Democratic wins secure Social Security and Medicare for seniors

Social Security and Medicare are lifelines for most Americans as they head into their retirement years. This is especially true for seniors like me who live with a chronic illness. In 2009, I was diagnosed with HIV. It means I rely on daily antiretroviral medication to stay healthy and avoid developing AIDS, which killed one of the best people I’ve ever known.

During that year, Republicans threatened to cut Medicare and Social Security if they took control of Congress. It was a life or death concern for me. Because the fact is that if these programs are cut, I won’t be able to make ends meet and I’ll die soon. Fortunately, now that the Democrats are poised to control the Senate for at least the next two years, I’m much more confident that I can count on these programs, although the threat hasn’t passed — it’s just been delayed.

After retiring from a career in the hospitality industry in early 2021, I started collecting Social Security, which provides me with just enough income to live on, plus the money I earn from a few part-time jobs. Between these multiple streams of income, I earn at most $2,000 per month. That’s enough to pay my rent, utilities, groceries, and a few amenities like Netflix during my hard-earned retirement.

If the Republicans had taken over the Senate and cut Social Security, I couldn’t keep my lights on or my water running. Any reduction in Medicare would be disastrous; I have to take my HIV medication every day, so anything that reduces the security of my health coverage puts my health at risk.

In the retail market, my HIV medications cost $3,800 a month, which is almost double what I earn in a month. Fortunately, Medicare Part D covers part of my costs. Without the help I receive, I would need to spend money that I just don’t have.

At 65, I’m lucky to have the ability to work part-time for a little extra money if I need it. But I know I can’t do this forever. Social Security and Medicare were designed to provide seniors like me with a social safety net as we age. These are not “rights programs,” as Republicans claim. I paid into these programs for decades and now they just give me my money back.

Cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be nothing less than the theft of the money that hard-working taxpayers have poured into these programs for our retirement. The funds from these programs are our money to use.

If I could sit in a room with politicians threatening to cut these programs, I would say to them, “What you are doing is taking away my assurance and security that I will live in good health for the rest of my life. You back me into a corner and probably condemn me to be sick for the rest of my life – or kill me. This is not being alarmist. That’s a fact. I will die if I don’t have access to Medicare and Social Security, just like millions of seniors across the country.

We deserve leaders who recognize the danger of threats to Medicare and Social Security and who will instead work to strengthen these programs for my generation — as well as generations to come. I’m glad that in this upcoming Congress, at least one of our legislative branches will be overseen by leaders dedicated to protecting the social safety net that seniors rely on.

Scott DeBerg is partially retired and lives in Cedar Rapids.

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