic fairness and retirement security, providing lifelines to seniors and people with disabilities.  In 2021, Social Security lifted 26.3 million Americans out of poverty, and nearly 40 percent of seniors rely on the program for the majority of their incomes – benefits they have earned that let them retire with dignity.  Medicare protects its over 60 million beneficiaries, one in five of whom have less than $15,000 in savings, from potentially catastrophic health care costs.

Despite the importance of these programs, both are at risk of being unable to fully pay out benefits within the next 15 years.  Without new revenue, the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund and the Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund are expected to become insolvent in 2028 and 2033, respectively. 

Whitehouse’s Medicare and Social Security Fair Share Act will:

  • Preserve Medicare and Social Security while safeguarding benefits.
  • Require taxpayers with over $400,000 in income to contribute a fairer share to Social Security.
    • Ensure that no matter the source of their income, high-income taxpayers would pay the same tax rate on income exceeding that threshold.
  • Require taxpayers with incomes above $400,000 to contribute more to Medicare and close a loophole in the law that favors certain high earners, as proposed by President Biden.
    • Increase the rate for income above $400,000 by 1.2 percent.
    • Ensure that wealthy owners of pass-through businesses like hedge funds and private equity firms with more than $400,000 in annual income cannot avoid Medicare taxes.

Last month, the Social Security Administration’s Chief Actuary found that Whitehouse’s legislation would extend Social Security solvency for more than 75 years.

Whitehouse, a member of the Expand Social Security Caucus, has a track record of fiercely defending and fighting to expand Social Security and Medicare in the U.S. Senate.  Whitehouse is a cosponsor of the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust Act, which would apply Social Security payroll taxes to earnings of more than $400,000 and apply an additional net investment income tax on people making more than $400,000.  The legislation would expand Social Security benefits and extend solvency by 32 years.  Whitehouse also cosponsors the Social Security Expansion Act, legislation that would make Social Security solvent for more than 75 years by applying Social Security payroll taxes to incomes over $250,000 and requiring the wealthy to pay taxes on their investment and business income. 


Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921