Category Archives: Social Security

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar Policy Plan for Seniors Tackles Alzheimers, Healthcare, Drug Costs, Retirement Security

Senator Amy Klobuchar’s plan for Seniors tackles Alzheimer’s, enhances health care and retirement security and reduces prescription drug costs. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s plan for Seniors tackles Alzheimer’s, enhances health care and retirement security and reduces prescription drug costs. This is a summary from the Klobuchar campaign:


MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Senator Amy Klobuchar released her policy priorities for seniors. Building on her leadership in the Senate when it comes to lowering the cost of prescription drugs and addressing the challenges our seniors face, Senator Klobuchar is proposing a bold plan to tackle Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, enhance health care and retirement security, reduce skyrocketing prescription drug costs and combat senior fraud and abuse. As President, Senator Klobuchar will continue to stand up for our seniors and the 10,000 Americans who turn 65 each day.

“Everywhere I go, I meet seniors who tell me about their struggles to afford everyday costs like prescription drugs or health care,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. “I meet family members who face challenges caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and urgent action is needed to take on these problems. I believe we owe it to our seniors to make sure they have the care and support they need as they get older, and as President I will prioritize tackling Alzheimer’s, strengthening health care and retirement security, and reducing prescription drug costs.”

Highlights of Senator Klobuchar’s Plan:

Tackling Alzheimer’s and Other Chronic Conditions

Support caregivers for those living with Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions. Senator Klobuchar has been a leader when it comes to supporting people affected by Alzheimer’s and their families. As President, she will support expanding resources for health care providers to expand training and support services for families and caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia as well as other chronic conditions, improving caregiver well-being and health, as well as allowing patients to stay in their homes longer.

Make it easier for people with Alzheimer’s and their families to get the medical care they need. Medicare is an essential resource for people affected by Alzheimer’s, but many patients and their families are unaware of the resources and coverage available when it comes to Alzheimer’s. Senator Klobuchar will take action to expand Medicare covered services for Alzheimer’s and she will expand efforts to make patients and their families aware of the care-planning and services that are covered. She will also support an ongoing investment in public health infrastructure for Alzheimer’s that reduces risk, improves early detection and diagnosis, and focuses on tribal, rural, minority, and other underserved populations.  

Strengthen the National Institutes of Health and invest in research for chronic conditions. While the current administration has proposed draconian cuts to lifesaving research, Senator Klobuchar will bolster research at the National Institutes of Health and increase investments in research into cancer, including breast cancer, which the Senator has long supported, and other chronic conditions. And Senator Klobuchar will also invest in research into health disparities. Significant and persistent disparities exist in health outcomes for minority populations in the United States. When it comes to healthy aging, research has shown divides based on race, wealth, and education. Senator Klobuchar will invest in research across the federal government into the causes of these disparities and how they can be reduced. 

  • Invest in Alzheimer’s research. Senator Klobuchar will commit to preventing, treating and facilitating a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, with the goal of putting us on a path toward developing a cure and treatment by 2025. To support researchers, she will make sure that funding is reliable and consistent. Since African Americans and the Latino community will represent nearly 40 percent of the 8.4 million American families affected by Alzheimer’s disease by 2030, Senator Klobuchar will increase federal research into disparities in the incidents and outcomes of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Improve mental health care for seniors. Senator Klobuchar is committed to making mental health a priority, including for our seniors. As part of her recently released mental health plan, she will expand access to mental health treatment for seniors and expand depression treatment and suicide prevention efforts that focus on seniors.

Implement and extend Kevin and Avonte’s law and expand dementia training. Senator Klobuchar introduced bipartisan legislation signed into law last year that helps families locate missing people with forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, or developmental disabilities, such as autism. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make sure the program is fully implemented and she will also establish federal partnerships with state and local governments to provide dementia training for public sector workers who interact with seniors.

Ensure a Secure Retirement

Protect Social Security and make sure it is fair. Social Security has served as a stable and secure retirement guarantee for generations of Americans. Senator Klobuchar believes that this program must remain solvent for generations to come and she will fight against risky schemes to privatize it. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to lift the Social Security payroll cap. Currently the payroll tax only applies to wages up to $133,000. Senator Klobuchar supports subjecting income above $250,000 to the payroll tax and extending the solvency of Social Security.  And Senator Klobuchar will make sure people are treated fairly by the current Social Security system. As President, she will work to strengthen and improve Social Security benefits for widows and people who took significant time out of the paid workforce to care for their children, aging parents, or sick family members.

Expand retirement savings. Senator Klobuchar believes all Americans deserve a secure retirement. As she has previously announced, Senator Klobuchar will work to create innovative, portable personal savings accounts called Up Accounts that can be used for retirement and emergencies by establishing a minimum employer contribution to a savings plan. [ This proposal is modeled after the Saving for the Future Act, which was introduced by Senators Coons and Klobuchar.] Under her plan, employers will set aside at least 50 cents per hour worked, helping a worker build more than $600,000 in wealth over the course of a career. And Senator Klobuchar will work to reduce disparities when it comes to retirement savings. According to a recent study, the median wealth for white families was more than $134,000, but for African American families it was just $11,000.

Defend pensions. Senator Klobuchar has been a leader in the Senate when it comes to keeping our pension promises. As President, she will support legislation to ensure retirees can keep the pensions they have earned and, in her first 100 days, she will recommend that Treasury heighten the scrutiny of any applications to reduce retiree benefits under the Kline-Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014.

Improve Health Care for Seniors and Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Unleash the power of 43 million seniors in Medicare Part D to negotiate better drug prices. Seniors should have access to their medicines at the lowest possible prices. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to allow the government to directly negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare Part D, building on legislation she has led in the Senate.

Take immediate and aggressive action to lower prescription drug prices, including allowing personal importation from countries like Canada and crack down on “Pay-for-Delay” agreements. Senator Klobuchar has been a leading advocate for reducing the price of prescription drugs for seniors, including by helping close the Medicare Part D donut hole and introducing legislation to increase competition and require Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. As President, during her first 100 days she will allow for the personal importation of prescription drugs from safe countries like Canada and crack down on “Pay-for-Delay” agreements that increase the cost of prescription drugs.

Strengthen Medicare and provide incentives for getting the best quality health care at the best price. Senator Klobuchar opposes cuts and risky schemes to privatize Medicare and will take action to strengthen Medicare and find solutions so it remains solvent. She will improve Medicare for current beneficiaries by reforming payment policies through measures like site neutral payments and providing incentives for getting the best quality health care at the best price, including bundled payments and telehealth.

Expand coverage for dental, vision and hearing under Medicare. Dental, vision, and hearing care should be covered as part of Medicare. Senator Klobuchar will support new Medicare coverage for these services that makes them affordable for all seniors.

Expand telehealth and rural health services and maintain rural hospitals. In the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has championed policies that ensure seniors who want to stay in their homes and communities can do so. As President, she will promote remote monitoring technology and telehealth services in Medicare and other programs that improve the quality of life and expand access to quality home care and emergency hospital services in rural areas. As President, she would work to create a new Rural Emergency Hospital classification under Medicare to help rural hospitals stay open and provide expanded support to our critical access hospitals.

Invest in Long-Term Care

Create a refundable tax credit to offset long-term care costs. Senator Klobuchar will work with Congress to establish a new refundable tax credit to help offset the costs of long-term care. The credit will be available for qualifying long-term care costs including both nursing facility care and home- and community-based services, and additional expenses like assistive technologies, respite care, and necessary home modifications. The credit will be targeted towards those who are most in need of support. Senator Klobuchar will also stand up to efforts to cap Medicaid spending, which would put services like mental health care, transportation costs, and long-term care at risk for millions of Americans.

Reduce the costs of long-term care insurance and increase access. Senator Klobuchar believes seniors and their adult children must have the resources they need to prepare for long-term care, including education about the types of services available. To reduce the costs of long-term care, Senator Klobuchar will propose a new targeted tax credit equal to 20 percent of the premium costs of qualified long-term care insurance. Senator Klobuchar will also establish incentives and make it easier for employers to offer their employees long-term care insurance on an opt-out basis. In addition, she will explore updating federal policies to combine long-term care policies with life insurance.

Provide financial relief to caregivers and ensure paid family leave for all Americans, including those who care for elderly or disabled relatives. Senator Klobuchar is proposing a tax credit of up to $6,000 a year to provide financial relief to those caring for an aging relative or a relative with a disability to help offset expenses, including the cost of medical care, counseling and training, lodging away from home, adult day care, assistive technologies, and necessary home modifications. As President, Senator Klobuchar will also support legislation to provide paid family leave to all Americans so no one has to sacrifice a paycheck to care for someone they love, including an elderly parent.

Support a world class long-term care workforce, increase long-term care options, and tackle disparities in long-term care. Senator Klobuchar believes we must invest in and address shortages in our long-term care workforce. She is committed to increasing wages, improving job conditions and promoting other recruitment and retention policies, especially in rural communities facing workforce challenges. She will also support training for long-term care workers and new loan forgiveness programs for in-demand occupations that includes our long-term care workers. In addition, she will expand long-term care facilities and beds as well as home care and telehealth services. Research also suggests that there are significant racial and ethnic disparities in the quality of long-term care as well as disparities in coverage for long-term care. Senator Klobuchar is committed to tackling disparities in care through expanding access to long-term care with a focus on reducing inequities as well as addressing the costs of long-term care services for people in the greatest need of assistance.

Reduce Costs and Prevent Fraud

Fight senior fraud and elder abuse. As a prosecutor, Senator Klobuchar created a senior protection unit at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. And she has always believed that we need strong safeguards to prevent and address fraud, abuse and exploitation of our seniors, and has led and passed multiple bills in the Senate that would strengthen these safeguards. Within her first 100 days as President, she will establish a new senior fraud prevention office to educate consumers, expedite the handling of complaints, and coordinate prevention efforts across the federal government. Senator Klobuchar will stregthen enforcement of age discrimination laws, and she will also take action to tackle elder abuse, strengthen oversight and accountability for court-appointed guardians, support training for employees at long-term care facilities, and increase tracking of incidents and investigations to help prevent and better respond to elder abuse.

Improve access to affordable housing, transit, and nutrition for seniors and expand workforce opportunities. In the first 100 days of her Administration, Senator Klobuchar will reverse the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to federal housing subsidies that could triple rent for some households and would be particularly harmful for seniors. In addition, she will update regulations for reverse mortgages to make sure seniors have access to safe products that make it easier to stay in their homes, as well as expand support for affordable senior housing. Senator Klobuchar is also committed to expanding transportation programs and services for older adults, particularly in rural and underserved populations. She also supports expanding resources for Meals on Wheels, helping the food bank system serve seniors in need, and launching a national effort to increase enrollment among seniors in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Senator Klobuchar will also work to expand workforce and training opportunities for older Americans who are looking to remain in and return to the workforce.

Help seniors afford their energy costs: Senator Klobuchar strongly opposes efforts by the Trump Administration to eliminate funding for programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps seniors afford heating and cooling. As President, Senator Klobuchar’s budget will preserve and expand resources for LIHEAP and the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps households in need reduce energy spending, and she will support new efforts to help seniors with their energy costs.

To pay for these policies, Senator Klobuchar will close the trust fund loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes on inherited wealth.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: The Biden Plan for Older Americans

Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president, released his plan for seniors to have secure retirement © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. This is from the Biden 2020 campaign:

THE BIDEN PLAN FOR OLDER AMERICANS

The moral obligation of our time is rebuilding the middle class. The middle class isn’t a number, it’s a value set. And, a key component of that value set is having a steady, secure income as you age so your kids won’t have to take care of you in retirement. This means not only protecting and strengthening Social Security, but also helping more middle-class families grow their savings. 

A dignified retirement also means having access to affordable health care and support. Too many Americans – and too many older Americans – cannot afford their prescriptions or their long-term care. Their families are faced with saving for their own retirement or taking care of their aging parents. It’s not right. 
 
Working- and middle-class Americans built this country. And, they deserve to retire with dignity – able to pay for their prescriptions and with access to quality, affordable long-term care. 

I. STAND UP TO THE ABUSE OF POWER BY PRESCRIPTION DRUG CORPORATIONS

Too many Americans cannot afford their prescription drugs, and prescription drug corporations are profiteering off of the pocketbooks of sick individuals. The Biden Plan will put a stop to runaway drug prices and the profiteering of the drug industry by:

  • Repealing the outrageous exception allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices. Because Medicare covers so many Americans, it has significant leverage to negotiate lower prices for its beneficiaries. And it does so for hospitals and other providers participating in the program but not drug manufacturers. Drug manufacturers not facing any competition, therefore, can charge whatever price they choose to set. There’s no justification for this except the power of prescription drug lobbying. The Biden Plan will repeal the existing law explicitly barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug corporations.
  • Limiting launch prices for drugs that face no competition and are being abusively priced by manufacturers. Through his work on the Cancer Moonshot, Biden understands that the future of pharmacological interventions is not traditional chemical drugs, but specialized biotech drugs that will have little to no competition to keep prices in check. Without competition, we need a new approach for keeping the prices of these drugs down. For these cases where new specialty drugs without competition are being launched, under the Biden Plan the Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish an independent review board to assess their value. The board will recommend a reasonable price, based on the average price in other countries (a process called external reference pricing) or, if the drug is entering the U.S. market first, based on an evaluation by the independent board members. This reasonable price will be the rate Medicare and the public option will pay. In addition, the Biden Plan will allow private plans participating in the individual marketplace to access a similar rate.
  • Limiting price increases for all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs to inflation. As a condition of participation in the Medicare program and public option, all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs will be prohibited from increasing their prices more than the general inflation rate. The Biden plan will also impose a tax penalty on drug manufacturers that increase the costs of their brand, biotech or abusively priced generic over the general inflation rate.
  • Allowing consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries. To create more competition for U.S. drug corporations, the Biden Plan will allow consumers to import prescription drugs from other countries, as long as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has certified that those drugs are safe.
  • Terminating pharmaceutical corporations’ tax break for advertisement spending.Drug corporations spent an estimated $6 billion in 2016 alone on prescription drug advertisements to increase their sales, a more than four-fold increase from just $1.3 billion in 1997. The American Medical Association has even expressed “concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices.” Currently, drug corporations may count spending on these ads as a deduction to reduce the amount of taxes they owe. But taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these ads. As president, Biden will end this tax deduction for all prescription drug ads, as proposed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
  • Improving the supply of quality generics. Generics help reduce health care spending, but brand drug corporations have succeeded in preserving a number of strategies to help them delay the entrance of a generic into the market even after the patent has expired. The Biden Plan supports numerous proposals to accelerate the development of safe generics, such as Senator Patrick Leahy’s proposal to make sure generic manufacturers have access to a sample.

II. PROTECT AND STRENGTHEN MEDICARE AS WE KNOW IT AND ENSURE QUALITY, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL OLDER AMERICANS 

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, with Vice President Biden standing by his side, and made history. It was a victory 100 years in the making. It was the conclusion of a tough fight that required taking on Republicans, special interests, and the status quo to do what’s right. But the Obama-Biden Administration got it done.
 
Today, the Affordable Care Act is still a big deal – especially for older Americans. Because of Obamacare, over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a pre-existing condition – whether cancer or diabetes or heart disease or a mental health challenge. Insurance companies can no longer set annual or lifetime limits on coverage. The law limited the extent to which insurance companies may charge you higher premiums just because of your age. And, the Affordable Care Act strengthened Medicare by extending the life of the Medicare Trust Fund; giving Medicare beneficiaries access to free recommended preventive services, such as an annual wellness visit; and closing the prescription drug coverage gap, often referred to as the “donut hole.”
 
But, every day over the past nine years, the Affordable Care Act has been under relentless attack.

Immediately after its passage, Congressional Republicans began trying again and again to repeal it. Following the lead of President Trump, Republicans in Congress have only doubled down on this approach since January 2017. And, since repeal through Congress has not been working, President Trump has been unilaterally doing everything he can to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Trump Administration is trying to get the entire law – including protections for people with pre-existing conditions – struck down in court.
 
As president, Biden will protect the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes every effort to get rid of this historic law – including efforts by Republicans, and efforts by Democrats. Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance, he has a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choicereducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate. You can read Biden’s full health care plan [here]. In addition, to improve older Americans’ access to affordable, quality health care, Biden will:

  • Protect Medicare as we know it. Today, Medicare provides health insurance coverage to over 60 million older Americans and people with disabilities.  As president, Biden will continue to defend our nation’s commitment to older Americans and people with disabilities through Medicare, and he will keep Medicare as a separate and distinct program, and ensure there is no disruption to the current Medicare system.
  • Protect Medicaid and ensure its beneficiaries can access home and community-based long-term care when they want it. Medicaid pays for more long-term care than any other insurer in the country. In fact, roughly 6 in 10 individuals residing in nursing homes are enrolled in Medicaid, including many older Americans. Yet, the Trump Administration is reportedly considering a plan to cut Medicaid funding by turning it into a block grant. And Republican leadership in states like Iowa, where Medicaid has been privatized with devastating results for some of its most vulnerable residents, are not fulfilling their obligations under the program. The Biden Plan will protect Medicaid funding and make sure the program gives those on Medicaid who need long-term care the flexibility to choose home- and community-based care. In addition, the Biden Administration won’t let states skirt their duties under Medicaid and will take enforcement action against any state that allows profiteering to get in the way of Medicaid beneficiaries’ health.
  • Provide tax relief to help solve the long-term care challenge. The Biden Plan will also help Americans pay for long-term care by providing relief for Americans needing long-term care by creating a $5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers, modeled off of legislation supported by AARP. These informal caregivers – whether family members or other loved ones – have for too long been doing tireless work without any financial support. In addition, Biden will increase the generosity of tax benefitsfor older Americans who choose to buy long-term care insurance and pay for it using their savings for retirement.
  • Care for our caregivers. The physical, emotional, and financial challenges of caring for a loved one is enormous. As president, Biden will work to enact at the federal level the AARP-endorsed Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which has already been passed in 39 states. This legislation will help our caregivers by ensuring hospitals equip them with instructions and information when their loved ones are discharged. Biden also supports additional proposals to support caregivers, such as funding to give them access to respite care.

III. PRESERVE AND STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY

Social Security is the bedrock of American retirement. Roughly 90% of retirement-age Americans receive Social Security benefits, and one-in-four rely on Social Security for all, or almost all, of their income. The program has not only ensured that middle-class workers can enjoy the sound and secure retirement they worked so hard for, it also lifted over 17 million older Americans out of poverty in 2017 alone.
 
The Biden Plan will protect Social Security for the millions of Americans who depend on the program. With Social Security’s Trust Fund already in deficit and expected to be exhausted in 2035, we urgently need action to make the program solvent and prevent cuts to American retirees.
 
But the Biden Plan doesn’t stop there. As president, Joe Biden will strengthen benefits for the most vulnerable older Americans – including widows and widowers, lifelong workers with low monthly benefits, and old-age beneficiaries who may have exhausted their other savings. Specifically, the Biden Plan will:

  • Put Social Security on a path to long-run solvency. The impending exhaustion of the Social Security Trust fund imperils American retirement as we know it. Waiting to act only jeopardizes the program further, and will make an eventual solution that much more difficult. The Biden Plan will put the program on a path to long-term solvency by asking Americans with especially high wages to pay the same taxes on those earnings that middle-class families pay.
  • Preserve the nature of Social Security. Social Security is one of our nation’s great public policy successes, in large part due to the fact that participation in the program is shared across almost all workers. Efforts to privatize the program – such as an approach suggested under the Bush Administration – will undermine the program’s solvency, while putting at risk individuals’ income in retirement. Similarly, proposals to make the program “means-tested” – so that only low-income retirees workers receive benefits – jeopardizes the program’s universal nature and key role as the bedrock of American retirement. Ultimately, the success of Social Security is largely due to the fact that almost all Americans can rely on the program to make their retirement more secure.
  • Provide a higher benefit for the oldest Americans. At advanced ages, Americans become more vulnerable to exhausting their savings, sometimes falling into poverty and living a life of hardship. The Biden Plan will provide the oldest beneficiaries – those who have been receiving retirement benefits for at least 20 years – with a higher monthly check to help protect retirees from the pain of dwindling retirement savings.
  • Implement a true minimum benefit for lifelong workers. No one who has worked for decades and paid into Social Security should have to spend their retirement in poverty. The Biden Plan will revolutionize the Social Security’s minimum benefit, which has deteriorated over time to the point of being entirely ineffective. Under the Biden Plan, workers who spent 30 years working will get a benefit of at least 125% of the poverty level.
  • Protect widows and widowers from steep cuts in benefits. For many couples, the death of a spouse means that Social Security benefits will be cut in half – putting pressure on the surviving spouse who still needs to make the mortgage payment and handle other bills. The Biden Plan will allow surviving spouse to keep a higher share of the benefits. This will make an appreciable difference in the finances of older Americans, especially women (who live longer on average than men), raising the monthly payment by about 20% for affected beneficiaries.
  • Eliminate penalties for teachers and other public-sector workers. Current rules penalize teachers and other public sector workers who either switch jobs or who have earned retirement benefits from various sources. The Biden Plan would eliminate these penalties by ensuring that teachers not eligible for Social Security will begin receiving benefits sooner – rather than the current ten-year period for many teachers. The Biden Plan will also get rid of the benefit cuts for workers and surviving beneficiaries who happen to be covered by both Social Security and another pension. These workers deserve the benefits they earned.

IV. EQUALIZE SAVING INCENTIVES FOR MIDDLE-CLASS WORKERS

In the modern retirement landscape, a sound retirement begins with years of diligent saving. While other aspects of the Biden Plan will help raise wages for workers and reduce costs for spending like child care and health insurance, the Biden Plan will also ensure that middle-class families get a leg up as they grow their nest egg.
 
Under current law, the tax code affords workers over $200 billion each year for various retirement benefits – including saving in 401(k)-type plans or IRAs. While these benefits help workers reach their retirement goals, many are poorly designed to help low- and middle-income savers – about two-thirds of the benefit goes to the wealthiest 20% of families. The Biden Plan will make these savings more equal so that middle class families can enter retirement with enough savings to support a healthy and secure retirement. President Biden will do so by:

  • Equalizing the tax benefits of defined contribution plans. The current tax benefits for retirement savings are based on the concept of deferral, whereby savers get to exclude their retirement contributions from tax, see their savings grow tax free, and then pay taxes when they withdraw money from their account. This system provides upper-income families with a much stronger tax break for saving and a limited benefit for middle-class and other workers with lower earnings. The Biden Plan will equalize benefits across the income scale, so that low- and middle-income workers will also get a tax break when they put money away for retirement. 
  • Removing penalties for caregivers who want to save for retirement. Under current law, people who work as caregivers without receiving wages are ineligible to get tax breaks for retirement saving. The Biden Plan will allow caregivers to make “catch-up” contributions to retirement accounts, even if they’re not earning income in the formal labor market, as has been proposed in bipartisan legislation by Representatives Jackie Walorski and Harley Rouda.
  • Giving small businesses a tax break for starting a retirement plan and giving workers the chance to save at work. As proposed by the Obama-Biden Administration, the Biden Plan will call for widespread adoption of workplace savings plans and offer tax credits to small businesses to offset much of the costs. Under Biden’s plan, almost all workers without a pension or 401(k)-type plan will have access to an “automatic 401(k),” which provides the opportunity to easily save for retirement at work – putting millions of middle-class families in the path to a secure retirement.

V. PROVIDE HELP FOR OLDER WORKERS WHO WANT TO KEEP WORKING

With longer lifespans and the changing nature of work, many Americans are choosing to stay in the workforce longer. Despite their valuable contributions, these workers often face illegal discrimination or steep tax penalties when they try to continue to earn a living. Joe Biden believes that all workers deserve an opportunity to earn a living and will fight to change the laws to allow all people – regardless of their age – to get the pay they deserve. The Biden Plan will:

  • Protect older Americans against harmful age discrimination. As president, Biden will back bipartisan legislation protecting older workers from being discriminated against in the workforce. According to an AARP survey, this practice is widespread – with more than 60% of older workers reporting discrimination because of their age. The Biden Plan will put in place workplace safeguards making it easier for older workers to prove that they were treated unfairly at work.
  • Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to older workers. The EITC is one of the most effective strategies for helping low-wage workers achieve a living wage. Unfortunately, the EITC is not available to workers once they turn 65, putting them at a distinct disadvantage relative to their younger peers. As president, Joe Biden will allow low-wage older workers to claim the tax credit they deserve.

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Universal Health Care, Social Security, Supreme Court & Women’s Reproductive Rights

Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Democratic Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues. 

Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14. 

In this section, the candidates debate universal health care, free college, the US Supreme Court, and for the first time in all the debates, what the Supreme Court means for women’s reproductive rights. 

Universal Health Care, Free College, Supreme Court

Senator Sanders, you’re promising health care and free college for all, and those plans would be met with both political and practical challenges. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says your initiatives would cost up to $28 trillion and, even after massive tax increases, that would add as much as $15 trillion to the national debt. How is this fiscally responsible? 

SANDERS: Well, first of all, I disagree with that study. There are many economists who come up with very, very different numbers.

For example, we are the only country, major country on Earth, that does not guarantee health care to all people, and yet we end up spending almost three times what the British do, 50 percent more than the French. My proposal, a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program, will save (APPLAUSE) will save middle-class families many thousands of dollars a year in their health care costs. Public colleges and universities tuition free? Damn right. That is exactly what we should be doing. (APPLAUSE)

“And I’d pay for that — I’d pay for that by telling Wall Street that, yeah, we are going to have a tax on Wall Street speculation, which will bring in more than enough money to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities and lower the outrageous level of student debt.

“Wolf, we have seen in the last 30 years a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top 0.1 percent. The establishment does not like this idea, but, yes, I am determined to transfer that money back to the working families of this country. (APPLAUSE)

Former Secretary of State and NYS Senator Hillary Clinton © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Former Secretary of State and NYS Senator Hillary Clinton © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

CLINTON: Well, again — again, I absolutely agree with the diagnosis, the diagnosis that we’ve got to do much more to finish the work of getting universal health care coverage, something that I’ve worked on for 25 years. Before there was something called Obamacare, there was something called Hillarycare. And we’re now at 90 percent of coverage; I’m going to get us to 100 percent.

“And with respect to college, I think we have to make college affordable. We are pricing out middle-class, working, and poor families. There’s no doubt about that.

But I do think when you make proposals and you’re running for president, you should be held accountable for whether or not the numbers add up and whether or not the plans (APPLAUSE) are actually going to work.

“And just very briefly, on health care, most of the people who have analyzed what Senator Sanders put out — remember, he had a plan for about, I don’t know, 18, 20 years. He changed in the middle of this campaign. He put out another plan. People have been analyzing the new plan. And there is no doubt by those who have analyzed it, progressive economists, health economists, and the like, that it would pose an incredible burden, not just on the budget, but on individuals. In fact, the Washington Post called it a train-wreck for the poor. A working woman on Medicaid who already has health insurance would be expected to pay about $2,300.  

“The same for free college. The free college offer — you know, my late father said, if somebody promises you something for free, read the fine print. You read the fine print, and here’s what it says.  

“The fine print says this, that it will — the federal government will cover two-thirds of the cost and require the states, even those led by Republican governors to carry out what the remaining one-third of the cost.”

SANDERS: We are not a country that has the courage to stand up to big money and do what has to be done for the working families of the country. (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: We have a difference of opinion. We both want to get to universal health care coverage. I did stand up to the special interests and the powerful forces, the health insurance companies and the drug companies. (APPLAUSE)

“And perhaps that’s why I am so much in favor of supporting President Obama’s signature accomplishment with the Affordable Care Act, because I know how hard it was to get that passed, even with a Democratic Congress. So rather than letting the Republicans repeal it or rather starting all over again, trying to throw the country into another really contentious debate, let’s make the Affordable Care Act work for everybody let’s get to 100 percent coverage, let’s get the cost down, and let’s guarantee health care.”

Social Security

BLITZER: Secretary, let’s talk about Social Security, another critically important issue. Senator Sanders has challenged you to give a clear answer when it comes to extending the life of Social Security and expanding benefits. Are you prepared to lift the cap on taxable income, which currently stands at $118,500? Yes or no, would you lift the cap? 

CLINTON: I have said repeatedly, Wolf, I am going to make the wealthy pay into Social Security to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. That is one way. If that is the way that we pursue, I will follow that.

“But there are other ways. We should be looking at taxing passive income by wealthy people. We should be looking at taxing all of their investment.

“But here’s the real issue, because I — I’ve heard this, I’ve seen the reports of it. I have said from the very beginning, we are going to protect Social Security. I was one of the leaders in the fight against Bush when he was trying to privatize Social Security.

“But we also, in addition to extending the Trust Fund, which I am absolutely determined to do, we’ve got to help people who are not being taken care of now. And because Social Security started in the 1930s, a lot of women have been left out and left behind.

“And it’s time that we provide more benefits for widows, divorcees, for caregivers, for women who deserve more from the Social Security system and that will be my highest priority.” (APPLAUSE)

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

SANDERS: Now, we’ve got — here is the issue. Your answer has been the same year after year. In fact, the idea that I’m bringing forth, I have to admit it, you know, it wasn’t my idea. It was Barack Obama’s idea in 2008, the exact same idea. (APPLAUSE)

“He called for lifting the cap, which is now higher — it’s at 118 — and starting at 250 and going on up. If you do that, you’re going to extend the life of Social Security for 58 years. You will significantly expand benefits by 1,300 bucks a year for seniors and disabled vets under $16,000 a year. What’s wrong with that? Are you prepared to support it?

CLINTON: I have supported it. You know, we are in vigorous agreement here, Senator.

‘You know, we’re having a discussion about the best way to raise money from wealthy people to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. Think about what the other side wants to do. They’re calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. They still want to privatize it. In fact, their whole idea is to turn over the Social Security Trust Fund to Wall Street, something you and I would never let happen.

“I’ve said the same thing for years. I didn’t say anything different tonight. We are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. There is still something called Congress. Now, I happen to support Democrats and I want to get Democrats to take back the majority in the United States Senate so a lot of — a lot of what we’re talking about can actually be implemented when I am president.”

SANDERS: — maybe I’m a little bit confused.

“Are you or are you not supporting legislation to lift the cap on taxable income and expand Social Security for 58 years and increase benefits…”

CLINTON: I am…

SANDERS: — yes or no?

CLINTON: I have said yes, we are going to pick the best way or combination…

SANDERS: Oh, you — ah. (APPLAUSE) (BOOS)

SANDERS: OK.

CLINTON: — or combination of ways… (BOOS)

CLINTON: — you know… (BOOS)

CLINTON: — it — it’s all — it’s always a little bit, uh, challenging because, you know, if Senator Sanders doesn’t agree with how you are approaching something, then you are a member of the establishment. Well, let me say then…

SANDERS: Well, look (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: — let me say this (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: — we are going to extend the Social Security Trust Fund. We’ve got some good ideas to do it. Let’s get a Congress elected that will actually agree with us in doing it. 

SANDERS: Yes, Secretary Clinton (CROSSTALK) you are a member of the establishment. 

Supreme Court

Secretary Clinton, regarding President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme  Court. President Obama said earlier this week that he would not withdraw the nomination, even after the presidential election. If elected, would you ask the president to withdraw the nomination? 

CLINTON: I am not going to contradict the president’s strategy on this. And I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals. I fully support the president. (APPLAUSE)

“And I believe that the president — the president is on the right side of both the Constitution and history. And the Senate needs to immediately begin to respond. So I’m going to support the president. When I am president, I will take stock of where we are and move from there.” 

SANDERS: Well, there is no question. I mean, it really is an outrage. And it just continues, the seven-and-a-half years of unbelievable obstructionism we have seen from these right-wing Republicans.

“I mean, a third-grader in America understands the president of the United States has the right to nominate individuals to the U.S. Supreme Court. Apparently everybody understands that except the Republicans in Congress.

LOUIS: So, Senator Sanders, would you ask him to withdraw the nomination? 

SANDERS: Yes, but here is the point, and obviously i will strongly support that nomination as a member of the Senate. But, if elected president, I would ask the president to withdraw that nomination because I think — I think this.

“I think that we need a Supreme Court justice who will make it crystal clear, and this nominee has not yet done that, crystal clear that he or she will vote to overturn Citizens United and make sure that American democracy is not undermined.” (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: You know, there is no doubt that the only people that I would ever appoint to the Supreme Court are people who believe that Roe V. Wade is settled law and Citizens United needs to be overturned. 

“And I want to say something about this since we’re talking about the Supreme Court and what’s at stake. We’ve had eight debates before, this is our ninth. We’ve not had one question about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care, not one question. (APPLAUSE)  

“And in the meantime we have states, governors doing everything they can to restrict women’s rights. We have a presidential candidate by the name of Donald Trump saying that women should be punished. And we are never asked about this.  

“And to be complete in my concern, Senator Sanders says with respect to Trump it was a distraction. I don’t think it’s a distraction. It goes to the heart of who we are as women, our rights, our autonomy, our ability to make our own decisions, and we need to be talking about that and defending Planned Parenthood from these outrageous attacks.”  

SANDERS: You’re looking at a senator and former congressman who proudly has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record, who will take on those Republican governors who are trying to restrict a woman’s right to choose, who will take on those governors right now who are discriminating outrageously against the LGBT community, who comes from a state which led the effort for gay marriage in this country, proudly so. (APPLAUSE)  Who not only thinks we are not going to — not defund Planned Parenthood, we’ve got to expand funding for Planned Parenthood. (APPLAUSE)

See also:

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Qualifications, Credibility 

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Gun Violence & Criminal Justice

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Climate Change, Energy & Environment

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate National Security & Foreign Policy

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate US-Israel Relations

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