LONDONDERRY, N.H. – Speaking at a seniors’ center here on Sunday, Bernie Sanders detailed plans to lower prescription drug prices, expand Social Security, boost Meals on Wheels and improve other programs for seniors.
“We live in the wealthiest country in the history of the world. We judge a country not by the number of millionaires and billionaires it produces, but by how it treats the most vulnerable people,” Sanders told the crowd of 280.
“We’ve got too many seniors who are struggling to provide for their basic needs. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country, we should pay attention to the needs of senior citizens trying to survive on as little as $12,000 a year,” he added.
Sanders has introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate to bring down prescription drug prices, which soared more than 12 percent in 2014, the biggest jump in a decade. The legislation by Sanders and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland would authorize the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Their bills also would make it legal to import less expensive drugs from Canada and other countries.
“If I am elected president of the United States, the pharmaceutical industry will know who the president is and their greed is going to end,” Sanders said.
On Social Security, he told seniors that there will be no cost-of-living increase this year. It is only the third time in 40 years that payments will stay flat. Sanders said the consumer price index, which is used to calculate annual COLAs, does not accurately reflect how inflation in health care costs and prescription drug prices impact seniors. Sanders has proposed legislation to increase COLAs by accurately measuring the spending patterns of seniors.
Also under Sanders’ Social Security plan, the wealthiest Americans who make more than $250,000 a year would pay the same share of their income into Social Security as everyone else. Current law now caps the amount of income subject to payroll taxes at $118,500. Sanders’ proposal to lift the cap would raise taxes only on the wealthiest 1.5 percent of Americans. The new revenue would expand Social Security benefits by an average of $65 a month, increase cost-of-living adjustments and lift seniors out of poverty by boosting benefits for low-income beneficiaries.
Social Security is a key source of income for 42,000 people in New Hampshire whose benefits in 2014 averaged about $15,000. Without Social Security, more than 41 percent of the elderly in New Hampshire would be living in poverty. With Social Security, the elderly poverty rate in New Hampshire is just 5.7 percent.