Health and retirement policy specialists say the future state of the union could be grim if the United States fails to understand and fund the benefits promised by government agencies and private employers.
President Obama touched on benefits funding concerns tonight during his State of the Union speech, but he did not make even the kind of brief reference he made to private retirement accounts in his 2010 State of the Union Speech.
Obama noted early in the speech that Democrats control the Senate and Republicans control the House.
“We will move together or not at all,” Obama said.
One of the challenges that Democrats and Republicans must join to face is federal budget deficits, Obama said.
“Our government spends more than it takes in,” Obama said. “That is not sustainable.”
Obama said that he would propose a 5-year freeze on discretionary domestic spending that would save $400 billion over 10 years, and that he would start a major effort to streamline the federal government. But any serious efforts to fight the deficit must also include cuts in defense spending, health care spending, and “spending through tax breaks and loopholes,” Obama said.
Republicans say the Affordable Care Act, the new federal legislative package that includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), will increase the federal deficit; Obama said it will cut the deficit by slowing the increase in health care costs.
“I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: Medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits,” Obama said.
Obama said he does not want to re-fight the battles of the last two years but is open to working with Republicans on improving the new health care law. One place to start improving the law would be to eliminate the dramatic expansion in Form 1099 vendor reporting requirements created by PPACA Section 9006, Obama said.
“What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition,” Obama said. ” I’m not willing to tell James Howard, a brain cancer patient from Texas, that his treatment might not be covered.”
Obama also mentioned the finances of Social Security.
Obama said he wants to “find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.”
“And we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market,” Obama said.
The United States should end the tax cuts that recently were extended for the “wealthiest 2% of Americans,” Obama said.
“Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax breaks,” Obama said. “It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success. In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual tax code.”