Mail and Commentary Dec. 12, 2012 

Social Security Straight Talk

Over the past few months, I have heard so much misinformation about Social Security that I feel compelled to set the record straight. I have worked with Social Security employees for 26 years. I have learned a great deal about how the program works. So here are some facts for your readers to consider:

1) Social Security does not account for our deficit problem. In fact, Social Security neither increases nor reduces the federal deficit since it is entirely self-financed.

2)Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme because Ponzi schemes rely on false promises to convince people to give money. Social Security's funding stream is 100 percent reliable and its promised benefits are required to be honored by law.

3) Social Security is in no danger of going bankrupt. The system has a huge surplus, plus enough to pay full benefits to every retiree for the next 25 years. After 2037, without any changes, SSA will pay 78 percent of benefits based on conservative economic projections. More optimistic economic forecasts predict that full benefits will be paid past 2086 without any changes. Cuts in SSA's administrative budget will result in fewer employees, office closures, employee furloughs, longer wait times, delayed claims and difficulties in getting interview appointments.

The myth that your readers hear from the "news" commentators is not based on truth, but desire to undermine support for the Social Security system.

--Andrea Wassner

American Federation of Government Employees, Local 3937

Say No to State-Run Health Exchange

One of the arguments being presented to Idaho is that if we create our own health insurance exchange, it will be fundamentally different from one set up by the federal government. This argument is fraught with problems and it will cost us.

Whether it's a state exchange, a federal exchange, or a hybrid model, the exchange must meet new federal requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or "Obamacare"). These include minimum coverage levels "essential health benefits," and other "qualified health plan" requirements. Louisiana is not setting up an exchange due to uncertainties over future costs.

Also, KPMG estimates Idaho will pay $77 million to set up an exchange and some $10 million annually to run it. This is according to its work on the governor's taskforce over health exchanges.

Finally, if Idaho creates an exchange, it will subject its citizens and small businesses to new federal taxes. The PPACA gives the IRS taxing authority over exchanges but only for exchanges "established by a State." This is out of Section 1311 of the Affordable Care Act, and is supported by Sections 1401 and 1402. Oklahoma is challenging this and other aspects of federal overreach. It has also been raised by policy analysts and law professors around the country.

To claim something is Idaho-made when it is designed by the federal government and filled with new federal rules and taxes makes no sense. To add $77 million in costs on top of it is not fiscally responsible.

Idaho must decide by Friday, Dec. 14, whether to move forward. Given these problems, the prudent course would be for Idaho not to set up an exchange. Contact your state legislators and our governor and urge them not to move forward. Thank you.

--Stephen M. Ackerman, Kuna

A Real Gift

During this holiday season, many will be searching for the perfect gifts. Others will shop for a stranger who needs a little help. Last year, headlines were made when good Samaritans were paying off strangers' layaway purchases at department stores. Another gift to consider: the gift of being a hero for a complete stranger. Say yes to organ donation.

A hero is defined as "someone who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act." In the life of a recipient, organ donors are truly heroes. Two heart recipients shared their stories about receiving the life-saving gift of a transplant at a recognition ceremony recently held in Boise. Diana Haye, whose daughter Lacey, made the decision to be an organ donor before her death, talked about her daughter and the lives that she saved.

Organ donation also gives the superhero power to live on after death. Because of donation, someone lives on. They work, they play, they have children and the world is changed because they are alive. Idahoans have the opportunity to honor those heroes who have given the gift of life by contributing a quilt square to the "Threads of Life" quilt, which will travel to various events and locations in Idaho. Make the heroic decision to register on the Idaho Donor Registry at

--Dixie Madsen,

Intermountain Donor Services public education supervisor,

: Salt Lake City :

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