4 million Michigan residents could lose Medicare and Social Security under GOP plan

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Florida Sen. Rick Scott's plan for possible Republican majorities in Congress includes sunsetting all federal laws every five years, including social welfare programs.

The "11 Point Plan to Rescue America" released in February by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott contains a provision that would require all federal legislation to expire every five years and be subject to renewed passage by Congress.

If the Republican Party wins back majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections in November and implements Scott's plan, the more than 4 million Michigan residents who rely on Medicare and Social Security could lose their benefits.

The plan calls for termination of every single federal law — even Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — unless renewed by legislative action. Besides sunsetting Medicare and Social Security, the plan will also include a federal tax increase on most American families and a 25% reduction in the federal workforce.

Michigan is one of 15 states that will be most strongly affected by the provisions of the GOP plan, according to the nonprofit Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy. Poor and low-income Michigan residents who currently do not carry any income tax liability because they do not earn enough and retired and disabled residents whose Social Security income is not taxed could be required to pay an average of $1,000, ITEP says:

The only possible interpretation of Sen. Scott's proposal is that everyone who has negative federal income tax liability under current law would instead have federal income tax liability of at least $1. The EITC and Child Tax Credit would no longer provide households with negative income tax liability, meaning no one would receive money from the IRS after they file their tax return. The most significant effects would be felt by the poorest 40 percent of Americans.

Nearly 40% of Michigan residents would be affected by the tax increases, ITEP notes. 

"It's going to impact teachers, firefighters, and it's all going to be done by people who are making six figures in Congress," Michigan Democratic Party Spokesperson Alyssa Bradley said. "It's not hurting them, but it is hurting working families and low income folks. … Their main agenda seems to be obstruction." 

More than 2.1 million Michiganders rely on Medicare for their health coverage, and 2.3 million Michiganders receive Social Security benefits each month.

Noting that May is Older Americans Month, Bradley emphasized that the plan would impact retirees, seniors, and people who are disabled who rely on programs like Medicare and Social Security.

While Scott's plan does not specifically mention eliminating Social Security and Medicare, Republicans have a long record of opposing those and other social welfare programs.

Scott has a questionable record when it comes to Medicare. During his run for reelection as Florida governor in 2014, according to PolitiFact, Scott ran ads misleadingly accusing Democrats of making cuts to older Americans' Medicare coverage. In a response that the fact-checker called "mostly true," the Florida Democratic Party pointed out that when Scott ran the health care company Columbia/HCA, he "oversaw the largest Medicare fraud at the time" in U.S. history.

Even Fox News host John Roberts reacted skeptically to the provisions in Scott's current plan. "So, that would raise taxes on half of Americans and potentially sunset programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security," he said while interviewing Scott on March 27. "Why would you propose something like that in an election year?"

An article published by Forbes in 2018 delves into Republicans' actions on social welfare programs in light of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted the year before under President Donald Trump. Newsweek reported that then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reacted to resulting deficits by noting, "It's disappointing, but it's not a Republican problem. ... It's a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future." He pointed to "the three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. … There's been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs. Hopefully, at some point here, we'll get serious about this."

McConnell recently criticized Scott's plan for not being "useful to a candidate" in swing states like Arizona or Nevada.

One person who relies on the programs Republicans have said they want to cut is Javier Juarez, a resident of Allegan County, Michigan. A work accident left Juarez, 39, with physical and mental disabilities, and he depends on Medicare for access to affordable health care and Social Security to pay for basic needs such as rent and internet. "Medicare saved my life," Juarez told the American Independent Foundation. "If it wasn't for Medicare, then who would have helped me pay for those expensive bills? I'm very grateful, very thankful."

Juarez worried about the possible implementation of Scott's plan: "It would impact my life drastically," he said. "I would not be able to sustain my living, I would probably be homeless. I wouldn't have the proper medications that I need [on] a daily basis. Without that, I wouldn't have therapies that I use on a weekly basis."

A poll released by Navigator Research on May 6 shows 75% of voters oppose ending programs like Social Security and Medicare by 2028. Among the independent voters, Courier Newsroom and Data for Progress polling shows, Scott's plan would make 47% less likely to vote for Republican candidates in November.

President Joe Biden's proposed 2023 budget includes a 14% increase in funding to Social Security, up to $14.8 billion.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.