Friday, February 17, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert February 17, 2012 edition


Coyle Concerned About Proposed Means-Testing for Medicare
President Obama released his FY 2013 budget on Monday. While his administration does not propose changes to Social Security, there are several Medicare proposals which could cause beneficiaries to pay increased out-of-pocket expenses over time. One proposal would increase the number and share of beneficiaries who pay a higher, income-related premium. According to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation (http://bit.ly/zd7msE), means-testing could lead higher-income, healthier seniors to drop out of Medicare Part B and self-insure, leaving behind a smaller, less healthy group of seniors who would pay higher premiums. Additionally, Kaiser noted that over time, the income thresholds involved could be frozen, resulting in higher premiums for those who, by today's standards, may not be considered higher-income seniors.

“Means-testing opens the door to changing the unique, historical structure of Medicare as a broad, social-insurance program for retirees.  An alternative way to lower Medicare costs would be to end the 2003 corporate loophole that prohibits Medicare from negotiating volume discounts from pharmaceutical companies,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “President Obama has been a leader in protecting the well-being of America's seniors.  He has stood strong for Social Security, and his Affordable Care Act is helping millions of seniors better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription.  In the coming weeks we will be discussing our concerns on this specific issue with Administration and congressional officials,” Mr. Coyle added.

One positive about the budget: In May of last year, the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) - a coalition that includes the Alliance - had written to Michael Astrue, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, to express concerns about a decision to suspend the production and mailing of Social Security earnings benefit statements. The President’s budget calls for the full reinstatement of mailing the Social Security statement to workers at least 25-years-old in FY 2013.

Payroll Tax Cut Bill Affects Medicare Reimbursements, Unemployment Benefits
On Friday, the U.S. House and Senate passed H.R. 3630, the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011, heading off a 27% cut in reimbursements for physicians who treat Medicare patients. The respective House and Senate votes were 293-132 and 60-36. Without action, the reimbursement decrease would have taken effect on March 1. The bill would also continue a 2-percentage-point cut in the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax, which is deducted from workers’ paychecks, through 2012. For a family earning $50,000 a year, the cut saves $1,000 annually. “It is unfortunate that the legislation could not be passed without Republican demands that will hurt both the unemployed and federal employees,” said Mr. Coyle. For more, go to http://wapo.st/xuN8c7.

Romney Flip-Flops on Social Security and Medicare
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney vowed at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) late last Friday to cut Social Security and Medicare (http://bit.ly/yc8B5x). With that statement, he was saying the exact opposite of what he’d promised in Florida just two weeks earlier, when he claimed, “We will never go after Medicare or Social Security, we will protect those programs” (http://bit.ly/AqWxuf). Romney specified that he would raise the retirement age for Social Security at the CPAC event.

Pivoting to discuss the auto industry on Wednesday this week in Michigan, Romney said, “I’ve taken on union bosses before and I’m happy to take them on again. I sure won’t give in to UAW.”

“Mr. Romney opposed the 2009 automobile industry bailout,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Fortunately, he wasn't in a position to make that decision, or thousands of workers would have lost their jobs while retirees lost their retiree health care benefits and pensions.”

Health Care Reform Helps Deliver Preventive Care to 86 Million Americans
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced on Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act provided approximately 54 million Americans with at least one new free preventive service in 2011 through their private health insurance plans. She also announced that an estimated 32.5 million people with Medicare received at least one free preventive benefit in 2011, including the new Annual Wellness Visit, since the health reform law was enacted. Together, this means an estimated 86 million Americans were helped by health reform’s prevention coverage improvements. The HHS report on expanded preventive benefits in Medicare and other ways that the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare is available at http://www.cms.gov/newsroom.

To see Rep. Donna Edwards’ (D-MD) one-minute Affordable Care Act speech on the House floor on Tuesday, beside the Alliance's Valentine’s Day poster, click on http://bit.ly/A7xOaQ.

New Database Provides Economic Security Data for Elders and Families
Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) has unveiled its new Economic Security Database, which provides local information on how much families and older adults need to make ends meet. Specifically, The Basic Economic Security Tables™ (BEST) Index and the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) measure the incomes workers and retired adults need to achieve economic security. Both measures are comprehensive definitions of economic security, presented at the state, county and city levels. WOW invites you to use the database in your work and share with your networks. To access the database, go to www.BasicEconomicSecurity.org

WOW currently works with 17 state partners on the Elder Economic Security Initiative, including the Iowa & North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans. On Tuesday, the North Carolina Alliance and WOW hosted an event to release the new North Carolina Elder Economic Security Initiative™ Program in Wake Forest. “Dozens of seniors attended, and television and print media gave the event enormous media coverage,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “If you are interested in how you can use the data in your state or have any questions, please contact Maggie Flowers at mflowers@wowonline.org or 202.464.1596.”

                     
Download a printable version of this document http://bit.ly/yYvqHA.

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