Reality Check

A Tale of Woe For the Forgotten Class

In addition to decreased Social Security benefits, the costs for Medicare are going way up

By Tammi Fisher

The Afghanistan withdrawal was an unmitigated disaster, a reflection of poor leadership and terrible advanced planning. The debacle exemplifies the need for policymakers to plan in advance to avoid chaos and failure. This need is glaringly apparent with our homeland security needs and our financial security needs. Just as forest fire prevention doesn’t occur when the forest is on fire, we have many government issues in dire need of advance planning.

Our Social Security system is in shambles. There are two divisions of Social Security – one for retired seniors and survivors of deceased beneficiaries and one for the disabled. Those in the “old age” and “survivor” category will see a sharp decrease in social security checks as of 2033. For those of us who will become eligible for benefits or who currently receive benefits and intend to live past 2033, paying attention to this issue is advisable.  

In addition to decreased Social Security benefits, the costs for Medicare are going up, way up. In 2026 Medicare’s hospital insurance fund will be empty. Doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes will not receive their full payments from Medicare, so guess who gets to fund the shortfall? You and me. Those of us who wanted to retire and take Medicare at 65 now stare down the barrel of decreased income and increased health expenses. The shortfall can be planned for by those of us who haven’t retired yet. But what about those seniors who already retired and will live another 30 years? Sorry folks, you are the forgotten, and you were lied to. All those politicians promising to “save” you from Social Security and Medicare cuts – can you name the leaders that have actually followed through? In today’s caustic political environment, what are the chances that our policymakers will buckle down and resolve these issues in our best interests? Take up a part-time job, or see if your kids have a spare bedroom, because due to Congress’ failure to plan, your finances are going to take a substantial hit.

The irony in all of this gloom is those most affected by poor financial planning for Medicare and Social Security is the voting block that wins elections. By and large, our elders vote consistently. Yet, when the sun rises after Election Day, this voting block that worked hard until retirement on the promise of solvent Social Security and Medicare trust funds is forgotten. The pivot by elected officials to crying about each other is far more compelling than dealing with complicated issues like funding Social Security and Medicare. Hard and thoughtful decisions are needed now because Congress is watering the garden while the proverbial house is on fire. 

Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.

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