On Monday, the White House’s Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement, held a “Tweet-up” and conference call for seniors with Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Alliance for Retired Americans members seized the opportunity to get their health care, Medicare, and Social Security policy questions answered using Twitter and social networking. Approximately 90 questions were emailed to the Alliance or sent in via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter in advance of the event, and the participating Administration officials answered several of them. White House staff considered the event one of the most successful Tweet-up events they have hosted, based on the number of questions received, activity in the days leading up to the event, and the level of enthusiasm. “Even many Alliance state chapters who do not yet have a strong presence on Twitter were able to do a great deal to foster participation, especially by encouraging lots of email questions,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.
Obama Administration, Alliance Members in Several States Take on Voter ID Laws
Officials at the U.S Department of Justice, including Attorney General Eric Holder, and other members of the Obama Administration are fighting voter suppression efforts in states all across the country. The various forms of legislation would hurt seniors’ access to the ballot box in many ways, including: requiring an ID to vote; limiting voters’ rights to be directed to the correct precinct; limiting the time to vote by mail; creating more hurdles for boards of elections to send ballot applications; and blocking the ability for these boards to cover the postage to return a ballot. “The Voter Identification bills and voter suppression efforts vary in different states, but they are all ‘a solution in search of a problem’ - since evidence of widespread voter fraud is non-existent,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. Alliance chapters in states such as Florida, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have taken strong action to block these efforts, including: lobby visits to state legislators; testifying before the state legislature; speaking on talk radio; rallies; placing letters to the editor; online activism; press conferences; and circulating petitions to repeal recently passed voter suppression laws.
On the Web: Presidents’ Day Lobby Week Toolkit, Link to New Rhode Island Site
The Alliance’s Presidents’ Day Lobby Week Toolkit contains talking points, fact sheets, and all the background you might need to protect Social Security and Medicare at lobby visits during the Presidents’ Day Recess Week, February 20-24. The toolkit is available on the Alliance web site at http://www.retiredamericans.org/issues/Retiree_Resources. Also, the new Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans web site, www.ri-ara.org, is now up and running. There are links to many organizations of interest to Rhode Island seniors, as well as HealthLink Wellness, Alliance News, RI AFL-CIO News, Upcoming Events, and RI ARA Dental, Eye and Hearing Discount pages.
Doctors – and Seniors - Can’t Afford Medicare Payment Cuts
Policymakers in Washington are still polarized over the payroll tax cut debate, and this deadlock has trickled down into a heated debate over proposed Medicare cuts. If an agreement is not reached by the end of February, doctors will receive a 27% reduction in Medicare payments. There is not much time left to act. According to Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), several doctors have already begun to tell many Medicare recipients that they can no longer accept Medicare, leaving many seniors with fewer options for treatment and services. House Republicans want to avoid cuts in payments to doctors by reducing certain Medicare payments to hospitals, while House Democrats want to offset Medicare costs for doctors using funding from the declining wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The payroll tax legislation would also continue jobless benefits for many of the nation’s unemployed.
Social Security Presents Obama with Opportunity to Win Over Hispanic Voters
According to Politico (http://politi.co/ykr2MP), it’s likely that “Team Obama” will spend a lot of its Spanish advertising budget on a generic Social Security message to older Latinos, a group that is disproportionately dependent on Social Security for retirement income. Three-quarters of Hispanic Social Security recipients derive at least half their income from their monthly check, 10 points higher than the general population. Only 20 percent of Latino retirees have pensions, half the national average. And, Politico adds, the national poverty rate for Hispanics ages 65 and older is 19 percent — “compared with 8 percent of the white elderly.”
Medicare Expected to be a Major Issue in Congressional Races
In various congressional seat races across the country, the issue of Medicare has also become a key election issue. Many Democratic candidates are looking to oust current Republicans who support various cuts to the program, especially those who support House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to privatize it. According to The New York Times (http://nyti.ms/y6rqcu), Medicare is expected to be a hot-button issue for the next decade. “There is a great deal of misinformation out there about Medicare, and it is important that Alliance members help educate their neighbors on the facts,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.
Nevada Alliance Celebrates Valentine’s Day with Vets
The reigning Miss University of Nevada, Ashton Sunsiri, and Miss Reno/Sparks, Madeline Burak, are joining members of the Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans (NARA) this morning to distribute valentines at Reno's Ioannis A. Lougaris Veterans Medical Center. “The purpose of the event is to show the compassion, appreciation and respect the more than 17,000 members of NARA have for our veterans on the day our society expresses love," stated NARA coordinator Gail Dietrich. "We thank them for serving our country. We want them to know just how much we value their sacrifices and cherish them as individuals,” Dietrich added.
Regional Meetings to Begin Later This Month in Las Vegas
The Alliance’s Regional Meetings will take place beginning on February 29 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Matthew Rothschild, Editor of The Progressive magazine, will speak at the Midwest Regional Meeting’s March 6 lunch in Milwaukee. He will comment on the political landscape in the Midwest and across the nation. For more information on the regional meeting for your part of the country, please go to http://bit.ly/yiqB8n.
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