PRESIDENT CLINTON AND VICE PRESIDENT GORE:
Supporting Senior Citizens
"Beyond paying off the debt, we must ensure that the benefits of debt
reduction go to preserving two of the most important guarantees we make to
every American -- Social Security and Medicare. I ask you tonight to work with
me to make a bipartisan down payment on Social Security reform by crediting the
interest savings from debt reduction to the Social Security Trust Fund to
ensure that it is strong and sound for the next 50 years."
-- President Bill Clinton
January 27, 2000
Ensuring Long-Term Financial
Saving Social Security. President Clinton and Vice President
Gore have coupled fiscal discipline with a commitment to preserve and protect
Social Security. President Clinton has proposed extending the program's
solvency to 2050 by paying down the national debt and dedicating the interest
savings to Social Security. This would be a down payment on truly saving Social
Security. President Clinton has also called for a bipartisan effort to save
Social Security for 75 years.
- Extending the Life of the Social Security Trust Fund. Thanks
in part to the Clinton-Gore economic strategy, which has strengthened our
economy and helped eliminate the deficit, the life of the Social Security trust
fund has been extended until 2034.
Eliminating the Retirement Earnings Test. President Clinton has
pushed for a bipartisan effort to eliminate the confusing and out-dated
earnings test to encourage work and earnings among older Americans. Both the
House and Senate have passed this legislation, and President Clinton will sign
it into law.
Social Security Reform Critical to Women. Women live an average
of six years longer than men, and because they live longer they become
increasingly dependent on Social Security benefits as they age. Women represent
60 percent of all Social Security recipients at age 65, and by age 85, 71
percent of recipients are women. Social Security provides 90 percent of income
for 41 percent of all older women; 25 percent have no other source of income.
The poverty rate among elderly women is twice the poverty rate among seniors as
a whole. President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to reducing
the loss of Social Security income at widowhood and to reforming Social
Security in a manner that will ensure fairness and reduce the poverty rate of
single elderly women.
Held First-Ever White House Conference on Social Security.
President Clinton has called on Congress to reach a bipartisan consensus on a
Social Security consensus on a Social Security plan that extends the life of
the trust fund for 75 years. In December 1998, the President hosted the
first-ever bipartisan White House Conference on Social Security. This capped
off a series of non-partisan regional forums on the future of Social Security
held in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Providence, Rhode Island; and Kansas City,
Social Security Critical to Improving Seniors' Standard of
Living. Social Security has been critical to ensuring that American seniors
do not have to live in poverty. In 1998, the elderly poverty rate was 10.5
percent, as low as it's ever been. In 1959, 35.2 percent of American seniors
were living in poverty.
Cost of Living Increase for Social Security Beneficiaries.
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase
2.4 percent in the year 2000. The average monthly benefits for retired workers
will rise from $785 to $804, while the maximum monthly SSI payment will rise to
$512 for an individual and $769 for a couple.
Increasing Pension Security. President Clinton proposed and
signed the Retirement Protection Act of 1994, protecting the benefits of more
than 40 million American workers and retirees. The President also signed the
Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996, which provided a tax credit to small
business that adopt pension plans; created a simplified and better defined
contribution plan for small businesses; and promoted pension portability.
- President Hosted SAVER Summit. On June 4, 1998, President
Clinton hosted the White House SAVER Summit to address the need for greater
savings and pension opportunities for the American people.
Signed the Landmark Work Incentives Improvement Act. President
Clinton signed the Work Incentives Improvement Act, which prevents people with
disabilities from losing their Medicare or Medicaid health coverage when they
go to work. It also includes a $250 million demonstration, which the President
insisted on fully funding, that allows people with disabilities who are still
working and are not yet sufficiently disabled to qualify for Medicaid to buy
into the program.
Strengthening and Modernizing Medicare
Enacted Most Comprehensive Medicare Reforms in History. In the
1997 Balanced Budget, the Clinton-Gore Administration protected, modernized and
extended the life of the Medicare Trust Fund while offering new options for
patient choice and preventive care. New preventive benefits passed include
coverage of annual mammograms, coverage of screening tests for both colorectal
and cervical cancer, and a diabetes self-management benefit. The President's FY
2001 budget dedicates $432 billion over 10 years - an amount equivalent to over
half of the on-budget surplus - to strengthen and modernize Medicare to prepare
it for the health, demographic, and financing challenges of the 21st Century.
This plan would extend Medicare's solvency for over a decade until at least
- Extending the Life of the Medicare Trust Fund. When President
Clinton and Vice President Gore took office, Medicare was expected to run out
of money in 1999. Now, the life of the Trust Fund has been extended until
Protecting Medicare and Medicaid from Extreme Proposals. In
1995-1996, President Clinton and Vice President Gore fought, and President
Clinton vetoed, extreme Republican proposals that called for more than $400
billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. If passed, these proposals would have
shifted a staggering financial burden to elderly and disabled Medicare
beneficiaries, reduced Medicaid nursing home coverage for elderly and disabled
Americans, and resulted in damaging structural changes in the Medicare program.
The Administration also opposed the Breaux-Thomas Medicare plan, which would
have increased premiums, raised the age of eligibility to 67, and failed to
dedicate a portion of the budget surplus to extend the life of the Trust Fund.
Modernizing Medicare's Benefits. Unlike virtually all private
health plans, Medicare does not cover prescription drugs. Over three in five
seniors lack dependable insurance coverage for drugs. President Clinton and
Vice President Gore have proposed a plan to add a long-overdue, optional
prescription drug benefit that is affordable and available to all
beneficiaries. They have also proposed a reserve fund to help Medicare
beneficiaries with extremely high prescription drug costs. The Administration's
plan also improves preventive services and rationalizes cost sharing.
Medicare Critical to Improving the Health of Seniors. Medicare
has played a critical role in improving the health of America's seniors. The
life expectancy for someone turning 65 today is nearly 20 percent longer than
it was for an individual turning 65 in 1965, the year Medicare was enacted.
Working to Establish an Affordable Medicare Buy-In Option. The
President and Vice President have called on Congress to pass their proposal to
allow people ages 62 through 65 and displaced workers ages 55 to 65 to pay
premiums to buy into Medicare. The initiative also would require employers who
drop previously-promised retiree coverage to allow early retirees with limited
alternatives to have access to COBRA continuation coverage until they reach age
65 and qualify for Medicare. This year, to make this policy more affordable,
the President has proposed a tax credit, equal to 25 percent of the premium,
for participants in the Medicare buy-in.
Fighting Medicare Fraud and Waste. Since 1993, the Clinton-Gore
Administration has assigned more federal prosecutors and FBI agents to fight
health care fraud than ever before. In 1995, the Clinton-Gore Administration
launched Operation Restore Trust, a ground-breaking and ongoing anti-fraud
project aimed at coordinating federal, state, local and private resources in
targeted areas. As a result of the Administration's commitment to fighting
health care fraud, convictions have gone up a full 410 percent, saving more
than $50 billion in health care claims. The Balanced Budget Act gave an array
of new weapons in our fight to keep scam artists and fly-by-night health care
out of Medicare and Medicaid.
Tightening Standards for Home Health Care Providers. In
September 1997, President Clinton announced the Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) was declaring its first ever moratorium to stop new home health
providers from entering the Medicare program. The moratorium gave the
Clinton-Gore Administration an opportunity to implement new regulations to
create protections to screen out providers who are likely to cheat Medicare.
Four months later, President Clinton announced that HHS was removing the
moratorium because those new tougher regulations were in place to root out
fraud and abuse in the home health industry. The Health Care Financing
Administration (HCFA) has also doubled the number of home health audits and
increased claims review by 25 percent. HCFA also now requires home health
agencies to be more accountable for the care they provide, and to conduct
criminal background checks on the aides they hire.
Implementing Comprehensive Nursing Home Quality Initiative. The
Clinton-Gore Administration has issued the toughest nursing home regulations in
the history of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, including: increased
monitoring of nursing homes to ensure that they are in compliance; requiring
states to crack down on nursing homes that repeatedly violate health and safety
requirements; and changing the inspection process to increase the focus on
preventing bedsores, malnutrition and resident abuse. President Clinton won a
$43.5 million increase in FY 2000 to fund more rigorous inspections of nursing
facilities and improved federal oversight and enforcement of nursing home
Improving Health Care for Older
Fighting for Passage of the Patients' Bill of Rights. The
President and Vice President have called for passage of the bipartisan Patients
Bill of Rights Act, to ensure that all Americans have essential protections,
such as guaranteed access to needed health care specialists; access to
emergency room services when and where the need arises; continuity of care
protections to assure patient care if a patient's health care provider is
dropped; access to a timely internal and independent external appeals process
with a medical necessity standard; assurance that doctors and patients can
openly discuss treatment options; and an enforcement mechanism that ensures
recourse for patients who have been harmed as a result of health plan actions.
- Protecting Seniors in Managed Care Plans. Leading by example,
President Clinton signed an executive order to extend the strong enforceable
protections in the Patients' Bill of Rights to the growing number of Medicare
recipients in HMOs.
Easing the Burden of Long-Term Care. President Clinton has
proposed a historic initiative to support the long-term care needs of the over
five million Americans, most of whom are elderly, who have significant
limitations due to illness or disability. The initiative includes a $3,000 tax
credit to compensate people with long-term care needs or their caregivers for
the cost of long-term care services -- tripling the credit proposed by the
President last year. In addition, this initiative addresses the needs of
caregivers and supports families who care for elderly relatives with chronic
illness or disabilities through services such as respite care, which studies
have found can relieve caregiver stress and delay nursing home entry.
Supporting Family Caregivers. The President's long-term care
proposal in his FY 2001 budget invests $125 million to support family
caregivers. This initiative will provide States working with local communities
with the flexibility to design and provide important caregiver support to
approximately 250,000 families nationwide who are caring for their older
relatives. In addition to quality respite care, services provided will include
information about local services, counseling and training for complex care
needs. The President's proposal would also improve equity in Medicaid
eligibility for those who use home- and community-based care by helping to
eliminate complicated Federal waivers; and would have the Federal government
serve as a model employer by offering long-term care insurance to its employees
at group rates.
- Increasing Need for Quality Long-Term Care Options. The number
of Americans age 65 years or older will double by 2030 (from 34.3 to 69.4
million), so that one in five Americans will be elderly. The number of people
85 years or older, nearly half of whom need assistance with everyday
activities, will grow even faster. Although it is difficult to quantify, one
study found that the economic value of care giving for families ranges from
$4,800 to $10,400 per caregiver. As such, this new $3,000 tax credit could
cover up to 60 percent of families' costs.
Increasing the Participation of Seniors in Clinical Trials.
President Clinton issued an executive memorandum directing
Medicare to begin covering all the routine medical costs of
participation in a clinical trial, removing a major barrier
to seniors' participation in these trials. These actions,
strongly advocated by the Vice President and initiated through
his leadership, follow a recent Institute of Medicine report
recommending policy changes to encourage greater use of
clinical trials by older Americans and the completion of a
review of Administration policy. With the fast pace of medical
advancement and continuing efforts to make evidence based medical
decisions, clinical trials serve as the first step towards providing
new clinical innovations to the forefront of medical practice.
[White House, Executive Memorandum, 6/7/00]
Unprecedented Investment in Biomedical Research. Two years ago,
the President called for an increase of almost 50 percent over 5 years in the
NIH budget as part of his Research for America Fund. Since that time, the NIH
budget has increased by over $4.3 billion and with the funding proposed by the
President this year, the Administration will be one year ahead of schedule in
reaching the 50 percent goal. NIH now supports the highest levels of research
ever on nearly all types of disease and health conditions, making new
breakthroughs possible in vaccine development and use, the treatment of chronic
disease, and prevention and treatment of diseases such as diabetes,
osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, and neurological diseases like Alzheimers
Proposed Largest Increase Ever for Veterans Programs. The
Clinton-Gore Administration's FY 2001 budget proposal gives the Department of
Veterans Affairs a $1.5 billion increase, the largest increase ever proposed
for veterans' programs which demonstrates the President and Vice President's
commitment to caring for those who served our country. Since 1993, the VA
health system has increased the number of patients treated every year by over
29 percent; treated 83 percent more homeless patients; organized approximately
1,300 sites of care delivery under 22 Veterans Integrated Service Networks; and
established more than 250 new community-based outpatient clinics.
Enacted Historic Comprehensive FDA Reform that Expedited the Review
and Approval of New Drug Products. The President signed into law the 1997
FDA Modernization Act that includes important measures to modernize and
streamline the regulation of biological products; increase patient access to
experimental drugs and medical devices; and accelerate review of important new
medications. This reform builds on the administrative initiatives implemented
under Vice President Gore's reinventing government effort which have led U.S.
drug approvals to be as fast or faster than any other industrialized nation.
Average drug approval times have dropped since the beginning of the
Administration from almost three years to just over one year.
New Efforts to Help Consumers Understand Important Information on
Over the Counter Drug Labels. The President unveiled a historic new FDA
regulation that, for the first time, requires over-the-counter drug products to
use a new product label with larger print and clearer language, making it
easier for consumers to understand product warnings and comply with dosage
guidance. The new regulation provides Americans with essential information
about their medications in a user friendly way and takes a critical first step
toward preventing the tens of thousands of unnecessary hospitalizations caused
by misuse of over-the-counter medications each year.
Enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Family &
Medical Leave Act (FMLA) -- the first piece of legislation the President signed
into law -- enables workers to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a
new baby or ailing family member without jeopardizing their job. Since its
enactment, millions of Americans have benefited from FMLA, and the President
has expanded leave options for Federal employees. President Clinton has called
for extending this benefit to 12 million more working families and expanding
the law to allow workers to take leave for family obligations such as doctors
appointments and parent-teacher conferences. Additionally, in his FY 2001
budget, the President is proposing new grants to enable states and regions to
develop innovative paid leave options for working parents.
Passed Meaningful Health Insurance Reform. The President signed
into law the Kennedy-Kassebaum Health Insurance Portability and Accountability
Act, which helps people keep health insurance when they change jobs, guarantees
renewability of coverage, and ensures access to health insurance for small
businesses. As many as 25 million people will benefit from this law. The bill
also eliminated the discriminatory tax treatment the of the approximately 10
million Americans who are self-employed; strengthened efforts to combat health
care fraud, waste and abuse by creating a stable source of funding; and
provided consumer protections and tax incentives for private long-term care
Released Strong New Protections for the Privacy of Electronic
Medical Records. The Clinton-Gore Administration released a new regulation
to protect the privacy of electronic medical records held by health plans,
health care clearinghouses, and health care providers. This rule would limit
the use and release of private health information without consent; restrict the
disclosure of protected health information to the minimum amount of information
necessary; establish new requirements for disclosure of information to
researchers and others seeking access to health records; and establish new
administrative and criminal sanctions for the improper use or disclosure of
Increasing Federal Support for Improving Mental Health.
According to the December 1999 Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, one
in five Americans is living with a mental health disorder. This report states
that the fundamental components of effective service delivery are broadly
agreed upon, but in short supply. The budget includes a new investment of $100
million for mental health services, an increase of 16 percent over last year's
funding level and a 90 percent increase since 1993.
Making Our Communities Safer
Lowest Overall Crime Rate in 25 Years. Under the Clinton-Gore
Administration, America has experienced the longest continuous drop in crime on
record. Violent crime rate fell 7 percent in 1998 and 27 percent since 1993.
The murder rate is down more than 25 percent since 1993, its lowest point since
1967. The overall crime rate is the lowest in 25 years.
Targeting Criminals Who Target Seniors. President Clinton
proposed the 21st Century Crime Bill, which would protect seniors from crime,
fraud and abuse by: (1) shutting down the telephone service of illegal
telemarketing schemes; (2) enacting new criminal and civil penalties for
nursing home operators who engage in serious neglect or abuse of seniors in
their care; (3) implementing new prosecutorial tools to stop false health care
claims and illegal kickback schemes; and (4) increasing penalties on
individuals who rip off retirement plans and try to cheat seniors out of their
Putting 100,000 More Police on the Streets. In 1999, ahead of
schedule and under budget, the Clinton-Gore Administration met its commitment
to fund an additional 100,000 police officers for our communities. As a part of
the COPS Program, the President announced new grants to increase community
policing in high-crime and underserved neighborhoods. To help keep crime at
record lows, the President won funding for the first installment toward his
goal to hire up to 50,000 more officers by 2005. This year, the Clinton-Gore
budget includes over $1 billion to continue the successful COPS initiative to
hire more officers, hire new community prosecutors, give police the tools they
need to fight crime, and to fund community-wide crime fighting efforts.
More than 500,000 Felons, Fugitives and Domestic Abusers Denied
Guns. Since the President signed the Brady Bill into law, more than 500,000
felons, fugitives and domestic abusers have been prevented from purchasing
guns. And the historic 1994 Crime Bill banned 19 of the deadliest assault
weapons and their copies, keeping assault weapons off our streets. The homicide
rate dropped 7 percent in 1998 - almost entirely due to a decrease in homicides
committed with guns. Since 1993, there has been a more than 35 percent drop in
gun-related crime and a 57 percent decrease in juvenile gun homicide offenders.
Fighting Telemarketing Fraud. President Clinton's Justice
Department has lead efforts to crack down on telemarketing fraud -- charging
nearly 2,000 individuals with dishonest practices. As part of their efforts,
the FBI trained and supervised senior citizens, recruited through the AARP, to
help catch dishonest telemarketers.
- Launched Project No Fraud. In his November 6, 1999, radio
address, President Clinton announced Project No Fraud, a nationwide campaign by
the U.S. Postal Service, the American Association of Retired Persons, the
Council of Better Business Bureaus, the Department of Justice, the Federal
Trade Commission, the National Association of Attorneys General and the
Securities and Exchange Commission. Every household in America will receive an
easy to read postcard with common sense tips and practical guidelines on how to
recognize and prevent telemarketing fraud -- making this the largest consumer
protection mailing in U.S. history. The campaign will also include a telephone
hotline and a web site where people can report telemarketing fraud.
Fighting Hate Crimes. The President enacted the Hate Crimes
Sentencing Enhancement Act in 1994 and held the historic White House Conference
on Hate Crimes. The President and Vice President have repeatedly called for
passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act -- bipartisan legislation which would
strengthen hate crimes laws and make it clear that America will not tolerate
acts of violence based on race, color, gender, national origin, religion,
sexual orientation or disability.
Strengthening Supportive Services and
Supporting the Older Americans Act. President Clinton and Vice
President Gore have repeatedly called on Congress to reauthorize the Older
Americans Act of 1965, which provides home-delivered meals (Meals on Wheels),
transportation, legal and ombudsman services and senior community employment
opportunities for million of older Americans. The Older Americans Act's
authorization expired in 1995. Included in OAA legislation presented by the
Administration is a proposal to support family caregivers of older persons who
are ill or who have disabilities.
Fighting Attempts to Reduce Funding for Heating and Cooling
Assistance. President Clinton and Vice President Gore successfully fought
to preserve funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP),
which provides heating and cooling assistance to low-income seniors. House
Republicans attempted to eliminate this critical program in 1998. This winter,
President Clinton has released $295 million in LIHEAP funds to help ease the
burden of rising home heating oil costs on low-income seniors. The President
also has urged states to adjust LIHEAP eligibility standards so that more
families can benefit and recorded a public service announcement to make sure
that families know that help is available.
Giving Seniors the Opportunity to Serve. President Clinton
launched AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National Service, which includes
Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions, and the Retired Volunteer Program.
Through this National Senior Service Corps, nearly half a million Americans age
55 and older share their time and talents to help their communities.
Bringing Seniors to the Table
Elevated Status of Commission of Aging. President Clinton
elevated the Commissioner of Aging to Assistant Secretary status within the
Department of Health and Human Services.
Convened Historic White House Conference on Aging. In May 1995,
President Clinton convened the final White House Conference on Aging of the
20th Century. The 1995 White House Conference on Aging brought together over
2,000 senior bipartisan grass roots advocates from across the nation, and was
the first intergenerationally focused White House Conference on Aging in
history. The Conference produced 50 major resolutions including a reaffirmation
of our nation's support for important programs for older Americans, including
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, which
constitute the social safety net for millions of older Americans.