Some elected officials have signaled they want to eliminate so-called “entitlement” programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Veteran’s Benefits. These programs are not gifts; look at your paycheck and you will see that you pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid each time your employer pays you. Even if you have your own business, you have to pay into the program.
It is wholly irresponsible to even discuss the elimination of these programs, given society’s existential crises related to high cost of living and the widening wealth and income gaps. Also, minimum wage workers still must pay Social Security payroll tax and Medicare payroll tax – because these programs are not gifts.
Our older residents devoted their entire lives serving our society and helping the economy. It is heartbreaking to listen to wealthy politicians demonize these life-saving programs that were established to make sure that our residents can have some support and live with dignity during their lifetime. Currently, in the richest country in the world, 4.9 million seniors live in poverty, according to the Congressional Research Service. The average Social Security old age benefit is $1,400 per month. This is not enough to pay rent and eat. In Westminster and Arvada, 40-60% of whatever is left over of income is spent on the ridiculously high costs of housing. Now add to that the need to also pay for utilities, transportation, food, healthcare, and everything else. These economic stressors not only make it impossible to establish actual financial security (e.g., savings, investments), but eliminating these programs disproportionately impacts older residents, rippling financial burdens throughout the family.
Medicare is not free. Monthly payments to Medicare currently are $170.10 for Part B, plus Supplemental insurance costs range from $0 to $400 per month. And there are deductible and co-insurance to be paid, as well. Those of us who use prescription plans are well aware of the “donut hole” causing us to pay privately for the $300 per vial cost of insulin out of that $1,400 per month.
The bottom line is that we need to reimagine and decentralize the shaping of policy decisions related to these life-saving benefits, towards a design that re-centers the interests of marginalized populations in the policy process and enable policy that actually helps their quality of life.
Obi Ezeadi, Westminster City Councilor
Bonnie Sellers, Federal Heights City Councilor