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 Security
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.
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, Missouri.
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.
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 2025.
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 quality.
Improving Health Care for Older Americans
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.
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 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 and Parkinsons.
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 insurance.
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 private information.
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 pensions.
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.
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 Opportunity
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.
A Nation Transformed
Progress By the Numbers
Supporting African Americans
Supporting Americans With Disabilities
Supporting Asian Pacific Americans
Supporting America's Farmers and Rural Communities
Supporting Gay and Lesbian Americans
Supporting Hispanic Americans
Improving Mental Health
Supporting Native Americans
Supporting Senior Citizens
Supporting Women and Families
Supporting America's Working Families
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