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Insurance Premiums, Social Security and Taxes

February 12, 2010 issue of the Friday Alert from the Alliance for Retired Americans

Insurance Premium Increase of 39% in California Adds to Health Reform Urgency

The health care problem remains on the center stage now that Anthem Blue Cross of California has unveiled rate increases of up to 39 percent for its 800,000 individual policyholders. The increases, which will take effect on March 1, far outpace the increases of 10 to 25% seen in previous years among most insurers offering individual policies. Kaiser Health News and The San Diego Union-Tribune report that as the economy slowly recovers, health insurance costs for those with individual policies continue to increase due to larger numbers of unemployed and those relying on government health care programs. As a result, "hospitals and doctors are passing on more of their uncompensated costs to patients with private insurance." The San Francisco Chronicle adds that "California physical, occupational and speech therapists are also taking issue with Anthem. The therapists said the insurer cut their reimbursement rates by 30 to 50% on February 1. In addition, the Chronicle reports that patients covered by other health insurers, including Health Net and Aetna, are reporting being hit with sky-high increases. "This is exactly the kind of news that proves we need health care reform immediately," said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Social Security Trust Fund Analysis: Need to Look at the Long Term

Social Security took in only $3 billion more in taxes last year than it paid out in benefits - a $60 billion decline from 2008, according to federal data. The recession is blamed in part, as it added to the hundreds of thousands of workers retiring or claiming disability. USA Today, using Congressional Budget Office numbers, reports that the impact of the recession is likely to reduce Social Security revenues again this year and next. The slide in revenues occurred sooner than Social Security actuaries had expected, for several reasons: Payroll tax revenue that was growing at a 4.5% average annual clip along with wages flattened out in 2009 because of rising unemployment and disappearing pay raises; the number of retired workers who began taking benefits increased by 20%; those taking disability jumped by 10%; and monthly Social Security benefits were raised 5.8% due to a spike in energy prices the year before. Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance, responded, "The overall surplus of the Social Security Trust Fund is still $2.5 trillion; this is not a cataclysm. We must look at the financial picture of Social Security as actuaries do, over the long-term, which would be over a 75-year timeline. We cannot allow privatizers to use temporary recessions - even deep ones - to ruin the system that has worked for millions of seniors over several decades."

Tax Advice for Seniors Available from Two Sources

Did you know that taking care of grandchildren and other dependents may entitle you to additional tax breaks? Or that many states, such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, offer additional tax credits, tax breaks, property tax and rental rebates, and tax freezes for seniors? In some cases, these tax breaks are refundable, which means you may be entitled to money back even if you don't owe any tax. Click on and for additional tips. "Seniors might not be aware of all the tax breaks they are allowed under the law," said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. "The rules change every year."

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My Destroyer, the U.S.S. Walker, was tied up in Pearl Harbor.

The Newspaper headlines for several days along with lengthy articles told of a merchant ship, "the Pomona" that was tied up in Honolulu waiting for crew to take it to the far east. The Captain had been murdered while at sea and the crew was afraid that the murderer was still aboard. The ship finally got underway again and my memory is that it had rudder problems and had to return to port. Then, after getting underway again it had a fire on board and had to return again.

While on liberty one day in Honolulu, I stopped in at a saloon on my way back to my ship. There, I met a merchant sailor who happened to be a sailor aboard the Pomona. He offered to take me back to the ship and let me come aboard her. We did and headed for the bow of the ship where there was a lot of noise. There sitting on the deck were a number of sailors, mostly drunken, talking about their predicament.

This occurred sometime between 1961 and…