Every time Washington tries to dismantle Medicare as we know it, or jeopardize Social Security benefits through privatization or cutting benefits, I fight for Alaska’s seniors.
In Alaska, we face unique challenges as baby boomers retire and require services ranging from long-term care, health care, and adult day services. We need to defend and strengthen the services seniors have earned over their lifetime, especially Social Security and Medicare.
I strongly oppose efforts to privatize Social Security. Social Security is not contributing to our national debt. It had a $2.6 trillion surplus in 2010 and can pay out benefits for the next 25 years. We need to find ways to extend the longevity of the program without taking money out of the pockets of our seniors.
That’s why, when the President released his budget for FY 2014, I opposed his attempt to link Social Security to a Chained CPI — a move which would have cut benefits.
I have a plan to extend the life of Social Security without making our seniors pay for it. I want to scrap the income cap — asking those who earn the most to pay into Social Security on all of their income, just like most Alaskan families do. It’s a common sense plan that would extend the solvency of Social Security by about 75 years.
As a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, I am also closely tracking efforts to shore up Medicare by targeting waste, fraud and abuse. I supported increases to the Health and Human Services Department to adopt new measures to stop Medicare fraud. These efforts have stopped more than $2 billion in fraudulent billings since 2009. I also support efforts to improve Medicare coverage for prevention and wellness, mental health, and dental services.
I understand the financial challenges many Alaska seniors face each month as they stretch their fixed incomes to meet rising energy, medical, and housing costs. During the health care debate, I strongly supported the successful effort to close the prescription drug “donut hole” to reduce bills for prescription drugs. I am also still fighting to allow the federal government to negotiate Medicare drug prices just as the Veterans Administration does right now.
Too many Alaska seniors on Medicare cannot find a primary care doctor. We need to fix the Medicare reimbursement rates long term to ensure Alaska has enough primary care doctors to meet our growing senior population. I fought hard to increase loan forgiveness for primary care doctors in underserved areas like Alaska. This provision in the Affordable Care Act is paying off in Alaska. So is the $10 billion investment in community health centers, including funding for the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Clinic, which is providing quality care to many Alaska seniors.
I am also working to ensure seniors have access to affordable housing, lower energy costs, and job training and placement for older workers. I strongly support the Low Income Home Energy Program which helps more than 11,000 Alaskans heat their homes. I also supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which added $18 million to Alaska’s weatherization program.