Friday, November 28, 2008

"Bor for Prez in '12": Part 5

I wanted to go into welfare reform, but I have to address a previously existing condition I can go down that road. That means today's problem is Social Security.

First, let's define them. Ummm...You go first. Okay, I can't hear you, so I'll tell you how I understand it. SSI is actually Supplemental Security Insurance. SSD is Social Security Disability.

How these systems work exactly requires a degree in economics, and possibly a law degree. Politicians say Social Security will be bankrupt in the not so distant future. Call Social Security's 800 number and a pleasant recording explains that your contributions to the program are not saved separately, but applied immediately to those receiving benefits. If the program is perpetually receiving funds, how is it going bankrupt? Don't point to a growing population; that should mean more money is coming in, because there are more employed folk than retirees. If anything, the disabled even the scales out. My inexpert opinion is that the system should be doing fine.

Now, according to what I know, a person earns "credits" while employed. When disability or retirement comes along, your SS income is based upon how many credits you've earned. It almost seems reasonable, right up until the point where you start receiving benefits. That's when you discover that relying strictly on SSI for retirement is a mistake. My father, if he was living alone, would be struggling. Luckily, he fell in love in his senior years, married, and now has a dual SS income coming into his home.

Medicare, the medical insurance attached to SS benefits, covers only 80% of medical expenses. Those who earn over a certain amount have to pay for this benefit. According to current data, poverty level - that is, to actually exist in poverty - is $1o,400. (I've been off previously by $200, citing $10,200 as being poverty level. My bad.) Because I was declared disabled at 33, and was earning close to $700 at the time, I will use that rounded figure. Had I been 65 at the time, and earned a full lifetime of credits, I would be earning approximately $1400/month, or $16,800 per year. Not only would I be paying out to receive Medicare, but would also require some kind of supplemental medical insurance. At that level, I wouldn't qualify for welfare benefits. Thus, I would need to find an insurance company that accepts people with pre-existing conditions, and likely have to pay extra for said conditions. That, or pay out of pocket for doctors, medications, and all other medical needs. Suddenly that $1,400/month isn't looking so great.

But I don't earn that much, and so become reliant on the State to handle that 20% not covered by Medicare. Thanks to Governor Bush, (that poser in the White House), the Medicare and State aid have been linked together. Wow, did I have adventures with that, especially when the State offices goofed and marked me down as female. The wrap-around system had Medicare paying for my prescriptions, but the State refused to pay for some woman claiming to be me. Even stranger was being unable to correct the error by phone. Despite my arguments that there were few, if any, women named "Robert," they insisted on my coming down to the DES office and wait for hours to just make an appointment, then come back and wait for hours on the day of the appointment, all to change "F" to "M". Because I earn so little, the State also pays for me to receive Medicare.

Okay...Let's start with "poverty level." I don't know what statistical dolt is working these numbers, but I don't know a soul that can survive on $10,400 today. It's an inorganic system that doesn't flow and change with the times, instead of being an organic system that recognizes changes in the economy and the needs of individuals. When food, all by its lonesome, sees a 20 to 50% increase in price, with a few products actually having doubled in price, the level of poverty is a lie!

Even if it wasn't a lie, Social Security should start at poverty level. Using current figures, that's $867/month. Then apply the credit system. It needs to be revamped, but let's assume it sees a 33% decrease. Had I retired at 65, that would mean SSI would provide $867 + $938, bringing in $1,805/month. It's still not living in the lap of luxury, but it's no longer a position where retirees don't have to beg for help.

This, of course, applies to the majority. Then there's the multi-million dollar minority. They probably won't even apply for SSI benefits. On the off chance that their money is all gone come retirement, they can certainly apply, and the credit system will probably see them quite comfortable without the "poverty level stipulation."

Next, we have Medicare. To someone at my level of income, even the small fee looks like a lot of money. Well, now that we've adjusted the system to have people living at poverty level at the minimum, the fee for Medicare shouldn't be as scary. Those who have no employment credits still get the benefit for no cost. The government will absorb it. What's more, either Medicare should start covering 100% of the cost of medical care, or doctors should start accepting the fact that their clients are on SSI and accept 80% of the fees being paid. I would prefer the latter. Accepting 80% is far better than the client that doesn't pay at all, and those are rare. It would also take a lot of the financial pain out of the State and Federal budget. The same applies to drug companies. Relax their collective grip on their greed and realize that people on Medicare are the ones in greatest need of medical aid, and accept what the system can handle.

If the system can be redesigned for those who need this kind of help, then these same people wouldn't need to go down to welfare to apply for benefits. I am trapped as a permanent part of the welfare system because I only receive so much money and can't afford that 20% not covered by Medicare. Welfare, when I get into it, should be needed strictly on a temporary basis.

Ugh! I think I'm becoming sick. Writing about such heavy topics isn't easy when your body is starting to ache beyond its norm. It'll be much better when I'm in office, because I won't have to write like a madman to get ideas across. Instead, I'll be in the Oval Office, and say to my minions, "You. Yes, you, slave! Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia, and send in my Social Security team on your way out!" So forgive the big errors that may change the entire meaning of the sentence. Your future "Dread Lord Emperor" feels like crap.

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