After two years, a billion dollars, and altogether too much media coverage, the election is finally over. President Barack Obama has been re-elected, and will preside over the next four years, during which time he and congress will have to grapple with such issues as continuing the economic recovery, implementing Obamacare, and dealing with the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” (a topic for another day). But what does all this really mean to the average senior? We’ve been inundated for months with promises that the President’s re-election will solve everyone’s problems, or dire warnings that it will result in the destruction of the country. So what can we actually expect?
Predicting the future is an inherently problematic exercise, but the Huffington Post is willing to try it out. The biggest issue it sees coming down the pipeline for seniors is that of Social Security and Medicare, and the changes that might well be coming along for it. Despite the claims by both parties that the other want to destroy Social Security while they want to preserve it, the fact is that both sides are interested in altering the makeup of these entitlement programs, and Huffington’s article posits a “Grand Bargain” taking place between the parties to raise the retirement age while also increasing medicare and social security taxes, all to ensure that the programs are fully funded into the foreseeable future. This is not a new concept. NewRetirement’s own Bud Hebler wrote that it might be wise to consider likely alterations that politicians will impose on the programs when designing one’s Social Security strategy, for example taking benefits at an earlier date if you have reason to believe your overall benefits will shrink due to new legislation.
There’s also Obamacare, the next wave of which is due to begin implementation over the next couple of years. Love it or hate it, with the President’s re-election and the Republican party suffering heavy defeats in the senate, Obamacare is likely no longer at any risk of being repealed, and thus the alterations it has already wrought are here to stay. Huffington cites the continued discounts that seniors will be receiving on prescription drugs, as well as a new basic package of health benefits the government will establish for sale from private companies starting in 2014, all of which will be available to seniors who wish to supplement their Medicare. Some states will also be expanding their Medicaid coverage to low-income workers, including pre-retirees in their 50s and 60s.
Overall though, it doesn’t look like the script has changed much since last anyone looked at it. Even the most incremental changes in Social Security or Medicare will be staggeringly complex events, unlikely to happen rapidly or by fiat. Still, for seniors relying on these essential programs to help them in retirement, it never hurts to know what’s coming.