As Americans die younger, corporations to reap billions in pension costs

By Kate Randall
11 August 2017

Life expectancy for Americans has stalled and reversed in recent years, ending decades of improvement. According to a new Bloomberg study, this grim reality has an upside for US corporations, saving them billions in pension and other retirement obligations owed to workers who are dying at younger ages.

In 2015, the American death rate rose slightly for the first time since 1999, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over the last two years, at least 12 large companies have reported that negative trends in mortality have led them to reduce their estimates for how much they could owe to retirees by a combined $9.7 billion, according to Bloomberg’s analysis of company filings.

It is highly unusual in modern times, except under epidemic or war conditions, for life expectancy in an industrial country to stop improving, let alone decline. Laudan Aron, a demographer at the Urban Institute, told Bloomberg that falling US life expectancy, especially when compared to other high-income countries, should be “as urgent a national issue as any other that’s on our national agenda.”

But this has not sounded alarm bells in Washington. In fact, shortened life expectancy in the 21st century is the result of deliberate government policy of both big business parties: to restrict access to affordable health care, resulting in increased disease, suffering and early death.

Those who stand to cash in on the shortened lifespans of workers include General Motors, Verizon and other giant corporations. Lockheed Martin, for instance, has reduced its estimated retirement obligations for 2015 and 2016 by a total of about $1.6 billion, according to a recent annual report.

Companies have reduced estimates of what they will owe future retirees. According to a Society of Actuaries (SOA) report, companies can expect to lower their pension obligations by about 1.5 to 2 percent, based on a 2016 update of mortality data.

Life expectancy for the US population was 78.8 in 2015, a decrease of 0.1 year from 2014, according to the CDC, with the age-adjusted death rate increasing 1.2 percent over the year. Since the introduction in 1965 of Medicare and Medicaid—the government insurance programs for the elderly, poor and disabled—US life expectancy has steadily increased.

Death rates for Americans over age 50 have improved by 1 percent on average each year since 1950, according the SOA. In 1970, a 65-year-old American could expect to live another 15.2 years, on average, until just past 80 years.

From 2000 to 2009, the death rates for Americans over age 50 decreased, with annual improvements of 1.5 to 2 percent. By 2010, a 65-year-old could expect to live to 84. But these increases have slowed in recent years, with life expectancy at 65 rising only about four months between 2010 and 2015.

The slowing in death rate improvements since 2010, and the actual lowering of life expectancy in 2015, have followed the global financial crash of 2007-2008. Despite the Obama administration’s declaration that the Great Recession ended mid-2009, millions of US workers and their families continue to suffer under the weight of unemployment, underemployment, and stagnant or falling wages.

Seven years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, a staggering 28 million Americans remain uninsured. Those who are insured have seen their premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs skyrocket. Families are saddled with billions of dollars in medical debt.

The lack of access to affordable health care is resulting in an unprecedented health crisis in the US. A 2015 study showed that mortality was rising for middle-aged white Americans, with deaths from suicides, drug overdoses and alcohol, collectively referred to as “ deaths of despair.” Both women and men have been affected by this phenomenon.

CDC data shows that more than 500,000 Americans have died of drug overdoses in the period between 2000 and 2015, now approaching an average of 60,000 a year.

The 10 leading causes of death in 2015 were heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide, according the CDC. Despite scientific advances in medical treatment and the development of new drugs to treat these diseases and conditions, they still accounted for 74.3 of all US deaths in 2015.

Moreover, from 2014 to 2015, age-adjusted death rates increased 0.9 percent for heart disease, 2.7 percent for chronic lower respiratory diseases, 6.7 percent for unintentional injuries, 3 percent for stroke, 15.7 percent for Alzheimer’s disease, 1.9 percent for diabetes, 1.5 percent for kidney disease, and 2.3 percent for suicide. Only cancer saw a reduction, of 1.7 percent.

It is on the backs of workers dying earlier from these diseases, alongside “deaths of despair,” that US corporations now stand to save billions, increasing their bottom lines by not paying out pensions and retirement benefits.

This is by design. Obamacare was the first significant effort to reduce the trend of increasing life expectancy by shifting the costs of medical care from the corporations and government to the working class. The ACA was drafted in close consultation with the insurance industry, requiring those without insurance to purchase coverage from private insurers under the threat of tax penalty.

The ACA set into motion the rationing of health care for ordinary Americans, making vitally needed treatments and medicines increasingly inaccessible for millions. This has now borne fruit in the first reduction in US life expectancy in more than half a century.

Following the Republicans’ failure to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, the Democrats have responded by offering to work with the Republicans to “repair” the ACA. But they do not mean reducing the number of uninsured or further expanding Medicaid.

Instead they have offered a five-point plan to shore up the insurance companies by setting up a “stability fund” for companies to insure high-risk enrollees, and guaranteeing they receive $8 billion in government cost-sharing payments to the insurance firms that the Trump administration has threatened to cut off.

Such measures, along with savings from unpaid retirement benefits, will further bloat corporate profits along with those of the private insurance companies and health care industry as a whole.

WSWS

Advertisements

Life expectancy study shows 20-year gap between richest and poorest US counties

By Naomi Spencer
10 May 2017

The growth of social inequality is manifested in every facet of American life, including the health and lifespans of individuals. Inequality in life expectancy has grown substantially since 1980, a new study published May 8 in the American Medical Association’s JAMA: Internal Medicine confirms. The study documents “large—and increasing—geographic disparities among counties in life expectancy over the past 35 years.”

Researchers from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and Erasmus University in the Netherlands analyzed death records and population counts from all US counties.

Their study, “Inequalities in Life Expectancy Among US Counties, 1980 to 2014: Temporal Trends and Key Drivers,” drew data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), along with population counts from the US Census Bureau, NCHS, and the Human Mortality Database. This data set allows for a fuller picture of the scale of inequality in life expectancy that other recent research has shown. (The IHME maintains an interactive county-level map)

The study found that in 2014 life expectancy at birth for both sexes at the national level was 79.1 years (76.7 years for men and 81.5 years for women). The combined average amounts to a 5.3-year growth in life expectancy over the 1980 average of 73.8 years.

Life expectancy at birth

Behind this overall growth in lifespan, however, the study found a staggering 20.1-year gap between the lowest and highest life expectancy among all US counties.

Three wealthy counties in central Colorado—Summit, Eagle, and Pitkin—recorded the longest life expectancies in the country, at 86 years on average. At the other end of the spectrum, several counties in South and North Dakota had the lowest life expectancy, along with “counties along the lower half of the Mississippi [the Delta region] and in eastern Kentucky and southwestern West Virginia,” the study found. These areas “saw little, if any, improvement” since 1980. Thirteen counties registered a decline in life expectancy.

In the Dakotas, several of the shortest-lived counties encompass Native American reservations. Oglala Lakota County in South Dakota, home to the Pine Ridge Native American reservation, had the lowest life expectancy in the country in 2014, at just 66.8 years. In a press release, the IHME researchers noted that this was lower than the life expectancies of Sudan and Iraq—countries that have been torn apart by brutal wars over the course of decades.

“Looking at life expectancy on a national level masks the massive differences that exist at the local level, especially in a country as diverse as the United States,” lead author Laura Dwyer-Lindgren of IHME explained. “Risk factors like obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, and smoking explain a large portion of the variation in lifespans, but so do socioeconomic factors like race, education, and income.”

The study found that all counties saw a decline in the risk of dying before age 5 since 1980, attributable to improvements in health programs for infants and children. At the same time, the data showed an increased risk of death for adults aged 25-45 in 11.5 percent of counties, a phenomenon partially explained by the rise in suicides and drug addiction.

Although the research points to “a combination of socioeconomic and race/ethnicity factors, behavioral and metabolic risk factors, and health care factors” to account for the disparities in life expectancy, all of the factors intersect with poverty. It is not a coincidence that the poorest areas recorded the shortest life expectancies and the wealthiest areas recorded the longest lifespans.

Risk factors like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and physical inactivity are highly correlated to poverty, unemployment and lack of education. In areas where the population lacks access to preventive care or they cannot afford basic health care, chronic conditions become debilitating. Cancers go undetected, mental illness is undiagnosed, pregnancies are carried without adequate prenatal care, heart disease is untreated, and work-related injuries are managed with highly addictive pain medications instead of physical therapy and rest.

Of the 10 counties where lifespans fell the most since 1980, eight are in the coalfields region of eastern Kentucky: Owsley (-3 percent); Lee (-2 percent); Leslie (-1.9 percent); Breathitt (-1.4 percent); Clay (-1.3 percent); Powell (-1.1 percent); Estill (-1 percent); Perry County, Kentucky (-0.8 percent). Kiowa County, Oklahoma, (-0.7 percent), and Perry County, Alabama, (-0.6 percent) round out the list of counties where life expectancy declined the most.

Change in life expectancy at birth

Residents of Owsley County, Kentucky saw a decline in life expectancy from 72.4 in 1980 to 70.2 in 2014—comparable to the life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan or North Korea.

Owsley County was found by a 2016 Al Jazeera analysis to be the poorest white-majority county in the US. Some 45 percent of the county’s 4,500 residents, and 56.3 percent of children, live below the poverty threshold. Official unemployment stands at 10 percent, but with only 35 percent of the working age population included in the labor force, real unemployment is approaching 75 percent. Per capita income as of 2015 stands at $15,158, according to federal Census Bureau data.

As with the rest of the Appalachian coalfields region, the counties where life expectancy has dropped have seen every metric of economic and social well-being decline over the past several decades. Coal mining employment in eastern Kentucky has fallen to levels not seen in a century. With hundreds of mines shuttered, counties have lost so-called coal-severance tax revenue paid by companies per ton of coal extracted. Thousands of families have left in search of work, triggering a further collapse in the tax base for local governments, school districts, and social programs. The elimination of thousands of coal mining jobs has left mostly low-wage occupations for residents.

Lee County, second to Owsley in terms of the decline in life expectancy, is home to “America’s poorest white town”—Beattyville, Kentucky, the county seat. Beattyville has seen an explosion of opioid addiction since the closure of its few coalmines and decline of the oil and timber industries. The median household income in the town stands at $14,871, less than a third of the national median. Like its measure of life expectancy, Lee County’s household income is lower today than it was in 1980.

Kentucky and neighboring West Virginia have among the highest opioid overdose rates in the country, with the coalfields counties especially hard-hit. In 2013, drug overdoses accounted for 56 percent of all accidental deaths in Kentucky; the state’s death rate for overdoses is 29.9 per 100,000. In the eastern counties, emergency services are less able to reach and save overdose victims and health providers have struggled to afford lifesaving anti-opioid treatments like Narcan.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/10/life-m10.html

6 Diseases That Could Skyrocket or Become Far More Deadly If the Affordable Care Act Is Repealed

PERSONAL HEALTH
Bernie Sanders may have been underestimating when he said 36,000 per year will die if the health care law is dashed.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

When senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz debated the merits of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, aka Obamacare, on February 7, Sanders had a dire prediction: “We are moving into an era where millions of people who develop terrible illnesses will not be able to get insurance, and God only knows how many of them will die.” The Vermont senator, who favors a single payer or “Medicare for all” system, was right to be concerned. It remains to be seen when or how Republicans in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives will repeal the ACA; Sen. Rand Paul has been complaining that repeal is taking much too long and that fellow Republicans don’t appear to be in a hurry to repeal it. But the Urban Institute estimates that if and when Republicans do repeal the ACA, “The number of uninsured people would rise from 28.9 million to 58.7 million in 2019, an increase of 29.8 million people”—and Sanders has predicted that “36,000 people will die yearly as a result.”

Sanders is not exaggerating about the potential death toll; if anything, he is being optimistic. In 2009, a pre-ACA Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance study found that almost 45,000 Americans were dying annually due to lack of health insurance. Shortcomings and all, the ACA—according to Gallup—has reduced the number of uninsured Americans aged 18-64 from 18% in 2013 to 11.9% in late 2015. And that includes millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma. The ACA has not only made it illegal for insurance companies to exclude people due to pre-existing conditions, but it has also emphasized preventive care and screenings, which can prevent chronic conditions from developing or at least treat them after a diagnosis. Without those protections, it stands to reason that diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other potentially life-threatening illnesses will be on the rise.

Here are several diseases that are likely to increase or have much worse outcomes if Republicans succeed in abolishing Obamacare and render millions of Americans uninsured.

1. Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, 30 million Americans suffer from diabetes, while another 86 million have prediabetes. For those 116 million Americans, access to health care is crucial; diabetes, if not managed and controlled, can lead to everything from amputations to heart disease, stroke and blindness. And when prediabetes is managed, patients have a much better chance of avoiding full-blown diabetes. Bearing those things in mind, the American Diabetes Association sent members of Congress a letter in December warning them how dire the consequences could be for Americans with diabetes or prediabetes if the ACA is repealed without a suitable replacement.

“The ACA,” the American Diabetes Association told Congress in the letter, “ended fundamental inequities in access to adequate and affordable health insurance that separated Americans with diabetes from the tools they needed in the fight against the horrific and costly complications of diabetes, including blindness, amputation, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and death. Repealing the ACA will create huge access barriers for millions of Americans, especially if no fully defined replacement is put in place immediately to meet the health care needs of individuals with chronic health conditions like diabetes.”

In 2016, medical researchers Rebecca Myerson and Neda Laiteerapong examined the ACA’s possible effects on diagnosis and treatment of Type 2 diabetes. The physicians found that 23% of American adults, aged 18-64, with diabetes lacked health insurance in 2009/2010, but said it was “likely that a significant fraction became insured in the subsequent years due to ACA provisions.”

2. HIV/AIDS

Jennifer Kates, director of HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, has described the ACA as a “watershed moment” for Americans living with HIV, and the Centers for Disease Control called it “one of the most important pieces of legislation in the fight against HIV/AIDS in our history.” Kaiser research has indicated that 200,000 HIV-positive Americans may have gained coverage through the ACA, and according to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the ACA brought insurance to 12,000 HIV-positive Illinois residents.

With HIV treatment, one of the goals is avoiding full-blown AIDS. In a recent article for The Advocate, Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, warned that ACA repeal could be devastating for Americans living with HIV and that access to treatment can be a matter of survival.

“If Congress repeals the ACA without simultaneously replacing it with programs that ensure comprehensive health coverage for the same, if not more, individuals, the private insurance market will become unstable—and people with HIV and others would lose access to the care and treatment that they rely on to remain healthy,” Schmid said. “People with HIV, who depend on a daily drug regimen, cannot risk losing access to their health coverage—not even for a single day… We cannot afford to go backwards by eliminating or destabilizing the health care that the ACA provides.”

3. Cancer

In January, Gregory Cooper and his colleagues at University Hospitals’ Cleveland Medical Center in Ohio released a study that compared access to cancer screenings before and after the ACA, which they found was making it easier to obtain mammograms but needed to do more to encourage colonoscopies. Cooper, reflecting on GOP plans to repeal the ACA, stressed that the U.S. needs more cancer screening, not less, saying, “If you take away people’s health insurance and they’re going to pay out of pocket for health care, are they going to get a mammogram, or are they going to buy food? People are going to do what gives them the best benefit in the short term, which is food and shelter.”

Amino, Inc., researching 129 insurance companies, has offered some estimates on possible out-of-pocket costs for cancer screening in a post-ACA environment; in Alaska, for example, the costs could be almost $500 for a routine mammogram or $2,565 for a colonoscopy. And as Cooper pointed out, Americans will put off or avoid potentially life-saving tests when they become cost-prohibitive.

4.  Blood Pressure and Hypertension

In 2015, researchers at George Washington University School of Public Health released a study on the effect the ACA was having on hypertension, a major factor in heart disease and stroke. The researchers reported that 78 million Americans suffer from hypertension and that “lack of insurance coverage is a critical barrier to better treatment of hypertension,” and they predicted that if ACA expansion continued, it “would lead to a 5.1% increase in the treatment rate among hypertensive patients.”

5. High Cholesterol

In 2015, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published a study that linked the ACA with better outcomes for three conditions: diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The study found that uninsured people suffering from any of those conditions were much less likely to find out they had a problem, whereas insured people had a 14% greater chance of finding out if they had diabetes or high cholesterol and a 9% greater chance of finding out they had high blood pressure. And for those who those who were diagnosed, the Chan School found, being insured greatly improved one’s chances of controlling blood sugar, total cholesterol or systolic blood pressure.

Joshua Saloman, a senior author of the study, said, “These effects constitute a major positive outcome from the ACA. Our study suggests that insurance expansion is likely to have a large and meaningful effect on diagnosis and management of some of the most chronic illnesses affecting the U.S. population.”

But instead of insurance expansion, Republicans could significantly reduce coverage. Even John Kasich, right-wing governor of Ohio and one of the many Republicans who lost to Donald Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, sounded a lot like a Democrat when he said that while there is “room for improvement” with the ACA, he was worried about what would happen to “these people who have very high cholesterol” if it is repealed without a solid replacement.

6. Asthma

Before the ACA, the term “pre-existing condition” as defined by health insurance companies was far-reaching; anything from multiple scleroses to kidney disease to anemia was grounds for rejecting an application for coverage. For people with asthma, obtaining health insurance was difficult or impossible. 17.7 million adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control, suffer from asthma in the U.S., and when asthma is not treated or controlled, it can become life-threatening (in 2014, CDC attributed more than 3600 deaths annually in the U.S. to asthma).

In 2013, a Harvard Medical School study cited lack of health insurance as the main reason asthma care for young adults deteriorated when they turned 18; emergency room visits became more frequent, and medications often became cost-prohibitive. But with the ACA’s implementation, young asthmatics could stay on their parents’ health plans until 26—and asthmatics, regardless of age, could not legally be refused coverage because of their condition. With full ACA repeal, however, it could once again become legal for insurance companies to deny coverage to asthmatics. And even partial ACA repeal could make asthma care cost-prohibitive.

While ACA repeal is likely, it remains to be seen what, if anything, Republicans would replace it with. Rep. Steve King has made it clear he couldn’t care less if the ACA is repealed without a replacement. However, Rep. Tom Price, President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, has proposed replacing it with a plan that would eliminate Medicaid expansion, thus making coverage more expensive for Americans with preexisting conditions. And President Trump has promised that after the ACA, Americans can look forward to more comprehensive coverage at much lower prices. But it’s an empty promise because he has yet to offer any specifics.

In other words, Republican plans for an ACA alternative range from terrible to woefully inadequate to nonexistent. To make matters worse, Rep. Paul Ryan is still pushing for Medicare privatization, meaning that Americans who suffer from ACA repeal could be facing additional hardships if they live to see 65. With Republicans going out of their way to make access to health care difficult or impossible for millions of Americans, the future looks grim for anyone suffering from cancer, HIV, hypertension or other potentially deadly illness.

Alex Henderson’s work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.

http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/6-diseases-could-skyrocket-or-become-far-more-deadly-if-affordable-care-act-repealed?akid=15228.265072.2xuNye&rd=1&src=newsletter1072659&t=4

Life expectancy plunges for low-income Americans

By Andre Damon
29 September 2015

The gap in life expectancy between higher and lower-income Americans has soared in recent decades, according to the results of a new study commissioned by the US Congress.

In particular, the study, published this month by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, reveals a sharp drop in life expectancy for poorer Americans.

Men in the top fifth of the income distribution have had their life expectancy at age 50 grow from 81.7 years for those born in 1930 (aged 50 in 1980) to 88.8 years for those born in 1960 (aged 50 in 2010). Meanwhile, the poorest fifth of men have had their life expectancy fall from 76.6 years for those born in 1930 to 76.1 years for those born in 1960.

As a result, there is now a life expectancy gap of more than 12 years between the poorest and wealthiest men, compared to a gap of just over five years three decades ago.

The changes are even more dramatic for women. Life expectancy at age 50 for the poorest fifth of women has fallen from 82.3 years for those born in 1930 to 78.3 years for those born in 1960. Meanwhile life expectancy for top-earning women has grown from 86.2 years to 91.9 years for the same period.

Over the past three decades, the gap in life expectancy at age 50 between the poorest and wealthiest women has increased from less than four years to more than 13 years.

The growing discrepancy in life expectancy between the rich and poor is the result of decades of attacks on workers’ jobs, wages and living standards, as well as social programs that benefit low-income households, such as food stamps, Welfare and Medicaid. While the rich have access to the best healthcare that money can buy, the poor are left with substandard care that they cannot afford.

Falling wages for low-income workers have left 16 percent of US households officially classified as food insecure, and the incidence of diseases related to poor diet have soared. The share of US residents who have been diagnosed with diabetes, largely a disease of poverty, has more than doubled, from under 3 percent in 1980 to 7 percent today.

Workplaces throughout the country have slashed decent-paying healthcare benefits beginning in the early 1980s and continuing to this day. Meanwhile, federal programs have been starved of funding as healthcare costs soar, with the ruling class increasingly targeting the principle healthcare program for elderly Americans, Medicare.

The trends revealed in the report (which only goes to 2010) will only be further exacerbated by the policies carried out under the Obama administration. According to an analysis released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of healthcare deductibles—the amount of healthcare expenses that must be paid out of pocket before an insurer will pay any expenses—has increased 67 percent over the past five years, while wages have risen only 10 percent since the 2008 financial crisis.

The 2008 financial crisis ushered in an escalation of the attack on workers’ living standards and healthcare. Corporations responded to the 2008 downturn by eliminating vast numbers of decent-paying jobs with good benefits, replacing them largely with low-wage and contingent employment during the so-called economic “recovery.” State, local and federal healthcare programs have been chipped away at through year after year of budget cutting and austerity.

But perhaps the most dramatic element of the assault on workers’ healthcare benefits has been the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, the main purpose of which has been to shift the cost burden of healthcare onto beneficiaries.

Among the various regressive components of Obamacare is the so-called Cadillac tax, which imposes high taxes on better healthcare plans to create an incentive for insurance companies and corporations to reduce coverage. The effect of this proposal can be seen in ongoing negotiations in the auto industry, where the corporations are working with the United Auto Workers to establish a mechanism for reducing healthcare benefits to a level where they will not be subject to the tax, which goes into effect in 2018.

The National Academy of Sciences study itself was commissioned as a means of gauging the economic impact of various proposals to slash Social Security spending proposed in various forms by Republicans and Democrats alike.

In particular, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has called for raising the retirement age from its current level of 67 to 70, a proposal that had previously been advanced by the Business Roundtable as well as other Democratic and Republican politicians. This measure, if enacted, would entail a massive reduction in benefit payments, and by extension significantly reduce life expectancy.

The study’s findings are also being used to drive more sophisticated, though no less reactionary, arguments for slashing workers’ healthcare benefits. Peter R. Orszag, the study’s co-chair, who served as Obama’s first Director of the Office of Management and Budget before becoming an executive at Citigroup in 2011, sought to present the higher life expectancy of higher-income earners as a major issue driving rising healthcare costs.

In an op-ed for Bloomberg, Orzag declares, “The life expectancy gap is widening markedly, and this is causing a big change in the pattern of lifetime government benefits. In evaluating any improvements to entitlement programs, policy makers will need to keep these trends in mind.”

Orzag’s argument is essentially a setup for various proposals to introduce means-testing into Social Security, along the lines of that proposed by Republican Candidate Chris Christie or expanded this year for Medicare by the Obama administration.

This argument was spelled out in a column by the Washington Post’s Robert Samuleson, who argued, “Social Security should be a safety net, not a gravy train…. Eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare should gradually increase to reflect longer life expectancies for most Americans. Benefits should be curbed for those near the top.”

The implication of such a policy would be to reduce benefits for all Americans through an increase in the retirement age, while transforming Social Security from a universal program to a means-tested anti-poverty measure, to be chipped away at and subsequently dismantled.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/09/29/life-s29.html