Over 150 Alliance members from northeastern states gathered this week in Philadelphia for workshops and presentations to help educate and mobilize retirees for the 2012 elections. Retiree activists participated in training sessions to learn the latest developments on Medicare and health care reform from experts Kathleen Otte, Jaime Torres and Joanne Grossi of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; information on how Social Security will affect this year’s elections; and strategies for grassroots organizing and fund-raising.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) spoke at the convention luncheon on Tuesday. Other speakers included Pennsylvania Alliance President Jean Friday; Secretary-Treasurer of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO Liz McElroy; national Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling; Government and Political Affairs Director Rich Fiesta, who outlined 2012 electoral issues and the importance of the senior vote; and Trishala Deb from Caring Across Generations. Paul Lemmon of Labor 2012 stressed the importance of the union retiree vote in Pennsylvania, the week’s gathering spot, his home state, and also a swing state. Cindy Smalls of the AFL-CIO discussed new state voting laws that could lower the overall turnout. Several other dynamic presenters also lent their expertise.
Alliance members elected four activists to the Regional Board – James Parent, Nancy True, Jodi Weinreich, and William Finelli. For a slideshow of event photos, go to http://bit.ly/J6yd7p.
Part of the Paul Ryan Plan Gets a Bad Review from its own Creator
The co-creator of the concept that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is relying upon to “reform” Medicare no longer thinks it will work. Henry Aaron, now of the Brookings Institution, and former Urban Institute president Robert Reischauer came up with the idea of “premium support” in 1995. Aaron got the chance to tell Ryan about his change of heart at a recent Capitol Hill hearing.
The basic idea of the Aaron-Reischauer plan is to let people pick their health insurers in the private market, subsidize the premiums, and let competition drive down costs. That’s also the theory behind Ryan's plan. It differs from Aaron's original vision -- in part because it has fewer protections for beneficiaries -- but the essential concept is the same. Aaron said this isn’t the time to test it out.
“In the years since Bob Reischauer and I put this idea forward, I've changed my mind,” Aaron told the House Ways and Means Committee. The big reason is that Aaron has seen no evidence since the two men came up with the idea that their assumptions have been borne out.
As reported and explained more fully in The Huffington Post at http://huff.to/KeR30B, a key assumption was that risk would be better adjusted among companies, so that if one insurer suddenly were saddled with an unusually expensive population, it would share the costs with other insurers or the government. That would keep costs down, because it would remove some of the incentive to cherry-pick healthier customers or shun sicker ones.
“At least when the plan was originally created, Congress regulated private industries and insurers more,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “The Ryan plan would take the concept and remove the regulation part.”
Visit http://1.usa.gov/J0nJ9Y to view Aaron's full testimony. The Alliance thanks Karen Spivey, who posted a link for this story on our Facebook page and originally brought the story to us.
House Voter Rights Bill Aims to Stop Voter Suppression
On Thursday, Rep. John Lewis (GA), House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC), Rep. John Conyers (MI), and Rep. Robert Brady (PA) unveiled “The Voter Empowerment Act,” comprehensive voting rights legislation. The bill will modernize voter registration, ensure equal access to the ballot box for all Americans, and prohibit deceptive practices and voter fraud that keep people from exercising their constitutional right to vote. The legislation is aimed at combating efforts in several states to pass unprecedented laws that would prevent disabled, minority, elderly, low-income, and other Americans from casting their ballots.
“Given voter identification requirement efforts in Pennsylvania as well as many other states, this legislation is crucial,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.
Medicare Legislation Would Raise Eligibility Age to 70, Threaten Federal Workers
Republicans in the Senate announced reform legislation several weeks ago that would wind down Medicare and open the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) to all Medicare-eligible seniors. The Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act (S. 2196), introduced on March 15 by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah) and Jim DeMint (S.C.), would allow all Medicare-eligible patients to enroll in FEHBP plans beginning in 2014. The existing Medicare program eventually would sunset.
According to Federal Daily (http://bit.ly/FSigQg), the legislation also gradually would increase the initial eligibility age for seniors over a period of 20 years from age 65 to 70, at a rate of three months per year. The sponsors claim the plan would save $1 trillion over the first 10 years.
“Don’t be fooled. This proposal would end Medicare as we know it and threaten health benefits for federal employees,” Ms. Easterling said. “Given the current environment of severe budget cuts, we should all be very afraid of plans like this.”
Online Social Security Statements Provide Earnings and Benefit Information
A new online Social Security Statement is now available at www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement. The web site provides eligible workers with secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefit information. In addition, the portal includes links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability and Medicare. In February 2012, the Social Security Administration also resumed mailing paper statements to workers age 60 and older if they are not already receiving Social Security benefits.
Download a printable version of this document http://bit.ly/JcIClm.