The budget pundits who talk so easily about cutting federal spending for the long-term care and health care needs of seniors and people with disabilities need to answer those questions.
And, rather than putting cuts into neat budget silos, they need to look at the cumulative effect. Many of the proposals — such as the Bowles-Simpson plan — would reduce Social Security benefits by reducing the cost-of-living adjustment, increasing Medicare costs and decreasing Medicaid benefits.
Those cuts fit neatly into budget categories, but seniors don’t live their lives according to budget columns. The combined effect of lower Social Security benefits, higher Medicare costs and fewer Medicaid long-term-care services would mean real hardship.
Fiscal budgeters should be asked to fully describe the real-world results of their decisions on lower-income and middle-class seniors and their families. And they should be asked to justify their choices compared to the alternatives, such as requiring Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug costs or eliminating the more than $750 billion a year in wasteful health care spending identified in a recent Institute of Medicine report.
Rather than vague rhetoric, the American public deserves specificity. After all, they are the ones who will be living with and paying for the consequences.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., is a member of the Energy and Commerce and Intelligence committees.