- Archives of
Aging and Health of Older Populations
U.S. sees fewer elderly deaths from heart failure: August 5, 1998 The rate at
which elderly people die of heart failure has gradually declined since 1988, with larger
decreases occurring among blacks, federal health officials said Thursday. The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention said the rate of deaths caused by heart failure fell 8
percent from 116.9 per 100,000 elderly adults in 1988 to 107.6 per 100,000 in 1995. The
decline was twice as great among black women and almost three times as large for black men
aged 65 and over, the agency said, crediting improved control of high blood pressure and
better access to appropriate medical care for Medicare recipients.
Ottawa, July 28, 1998 - Finance Minister's Statement on the Seniors Benefit
Finance Minister Paul Martin today issued the following statement regarding Canada's
retirement income system:
"Good morning. Canada's retirement income system is considered a model to the rest of
the world. Taken as a whole, it is a reflection of the values that underpin our
Canada's retirement system represents a shared responsibility that reaches across
generations to echo our history and herald our future as a caring and compassionate
In 1995, recognizing that demographic pressures stemming from an ageing population would
begin to exert themselves forcefully on the public pension system, we began to take steps
to guarantee its sustainability for future generations.
First, working as joint custodians with the provinces we undertook to return the Canada
Pension Plan to a sustainable footing as did Quebec in the case of the Quebec Pension Plan
(QPP). Second, we proposed the restructuring of the OAS/GIS into a new integrated
Seniors Benefit. It is this proposal that I wish to discuss this morning.
The reform of the OAS/GIS was launched at a time when our choices were restricted by the
overwhelming constraint of a $38 billion deficit and, as importantly, a debt-to-GDP ratio
that had risen virtually uninterrupted since the mid-1970s.
Because of these two very real fiscal factors, the proposal made in 1995 represented the
best choice available at the time. That being said, any choice that depended on taking
money out of the retirement income system was far from ideal. Three years later, our
prospects have changed for the better and a much wider set of choices is now available.
First, as mentioned, the federal and provincial governments acting jointly have
implemented reforms that have succeeded in diminishing much of the structural pressure on
the CPP and QPP.
In 1995, we projected that by the year 2030, the cost of maintaining our public pension
system would rise by three percentage points relative to our GDP. Of that, fully two
percentage points was attributed to the spending pressures associated with the CPP and
QPP. As a consequence of the reforms already implemented, therefore, the source of
two-thirds of the long-term cost pressures has been addressed.
Second, our fiscal situation has undergone an unprecedented turnaround. Thanks to the
determination of Canadians the budget is balanced for the first time in nearly thirty
years, putting the nation's debt-to-GDP ratio on a steady downward track. This has
happened much more quickly than anyone - in government, or in the private sector - had
Furthermore, productivity growth is the strongest it has been since 1984. Investment is
booming, and the prospects for long-term economic growth are very positive.
In 1995 debt servicing ate up thirty-six cents of every federal dollar in revenue. By 1998
that had fallen to thirty cents and in the future, it should continue to fall even further
- creating greater flexibility to address core national priorities such as secure public
pensions, when the baby boomers begin to retire.
Therefore, in light of the structural enhancements to the public pension system, the
turnaround in the country's economic prospects, and because of our commitment to sound
fiscal management, the government is today announcing that the proposed Seniors' Benefit
will not proceed. The existing OAS/GIS system will be fully maintained.
Quite bluntly, in 1995 the option to fully preserve the OAS/GIS by simply choosing to fund
it for the future did not practically exist. Today it does. And we are taking that option
because it represents the best possible choice - a choice that represents our values as a
government, a society and a nation. This decision is part of the long range benefit
arising out of the balanced budget and a declining debt-to-GDP ratio.
I would stress however, that today's fiscal success will need to be matched by continued
fiscal vigilance in the future - this on our part and indeed on the part of successor
governments. This is an obligation we accept as a fundamental consequence of today's
In the fourteen years between now and when the baby boomers begin to retire, we will no
doubt experience a number of ups and downs in the economic cycle. It is only by dedicating
ourselves to disciplined financial management that we will preserve our ability to fund
Canadians' most valued priorities. It would be a mistake to allow any discussion of the
Seniors Benefit to pass without mentioning the many Canadians who came forward to share
their views about the proposal during the public consultation process.
For well over two years my colleagues and I have met with individual Canadians, seniors
groups, representatives of the pension industry, social groups and business associations
from across the country. To all those who participated in this process let me extend our
sincere appreciation for the time, effort and analysis given to this very serious issue.
The government conducted extensive consultations and we are grateful to those who took the
time to share their analysis and views. Many of those we met raised concerns about the
specific design and implementation of the Senior's Benefit. Some of these concerns we
could have addressed, while others would have been more difficult to accommodate.
In the end, however, the inescapable conclusion was that to take money out of the future
public pension system at a time when the federal government will be running balanced
budgets and surpluses, simply seemed to be the wrong choice.
Where do we go from here?
In the future, work to further enhance and strengthen Canada's retirement income system
will continue. So too, we will meet the full range of responsibilities presented by an
ageing society. In particular, our commitment to those in need will continue
Indeed, from the dramatic changes that will occur in health and elder care to the
challenge of how to best encourage private savings - virtually every aspect of public
policy will feel the impact of the greying and retirement of the baby boomers.
By putting an end to nearly thirty years of deficits, we have not solved all of our
problems. Far from it. But we have given ourselves the time and the resources to make a
good system better.
Similarly, by ensuring the sustainability of the public pension system we have gained a
head start on many of our peers. The structural reforms we have already implemented put us
ahead of most other industrialized nations in coming to grips with this challenge -
including the United States.
Throughout the very difficult struggle to balance the budget, we were always clear in
saying that deficit elimination was not an end in itself but rather, was the means to a
better end. Today's announcement is a practical example of that better end.
Most importantly, it is the best means available to preserve a public pension system that
is a reflection of the values Canadians cherish. "
For further information: Scott Reid, Office of the Minister of Finance (613)
Dale Eisler, Consultations and Communications (613) 995-5683
President Clinton on July 6, 1998 announced steps to increase Medicare
and Medicaid participation by low-income Americans through programs that assist with
premiums and other costs, Reuters news service is reporting.
With the Republican-led Congress generally unwilling to support his legislative agenda,
President Clinton is moving increasingly to a strategy of implementing change through
administrative action rather than legislation, according to news reports.
It reports, in part:
Given his limited ability to get anything through Congress, Clinton took another tack by
announcing presidential action to help poor elderly and disabled Americans to pay their
Medicare premiums and other payments.
Created in 1965, Medicare is a government health care program for the elderly that is
broadly split in two parts: Part A, which covers hospital care, and Part B, an optional
plan that covers outpatient care.
Clinton directed the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) and the Social Security
Administration to enroll up to 3 million into the existing "Qualified Medicare
Beneficiary" (QMB) program.
Under the QMB program, individuals with incomes of up to $8,290 and couples with incomes
of up to $11,090 per year could get government aid to pay for their Medicare Part A and B
premiums as well as deductibles and co-payments.
Under three related programs, people with incomes higher than that could get government
assistance to pay for all or part of the Part B premiums.
HHS will inform people about the programs by distributing pamphlets to all 38 million
Medicare beneficiaries this autumn, by informing new Medicare recipients and by
highlighting it on the http://www.medicare.gov
The Social Security Administration will also send details about the program along with its
annual cost-of-living notices to Social Security recipients this autumn."
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