Wadena Pioneer Journal: Social Security, Medicare focus of Nolan stop
A group of concerned citizens gathered to learn more about the future of Social Security and Medicare at a forum Feb. 18 at the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center.
The forum was organized by the Citizens Federation and included Congressman Rick Nolan as a guest speaker.
There are a lot of questions about Social Security and what the privatization might mean, Nolan said.
"I've been learning more at these forums myself," he added.
The discussion began with Citizens Federation staff director Buddy Robinson giving information on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Social Security is not going to run out of money, but only three-fourths of it will be there when today's young people retire, unless we change the payroll tax so that very high-wage workers pay at the same rate as everyone else, Robinson said.
As for Medicare and Medicaid, money can be saved if the government stops putting large portions of these programs in the hands of insurance companies, he said.
Rep. Nolan emphasized the high importance of Social Security and Medicare as earned benefits that are crucial for the economic security of all Americans. He also stressed that in order to solve the financial pressure on Medicare and Medicaid, a single payer system would hold down costs dramatically for everyone.
Nolan said it was clear that proposals to privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would benefit big, powerful corporations, and reduce the benefits that people receive.
He fielded a number of questions from the audience, including drug prices and a question about estate claims.
One woman in the audience was shocked to learn about a lien that had been placed on her property. If someone is 55 or older and on Medical Assistance - Minnesota's version of Medicaid - the state places an estate claim with which to recover its costs after you and your spouse have died.
The woman in Wadena County was upset that low income people are being penalized.
She and her husband were not alone. They are caught in circumstances that extend from implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Minnesota agreed to expand its Medicaid program by extending eligibility to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, and the asset test also was eliminated.
In the past, a property owner's land and home could make them ineligible for Medical Assistance, but that no longer was the case. Suddenly, more people - including those with low incomes but who had other assets such as homes - qualified for the program.
At the same time, people were drawn to MNsure with the hope that the state agency would be the bridge to more affordable health insurance.
But while the asset test was no longer used to determine eligibility, a Medical Assistance recipient's assets remained subject to estate claims.
Nolan said there was good news and that was that new legislation will be introduced this spring that will look at that. Many legislators across the state said they were not aware this was going on in the state.
Another citizen wondered why more can't be done to take care of veterans.
Nolan said he's working to get the Veterans Choice Program off the ground but acknowledged not enough was being done.
Those who attended were encouraged to tell others about how to protect Social Security and Medicare and discuss the issues.
The Citizens Federation, which hosted the forum along with Nolan, is a non-profit, non-partisan charitable organization which researches, analyzes, and educates on public policy issues, and advocates for the interests of low and middle income people.