The fate of Social Security, MaineCare, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act rests on the election come November, so believes the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare.
This committee, which is a coalition that includes the Maine League of Young Voters, AARP Maine and the Maine Alliance of Retired Americans, presented a forum to examine the future of Social Security, MaineCare, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act in Portland Tuesday. The group will hold a similar forum in Lewiston tonight.
According to NCPSSM, which is holding these forums in partnership with the Maine People’s Alliance, Americans are facing a crossroad of political ideology that we haven’t seen in years on the federal level, and no matter your personal political viewpoints, being informed about these social and health programs is essential to an informed vote.
The Washington, D.C.-Based NCPSSM, formed in 1982, describes itself as an “independent” organization but its members — at least in Maine — are decidedly more aligned with Democratic candidates and liberal ideologies than not. That said, the information this group provides is fact-based and worth consideration no matter your political bent.
The group hopes, through its forums, to debunk long-held myths about federal health and retirement programs, including how they are funded and the continuing solvency of various programs and trusts.
We tend to have, NCPSSM believes, this notion that retired Mainers are hosting garden parties and own homes in Maine and Florida, traveling south and north with the warm weather. While that’s true for many people, it’s not the standard of living for most of Maine’s oldest residents.
Here, Social Security is the only source of income for a third of senior citizens. That’s comparable to living on minimum wage, making it difficult for seniors to buy adequate food, pay for heating and afford medications. It means, for too many, hard choices between health and warmth.
According to NCPSSM member Jim Lysen, who is also the executive director/CFO of Community Clinical Services at the B Street Community Center, recent discussions in Congress about cutting benefits to Social Security and Medicare retirees have caused a great deal of confusion that can be eased with a discussion of basic facts rather than relying on political campaign ads that play to our fears.
And, he said, this topic is important to everyone, not just benefits-earning seniors.
It’s important to young adults who are now just starting to pay into these programs, to middle-aged Americans who are caring for their parents who can’t afford nursing home care, and for families of the disabled who aren’t able to manage personal care. In other words, everyone should care.
In Maine, according to NCPSSM, there are 299,875 people receiving Social Security benefits. That’s nearly a quarter of our population, with slightly more recipients in the 2nd Congressional District compared to the first.
Of all recipients, more than half (185,849) are retired workers; another 55,525 are disabled workers; and the remainder (58,501) are widows, widowers, spouses and children.
This collection of recipients bring $3.5 billion in benefits to Maine every year, spending much of that money locally. That’s reason enough to be informed about how the federal program works and what it costs. The better reason to understand is that some of Maine's poorest and neediest residents depend on Social Security and other safety net programs and every change affects their ability to survive.
Social Security is an important program, and it’s important that it be funded adequately and administered responsibly. Same goes for Medicare and all other government programs.
We can't allow rhetoric and political posturing to determine our votes. We have a responsibility to be informed about the issues before heading to the polls.
Thursday’s forum is a good opportunity to get some information. And, with that, the ability to form our own opinions about what needs to be done.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.