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Statement by Kirsten Gillibrand: My "Aging With Dignity" Plan to Support America's Seniors

July 16, 2019

Our seniors deserve a president who'll fight for them. I will.

In America, we make a promise to seniors: After a lifetime of working and contributing to this country, you'll earn the benefit of a secure retirement, good health care, and peace of mind in your later years. To me, that's a commitment we have to keep.

Our current president campaigned on another promise to seniors. He said he'd never cut Social Security or Medicare, and said he'd get prescription drug costs down. It took far less than two years to break those promises. Now, our most important social safety net programs are in danger of cuts from Republicans seeking to pay off the trillion-dollar tax handout they gave to millionaires.

I refuse to let any leader steal from our seniors and put their economic security in jeopardy. As president, I'll fight for families as hard as I'd fight for my own — and that means at every stage of life. I'll always stand up for America's seniors so they can age with dignity.

I'm not new to this fight. Throughout my time in the Senate, I've fought to protect Social Security and Medicare from cuts, address high prescription drug prices, and secure more support for seniors at home. As a member of the Senate Aging Committee, I've gone to bat for seniors by cracking down on senior fraud, combating price gouging by pharmaceutical companies, and pushing for wealthy individuals to contribute their fair share to Social Security.

I believe taking care of our seniors is one of government's most sacred responsibilities — and I'll uphold that commitment as president. Here's my Aging With Dignity Plan to ensure a secure future for seniors:

Strengthen and expand Social Security

As president, I pledge that I will never cut Social Security for seniors, children, survivors, or the disabled. But I'll do more than just protect Social Security: I will expand, strengthen, and ensure the longevity of this essential program.

Just this past week, I rolled out my Social Security Expansion Plan as part of our Trump Broken Promises tour. Here's what it will accomplish:

  • Strengthen Social Security and increase benefits
    Right now, Social Security benefits aren't enough to truly do what they're supposed to: provide economic security for seniors after retirement. I'll increase benefits by approximately $65/month, eliminate the cap on total benefits, and raise the floor for minimum benefits. I'll also expand eligibility for benefits to include surviving spouses and full-time students with deceased or disabled parents.
  • Extend the solvency of Social Security
    Social Security is on pace to run out of funds by 2035. Making the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share is key to ensuring the longevity of Social Security. I'll increase the Social Security payroll tax cap to ensure that people making more than $250,000/year pay the same rate as working class Americans. I'll also enact an additional 3.8% investment income tax and direct the generated revenue to the Social Security trust fund.
  • Ensure seniors receive accurate cost of living adjustments
    The way we currently calculate benefits doesn't accurately reflect what seniors actually spend their money on, which means their benefits aren't keeping pace with their cost of living. I'll make sure Calculation of Lifetime Average Earnings (COLAs) reflect the needs of seniors so that Social Security benefits can support seniors they way they're supposed to.
  • Safeguard public sector workers' benefits
    With state pension plans going under, we need to make sure Social Security benefits can fill the gap for public sector workers. I'll get rid of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) so public sector workers can count on their benefits.

Protect Medicare and make it available to all Americans

Medicare is one of our most important (and most popular!) programs — but it's also a perennial target for Republicans' cuts. We need to protect the integrity of Medicare by ensuring that Congress can't make changes and decrease coverage for beneficiaries when they want to cut spending. Medicare should never be a political bargaining chip.

I'll also make Medicare work better for seniors by ensuring access to long-term care for everyone who needs it, and protecting older Americans' independence. I'll also cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors in Medicare Part D so no one has to pay tens of thousands out of pocket each year for drugs alone. I've been an advocate for protecting and empowering the Older Americans Act, and will push us to keep investing in it to ensure older adults can rely on the services they need and live as independently as possible.

I believe the best way to ensure health care for all Americans is to create a public buy-in option and expand to a Medicare For All system, on the way to single-payer. But while we do that, we must ensure the systems we have today are working as they should. That's why I've helped make sure that the Senate Medicare for All bill includes key provisions for seniors: home- and community-based care as a covered benefit, and negotiation on drug prices that will bring down costs for all recipients.

Stop price gouging and reduce prescription drug costs

Prescription drug prices are skyrocketing in this country, and seniors are some of the most vulnerable when costs put medication out of reach. I'll take on pharmaceutical companies that prey on Americans, ensure that every patient can afford the medication they need, and lower the costs of health care for everyone.

As part of my plan to lower prescription drug costs, I'll:

  • Create a Pharmaceutical Czar to hold the drug companies accountable
    I'll appoint a Pharmaceutical Czar to investigate and hold accountable any predatory business practices within the pharmaceutical industry, whether it's spiking drug prices without justification or knowingly pushing dangerous drugs to increase profits.
  • Penalize and prosecute drug companies that hurt Americans
    Where my Pharmaceutical Czar finds wrongdoing within the industry, my administration will prosecute bad actors. I'll reinvest the penalty revenue into research at the National Institutes of Health to continue to make medication more affordable and available.
  • Allow safe importation and negotiation of drug prices
    My Department of Health and Human Services will set guidelines for the importation of safe, more affordable prescription drugs from licensed sellers in Canada. I'll also put Medicare on the same footing as other federal health programs by allowing the program to negotiate for lower prices on prescription drugs.

Enact paid family leave that includes aging parents

I've fought for paid family leave for the last seven years, since long before it was part of our national policy conversation. I'm glad that even Republicans know how important this idea is — but no national paid leave plan is complete if it doesn't include workers who want to care for an aging, sick, or dying family member. That's why my economic policy platform, the Family Bill of Rights, includes national paid family leave for any circumstance, whether it's a newborn baby or an older parent.

Doing right by our seniors isn't just about making the right decisions today — it's about ensuring that every generation of Americans can have a strong and secure future. We all have a stake in guaranteeing the benefits we earn throughout our lives are there when we need them. As president, I'll make sure that our government is one our seniors can count on.

Kirsten Gillibrand, Statement by Kirsten Gillibrand: My "Aging With Dignity" Plan to Support America's Seniors Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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