There’s No Such Animal As An “Unimportant” SS Benefit Cut

12 Mar

Seniors in America might as well wake up to the fact that Democrats, while possibly more well intentioned than their right wing counterparts, are not any more likely to oppose all these niggling little “adjustments” that are supposedly designed to “strengthen the operation by making cuts that don’t really matter” than are their right wing counterparts.

It seems that a majority of rather smug, middle class Democrats have come to feel that these cuts are justified by convincing themselves that they are in areas that really don’t matter and that seniors can always adjust. We’ve been seeing it lately in the chained CPI concept favored by our president and most in his administration but it goes back farther than that.

While many Democrats have been standing up and declaring that they will defend Social Security to their dying breath and demand that no cuts in benefits take place, they’ve also been doing two things. A) they’ve attempted to convince seniors that those little cuts they DO favor aren’t really all that drastic or important and B) they totally ignore the cuts in health care for seniors, many of them not so minor, that have been taking place since even before the advent of the ACA or “Obamacare” as both sides like to call it now. Remember, these are cuts in the level of health care services being received overall, not just in Medicare, which is a (admittedly the major) component in an overall system of benefits that go together to determine the quality of life.

For example, when I first went on my own combination of SSDI/SSI/Medicare/Medicaid in 2005, I had vision and dental care as well as counseling and mental health services included in my package. I was able to see the doctor of my choice under Medicare and/SSI Medicaid picked up the slack by paying the difference (copay) between what Medicare allowed and the doctor demanded for his services. I had regular eye and dental exams and glasses and health related dental work were fully covered in the same manner. While I never availed myself of any of the counseling or mental health services (there’s a stigma attached for some of us older types) they were there in the event that they were ever needed.

In addition, I had an SSI stipend of $157 per month which by it’s very existence made me ineligible for nutritional programs (SNAP, Food Stamps) but which allowed me to cover my nutritional needs adequately while over half of my regular SSDI allotment was used to pay my rent and the rest used to cover all other normal household expenses.

All in all, a vast improvement over the years that lay between my medical retirement from a lifelong job and the use of my state retirement to stave off a medical bankruptcy including a couple of years of homelessness and dependency on the charity and good will of family members and friends while I had to fight the U.S. Government for my SSDI benefits although it was only slated to last for about a year until the “adjustments” started.

Flash forward to today. After numerous “small” adjustments to the amount Medicare will reimburse care providers, something I’m being told our president is proposing yet again, private practice physicians in my area all got together and decided they wouldn’t accept Medicare patients any longer. Today, I get my primary health care services from a privatized “public” health clinic that is paid by the number of patients seen and not the quality of care provided.

This is literally one of those “4 minute per patient” situations the Republicans were predicting if the ACA passed. I was recently assigned a new physician, the old one having departed because she was only allowed to see patients, not treat them. The new dude asked me what my problems are and when I started enumerating them, told me he didn’t have time to hear my whole history and to just hit the “high spots”. I consider that a benefit cut.

I no longer have vision care. Haven’t had an eye exam or new glasses in about 10 years even though I suffer from cataracts. I have the last pair of bifocals I got 10 years ago and I buy reading glasses off the rack at the drugstore for reading and looking at a monitor screen. I consider that a benefit cut.

I no longer have dental coverage. I was just getting ready for major reconstructive dental work when Medicare/Medicaid dropped the coverage and the surgeons dropped me because I didn’t have cash or private insurance to go through with the treatment. I consider that a benefit cut.

Can’t say I really lost much on the mental and counseling services since I never used them while I had them but they were a benefit I once had and no longer do, hence a benefit cut.

MediCal, our name for Medicaid, has also been ripped to shreds by successive waves of state budget cuts (made on the same basis and for the same supposed reasons at the federal level) and I now pay copays on many of the numerous meds I take regularly. Not huge ones to be sure but enough to impact things like my grocery budget and eliminate things like recreation and entertainment. The $157 SSI stipend that USED to buy my groceries has now shrunk to a magnificent five whole dollars a month. Benefit cuts.

Luckily my rent has shrunk by about 50% due to finding a little HUD subsidized apartment in a senior housing project but even that’s coming under attack by the RW and being basically ignored by the Democrats also and for the first time in 7 years I’m actually having to think about being homeless again and in worse shape health wise than I was before.

And the sorriest part of it is I’m better off than so many of my contemporaries! I HAVE a place to live, at least for now. I HAVE food albeit processed, plasticized and genetically engineered. I have health care even if it’s centered on profit for the corporation running the clinics rather than my actual health, which is better than no care at all, right?

And I’m also learning that there are elders out there who honestly feel that they are BETTER off today than before and I would imagine that under various combinations of circumstances that this is so. My references are to the elderly working class POOR who spent a lifetime living from paycheck to paycheck and were unable to set themselves up for old age before it was upon them and who can’t afford things like custom supplemental plans and the like, not those in the AARP ads.

All of this adds up to a net loss in real income for seniors such as myself over the past five years and if anything is going to stop it, it’s going to be standing firm against ANY encroachment by the right wing and their corporate leash holders, no matter how “small” or unimportant some of you think it might be. Why would you want to open up even the smallest crack for eventual privatization to slide a tentacle through?

There is no such thing as a “small” or “unimportant” benefit cut when we’re talking about the bare necessities of life. And now I’m going to have that song from “Jungle Book” running through my head all day. Damn!

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Posted by on March 12, 2013 in Uncategorized


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