Rep. Raúl Grijalva pointed to new research about the impacts of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in Arizona to say the programs shouldn't be on the table in debates about deficit reduction and the debt ceiling.
"These programs are vital to the people of Arizona," he said Wednesday at a press conference.
Cutting the programs' budgets only means the costs would be passed on to the state and local governments, he said.
Each year more than $31 billion flows into Arizona through these programs, said Eric Kingson, a Syracuse University social work professor who wrote the research report "Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid Work for Arizona."
"These systems protect against the kinds of risks that can devastate a family's finances," Kingson said.
"Cutting from those who did not create the deficit and earned benefits over a lifetime of work is completely unfair," said Doug Hart of the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans.
Grijalva said the programs should be "strengthened, reformed and protected," noting many Medicaid recipients in Arizona are seniors or disabled people.
"It is not, as the fallacy persists, people just taking advantage of the fact Medicaid is there," he said.
One way to save, Grijalva said, would be to allow Medicare and Medicaid to buy medicine in bulk. A bill he supported to get that done hasn't received a hearing or a vote because of pressure on lawmakers from pharmaceutical industry lobbyists, Grijalva said.
More highlights from the research report include:
• Nearly 1 in 5 people in Pima County receive benefits.
• Of those people, 67.7 percent are retirees, 13.5 percent are disabled workers, 7.5 percent are widows or widowers, 6.5 percent are children and 4.7 percent are spouses.
• Benefit payments totaled $2.4 billion in 2010 in Pima County and $14.1 billion statewide.
• The average Social Security benefit in 2010 in Arizona was $13,232 annually.
• About 1 in 6 people in Pima County receive benefits.
• Medicare paid $8.5 billion in benefits statewide in 2009, about 23.6 percent of all health-care spending in Arizona.
• The average Medicare benefit in 2009 in Arizona was $9,567.
• About 1 in 5 people in Pima County receive benefits.
• Medicaid paid $8.7 billion in benefits statewide in fiscal year 2009, about 24.2 percent of all health-care spending in Arizona.
• The average Medicaid benefit in 2009 in Arizona was $5,034.
• Medicaid paid for nursing home care for 7,490 people in Arizona, nearly two in three nursing-home residents.
"Cutting from those who did not create the deficit and earned benefits over a lifetime of work is completely unfair."
of the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans
Contact reporter Becky Pallack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.