Monday, July 30, 2012

Seniors Beware of Balance Billing

A few weeks ago, I decided to take advantage of some of the preventive care allowed under Medicare because of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacares).

During my initial visit, the Doctor recommended I have a colonoscopy and talked me into it. Here's what Medicare covers:

"Screening Colonoscopy: Generally once every 120 months (once every 24 months if you're at high risk), or 48 months after a previous flexible sigmoidoscopy."

I went to the specialist and took the necessary preparations, reported to the hospital, and underwent the procedure.

About a week later, I received a bill from the anasthesiologist for $810 which I certainly didn't expect. I phoned my Doctor and said that I had expected Medicare to cover this procedure because of the Affordable Care Act. She said she would look into it and call me back. She did call back in a couple hours and told me all had been taken care of. I asked her why this happened and she said that the hospital evidently forgot to provide the Anthesiologist with my Insurance information.

I'm not sure, but I think the term used for this type "error" is called balance billing.

The reason I'm writing about this experience is simply to advise seniors to know what the cost of any preventive service will be including deductibles etc, and to make darned sure you're not ripped off by  some crooked medical outfit.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 7-27-12

President Obama Woos Older Voters in Florida
In a recent campaign speech to a seniors audience in West Palm Beach, President Barack Obama laid out his platform for older Americans, pointing out the clear differences between his vision for the country and Mitt Romney’s. “You should retire with dignity and respect, and you should be able to provide your children, and hopefully your grandchildren, with opportunities that you might not even have imagined that they’re going to do even better than you did,” said Obama.  Alliance activists Bill Cea, Mark and Martha Boston, and Frank Angel attended the event.

New Senate Report on “Retirement Crisis”
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today released a new report noting that, “for most of the middle class, the dream of a secure retirement is slipping out of reach.”  Harkin, chair of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said what he terms a “retirement crisis” is rooted in the breakdown of private pensions, personal savings, and Social Security.  He recommends a two-pronged approach to the problem: improvements to Social Security that will increase benefits and the program’s long-term finances, and universal access to a new private pension plan that pools savings in way that both reduces risk and relieves the burden on employers, particularly small businesses.

The new Senate report finds that there is a collective $6.6 trillion gap between what people have saved for retirement and what they need.  The study notes that half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings, and only one in five private sector workers have a defined pension plan.  “Workers and retirees should be terribly disturbed by the findings in Senator Harkin’s report,” said Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle, who recently joined 100 other Alliance members in a conference call with Senator Harkin to discuss his legislation, The Rebuild America Act (S. 2252).  For more information on the new report, visit www.help.senate.gov and for an Alliance fact sheet on Rebuild America Act, http://bit.ly/MJ556W.

Alliance Members Say: Let’s Not Be the Last Generation to Retire
The Alliance’s Let’s Not Be the Last Generation to Retire campaign is underway, with events this week on Capitol Hill and in Arizona, Florida, Maine, Ohio, Vermont, and Washington.   Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling joined nine U.S. House members at a press conference to celebrate Monday’s 47th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid.  Easterling said that these programs have, “been tremendous successes.  But if the wrong candidates win this November, all that we have accomplished could become a thing of the past.”  To join your fellow Alliance members at an event near you, visit http://bit.ly/OIXw0B.

Health Law Saves $3.9 Billion on Prescriptions for People with Medicare
As a result of the Affordable Care Act, over 5.2 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved over $3.9 billion on prescription drugs since the law was enacted, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced this week.  The federal agency said that in the first half of 2012, over 1 million people with Medicare saved a total of $687 million on prescription drugs in “doughnut hole” coverage gap for an average of $629 in savings this year.

Since the law was enacted, seniors and people with disabilities have had several opportunities to save on prescription drugs.  In 2010, people with Medicare who hit the doughnut hole received a one-time $250 rebate. These rebates totaled $946 million for 2010.  In 2011, people with Medicare began receiving a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 7 percent coverage of generic drugs in the doughnut hole. Last year, these discounts totaled over $2.3 billion in savings.  This year, Medicare coverage for generic drugs in the coverage gap has risen to 14 percent. For the first six months of the year, people with Medicare have saved $687 million.

Wisconsin Alliance President to Tell Democratic Leaders of Need for Social Security and Medicare
Wisconsin Alliance President Leon Burzynski will testify tomorrow before the Democratic National Convention Platform Drafting Committee.  At the panel’s meeting in Minneapolis, Burzynski will, on behalf of the Alliance, urge the Democratic Party to “include a strong, forceful platform plank that is unconditionally committed to preserving, protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare.”

For members of the Alliance, Burzynski will say, “Social Security and Medicare are rooted in old-fashioned American values.  They embody the advice we give to our younger generations:  work hard, save some money for the long-term, and when you are older, you will be able to relax after decades of hard work.  But to Mitt Romney and the Bain Capitals of the world, Social Security and Medicare are just two more funds that can be privatized and raided for their own personal gain.” Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling was recently appointed as member of the party’s Platform Committee.

CT Alliance Activist Named to State Panel
Kevin Lynch, former president of the Connecticut Alliance and a former Regional Board member was recently appointed by leaders of the state’s General Assembly to a new 16-person Aging in Place Task Force.  Connecticut, like all states with an aging population, is facing increased challenges associated with helping older residents remain in their communities.  “Kevin Lynch was an outstanding pick for this new panel.  Connecticut seniors are in good hands with such a knowledgeable and passionate advocate on their side,” said Alliance Secretary-Treasurer Ruben J. Burks.

More Photos from Biden Event
Check out the Alliance’s Flickr site for more photos from Alliance members recent visit with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House.  Alliance members from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC spent a morning at the White House, hearing the Vice President and key Administration leaders discuss seniors issues.  Three retiree activists with the Alliance spoke on a White House panel: Missouri’s Judith Parker, New York’s Stu Leibowitz, and Maryland’s Carolyn Caulk-Smith.  Click here http://bit.ly/OqfoAd to see the photos.


For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/N1UqV0.


Monday, July 23, 2012

A Great Day For All Americans

The Supreme Court ruling on June 28, 2012, upholding the Affordable Care Act, was a great day for all Americans. Because of this ruling, millions of Americans who have pre-existing conditions can no longer be rejected by insurance companies, families with children under 26 can keep their children on their health insurance policies and women can no longer be charged far higher premiums than men.

Because of this decision, 30 million uninsured Americans will have access to healthcare. Seniors will continue to see their prescription drug costs go down and the so-called doughnut hole disappear. This ruling is good for small businesses who simply cannot continue to afford the escalating costs of providing insurance for their employees and millions of Americans will be able to find access to quality health care through community health centers.

The Affordable Care Act is an important step in the right direction and I am glad that the Supreme Court upheld it. We cannot afford to go backwards, but that is what Mitt Romney and the Republican leadership in Congress would do. If they have their way, coverage would be reduced and health care costs would skyrocket. They would shift costs to working families, retirees and the states, while their fat-cat supporters continued to rake in obscene profits from a broken system.

The election this November provides a clear choice between the President, who has stood for fairness and for working men and women, and Romney, who urges repealing health insurance protection for middle America in order to line the pockets of a chosen few. We cannot let that happen!

Connie Entrekin, SOAR President

Sunday, July 22, 2012

It's Time To Move On

The Supreme Court recently upheld the Affordable Care Act, but the Republican led Congress once again went through the charade of voting to appeal it, knowing all along that it would never get to a vote in the Senate.  The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and it is time to move on.

It’s unbelievable to me that Congress can find the time for sham votes and lousy theater, yet they are unable to vote on a jobs bill that would put America back to work. Give me break!

This Congress is more concerned about making our President look bad then they are about the welfare of their fellow Americans. It is time for Congress to quit playing games and to get to work. There is much to do and we cannot wait until November to get it done.

The economy is starting to rebound and we need to keep it going in the right direction.  Congress needs to pass the President’s job bill to put more of our citizens back to work.  They need to address the problem of currency manipulation by China to level the playing field on foreign trade and they must pass the middle-class tax cuts proposed by the Administration.

It’s time to move on and quit playing games with our future - the time for action is now! 

Jim Centner, SOAR Director

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 7-20-12

Biden Reaffirms Administration Commitment to Retirees
On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden called out GOP leaders for having “different values” when it comes to critical issues such as Social Security, health care, and Medicare at the White House Community Leaders briefing on senior issues.  Biden pointed to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the Republican House Budget, saying that the GOP would sacrifice the interests and well-being of seniors for the sake of tax cuts.  Missouri Alliance Organizer Judith Parker joined fellow Alliance members at the White House and also spoke, giving examples of the Obama administration’s record of support for seniors. For a photo from the event, go to http://bit.ly/Mdy8Ao.

“We stand with the Vice President and Judith against the GOP assault on retirees, which embraces privatizing Medicare and cutting Social Security benefits,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Let’s not be the Last Generation to Retire Campaign Heats up as Temperatures Rise
More than 40 events are scheduled for the Alliance’s “Let’s not be the Last Generation to Retire” campaign this summer, which includes celebrations of the anniversaries of Medicare and Medicaid (July 30) and Social Security (August 14). The events simultaneously serve the purpose of conveying to the public and Members of Congress how crucial these programs are to seniors, and they express the Alliance’s opposition to benefit cuts. To find an event near you, go to http://www.bit.ly/OIXw0C.

As part of this effort, activists are sending Letters to the Editor of their local papers on those themes. If you write a letter that is published, the Alliance will send you a free, union-made “Retirees with the Write Stuff” pen. Most recently, Adolphe Bernotas, Mark Boston, Luis Duran, Earl Frampton, Barbara Franklin, Tony Fransetta, Dave Jones, Earline Jones, Dick Kern, Gene Lantz, Anne Loeffler, Diana Mackey, Dave Meinell, Charlie Williams, and Warren Wish have contributed to their local papers. If you have had a letter published, please e-mail aracommunications@retiredamericans.org.

Sen. Tom Harkin Talks to Alliance Activists about the Rebuild America Act
On Thursday, over 100 Alliance activists from across the country dialed in to speak with U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) about Social Security and pensions. The Senator took questions and spoke about his top legislative priority: the Rebuild America Act (S. 2252). The Rebuild America Act includes a number of provisions that strengthen Social Security by improving the solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds and, at the same time, improving the benefit calculations and annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for all Social Security programs.

“Not only can we not cut Social Security, we have to increase Social Security benefits,” the Senator said. For more on the Rebuild America Act, go to http://bit.ly/MJ556X.

Pennsylvania Alliance Joins Lawsuit against State’s Voter ID Law
The Pennsylvania Alliance has joined with other retiree advocacy groups to file an amicus brief in the case of Viviette Applewhite, et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The lawsuit seeks to find Act 18 of 2012 - which requires photo identification at the polls - unconstitutional on the grounds that it unduly affects senior citizens and prevents them from voting.  The brief states that the law alienates older Pennsylvanians from their constitutional right to have their voice heard at the ballot box, as the burden placed on some is insurmountable.  Other groups included in the brief include the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the Pennsylvania Homecare Association.

Pennsylvania Alliance President Jean Friday said, “This is a strong step to defend the suffrage of older Pennsylvanians.  Act 18 of 2012 disproportionately affects seniors, and must be deemed unconstitutional before the November elections.”

Coalition Urges Tax Increases, Benefit Cuts under Simpson-Bowles
According to The Washington Post, a group of businessmen, former politicians, and budget experts has launched a $25 million campaign to gain support for a far-reaching deficit-reduction plan that includes slashing retirement benefits. They hope to raise more money through a simplified tax code and spend less on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Called simply “Fix the Debt,” the campaign was started by former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, whose deficit reduction plan met opposition from the White House and was never officially backed in Congress. For more details, go to http://wapo.st/NUlXut.

“Once again, the Simpson-Bowles plan is rearing its ugly head to balance the budget on the backs of retirees,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.  For more, read the Alliance fact sheet about benefit-slashing budget plans at http://bit.ly/M7vtad, and share it with others!

AFL-CIO: Romney is “Mr. 1%”
The AFL-CIO has unveiled a new website to draw voters’ attention to Mitt Romney’s proposals that hurt working families and retirees.  Called, “Meet Mitt Romney: Mr. 1%” and available at http://bit.ly/Oa7bhF,  the site urges Americans to see that Romney is planning to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid while padding his own pockets and the bank accounts of the wealthiest 1%.  The site also draws attention to Romney’s shady background in finance, which included laying off thousands of Americans and shipping jobs overseas while making Romney millions.  The presumed Republican nominee has also faced criticism over when he exactly retired from Bain Capital, with campaign spokespeople going so far as to say that he “retroactively retired” in 1999 despite still serving as Bain’s president until 2002.

“To ‘retroactively retire’ is just another trick of 1 percenters like Romney,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Mitt Romney can sit back and make millions while shipping American jobs overseas, but the rest of us will retire the old-fashioned way, and still need programs like Social Security and Medicare that he wants to cut.”

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/NDDCY2.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Scoop on Romney

Great Harm Done To Hoosiers

Indiana Home Care Task Force
One North Capitol Avenue,
Suite 1025 Indianapolis, IN 46204 F

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 and Thursday, July 19, 2012
Contact: John Cardwell, 317.441.3812 or 317.841.9672

COURT’S RULING IN THE IBM CASE CONFIRMS THE GREAT HARM DONE TO HOOSIERS BY WELFARE PRIVATIZATION….SADLY, THAT HARM CONTINUES

(Indianapolis) Today, the Indiana Home Care Task Force responded to the ruling by Judge David Dreyer in favor of IBM in that company’s legal battle vs. the Daniels administration and the Indiana Family and Social Services (FSSA) over the failed privatization of the state’s welfare system. Judge Dreyer ruled the state owes IBM $12.5 million for equipment and contract termination payments. Judge Dreyer had earlier ruled the state owes IBM $40 million for subcontractor fees. The state received nothing in the judge’s ruling. The state had been seeking $150 million in damages.

One of the earliest opponents to welfare privatization was the Indiana Home Care Task Force. John Cardwell, the chair of the Task Force, commented on the July 18th ruling:

 “The Task Force wants to thank Judge Dreyer for his ruling, and for recognizing the great harm that has been done to Hoosiers throughout the state by welfare privatization. Perhaps, his ruling can sow the seeds for establishing a humane system of public benefits so Hoosiers in the future will not be needlessly and wrongly harmed as they have since the end of 2006.

 “Citizens and their elected representatives in the Indiana State House and in Washington, D.C. should know and recognize this. The original welfare privatization scheme was designed in a manner that greatly benefitted the financial interests of ACS at a time when former employees of that company worked in senior management positions within the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). FSSA and the Daniels administration were wrong in their handling of welfare privatization from day one, and created dubious data to justify their action.

 “ACS benefitted far more than IBM from welfare privatization, and was involved in the actions at the local level that harmed senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and families. These were people that needed and qualified for medical assistance, nutrition assistance, and family supports in order to maintain their health and safety. ACS continues to be a direct beneficiary of welfare privatization and continues to operate public benefit programs in a manner that harms the people served by those programs.

“The rulings by Judge Dreyer are appropriate. The rulings by Judge Dreyer represent a measure of needed justice. But the rulings by the court do not address the fundamental harm that continues to this day as a result of welfare privatization. People are still getting poor care through FSSA’s Division of Family Resources and the private companies, such as ACS, that were not fired at the time IBM was dismissed by Governor Daniels.

“The elected officials that represent Hoosier taxpayers in the Indiana General Assembly and in the U.S. Congress should still demand and get a full third party audit of Indiana’s welfare system, top to bottom. The Medicaid, food stamp and family assistance data reported by the state to the federal government should be examined penny by penny to determine who is benefitting from those programs: citizens that need medical care, food and shelter, or private companies. We need to know where all the pennies are being spent and why.

“It is a public disgrace that hospitals, nursing homes, area agencies on aging, and charity clinics have been forced since welfare privatization to hire persons to help citizens through the eligibility determination nightmare that has been created by Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Those tasks should be handled by FSSA’s Division of Family Resources using public employees working in local offices that are fully accessible to the elderly, persons with disabilities, and low income families. “The public deserves a truthful accounting of the welfare privatization debacle. The public needs to know the corruption claims by the Daniels administration in 2005 to justify welfare privatization were false. The public needs to know the current bad system that replaced the old system must now be replaced.

The public needs to know it is possible to put in place public benefit programs that are efficient, which have little or no corruption, and which humanely serve the medical, nutrition and shelter needs of citizens that need those services. Other states have figured out how to properly administer these public programs. Indiana must do the same.”

Monday, July 16, 2012

MIke Pence Speaks With Forked Tongue

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Monday July 16, 2012
Media Contact: Jeff Harris, Indiana State AFL-CIO, 317.632.9147

GUYOTT: PENCE’S RHETORIC DOESN’T MATCH RECORD
Pence votes to block consideration of bill to end tax breaks for off shoring jobs

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott issued the following statement in reaction to a procedural vote Congressman Mike Pence cast last week that blocked consideration of the Bring Jobs Home Act.

The legislation sought to eliminate tax loopholes that reward American corporations that ship jobs overseas, replacing them with incentives for U.S. companies that move jobs and business operations to America from another country.

Last Tuesday, Pence voted on a motion (H.R. 5542) that shut off debate and prevented an amendment from being offered that would have called for a vote on the Bring Jobs Home Act. Instead Pence supported a measure to take another irrelevant vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, the 33rd such vote.

“When it comes to job creation, Congressman Mike Pence’s record doesn’t match his rhetoric. While campaigning for governor he claims that “jobs” are his top priority yet when given the chance to bring legislation to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives that would help create thousands of jobs for working men and women, Mike Pence voted the wrong way.

Congressman’s Pence’s vote was a vote to preserve the outrageous practice of giving corporations our tax dollars to help them ship American jobs overseas. It was a vote to block millions of American jobs from coming back home. And, it was a vote that put a higher priority on partisan politics than on creating jobs.

Mike Pence should be ashamed and all Hoosiers should be alarmed.”

Specifically, the Bring Jobs Home Act allows companies to qualify for tax credits equal to 20 percent of the cost associated with bringing jobs and business activity back to the United States. It also ends a tax deduction for companies that outsource jobs and business activity. Under existing law, the cost of moving personnel and components of a company to a new location is defined as a business expense that qualifies for a tax deduction. If passed, this legislation would keep this deduction in place for companies that bring jobs and business activity back to the U.S. but businesses would no longer be eligible for the tax break for shipping jobs overseas.

The Indiana State AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) is a federation of 800 local unions across the state belonging to 50 International Unions. In total, the Indiana State AFL-CIO represents more than 300,000 working Hoosiers.

For more information on please visit www.inaflcio.org or call 1-800-433-8423.

###

Friday, July 13, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 7-13-2012

Legislators, Alliance Members Rebuke Those Voting to Repeal Health Care Reform
On Wednesday, supporters of President Obama’s health care law and the Democratic leadership from the House of Representatives gathered at the Capitol building for a press conference to hold the Republicans accountable for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Alliance Regional Board Member and retired social studies teacher Bill Cea spoke on behalf of the Alliance, saying of the Affordable Care Act, “Not only is this good for your health, but it is also good public policy.”

The press conference was organized by the Democratic House leadership: Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) and Assistant Leader James Clyburn (SC). The three legislators had strong words for their Republican colleagues, who voted to repeal the ACA, 244-185. Five Democrats joined the full Republican caucus in voting in favor of repeal; no GOP lawmakers crossed the aisle. For a complete tally of the vote, go to http://1.usa.gov/NhMJ0k. Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle, in a strong rebuke of the Republican vote, said, “This was the 33rd vote congressional Republicans have held to repeal this law, a law that in the past two years has been approved by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court.  It is time to move on.  Political gamesmanship will not help a single retiree, worker, or student live a better, healthier life.” Click on http://bit.ly/Oda5Qw for pictures of the event, including members of the Alliance’s Regional Board standing with Democratic leaders in support of health care reform. Click on http://bit.ly/LSMwOn for video of Mr. Cea’s remarks.

Easterling Named to DNC Platform Committee
Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance, was named to the 2012 Democratic National Committee platform committee in advance of the national convention.  The committee will vote on a platform in Detroit on August 10-12 to present to convention delegates in Charlotte on September 3rd.  The platform will include a range of issues to restore the middle class and protect current and future retirees.

“I am honored to have been selected as a member of the DNC platform committee,” said Ms. Easterling.  “I pledge to ensure that the needs of retirees are well represented on the platform, and to continue full protection of the Medicare and Social Security programs.”

Republicans Try, Fail to Show Democratic Medicare Cuts
Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget was sharply criticized for cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare.  Now that the ACA has been upheld by the Supreme Court, Republicans have turned that same criticism against the Democrats. They make the false claim that the ACA will cut Medicare by $500 billion. The law actually saves $500 billion by reducing waste and fraud in Medicare, not by cutting benefits to seniors.  Much of the savings would come from lower subsidies for private insurers selling Medicare Advantage plans. The insurers could not cut basic Medicare benefits.

Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance, said, “Republicans are simply trying to distract seniors from their own record. They have voted for the Ryan budget multiple times. This budget, not the Affordable Care Act, will devastate Medicare with unreasonable cuts. The health care law will extend Medicare’s solvency and strengthen benefits for seniors.”

Southern Governors Buck Medicaid Expansion, Will Leave Poor Uninsured
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision allowing states to opt out of the Medicaid provisions of the ACA, five southern governors have chosen to abstain from expanding the program in their states.  Among those refusing are Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) and Texas Governor Rick Perry (R), whose states account for about 20 percent of all potential Medicaid beneficiaries under the ACA.  The other states denying the expansion are Louisiana, South Carolina, and Mississippi.  These governors’ choices leave millions without the health care they need in a time of economic uncertainty.

“It is outrageous that these state leaders can make a decision that denies health care coverage to millions at little cost to the state,” said Mr. Coyle.  “This is another reason why we must make our voices heard at the polls in November.”

Washington Post: Voter ID Laws Far More Likely to Hurt Legitimate Voters
Voter ID laws, which have been passed in more than two dozen states, have come under increasing scrutiny as the November election nears. These laws require that all citizens provide government issued IDs, such as a driver’s license, when they go to vote on Election Day. Several states that have passed voter ID laws are facing challenges in federal court. The Justice Department is arguing that voter ID laws are trying to solve a problem that does not really exist, and that these laws discriminate against minorities, seniors and the impoverished who often do not own government issued ID. The Washington Post affirmed this week that numbers suggest the legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent (http://wapo.st/N94qyW).

Alliance Members Protest Rhode Island General Treasurer in D.C.
Alliance activists, along with protestors from AFSCME, NEA, and AFT, demonstrated against Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo outside her fundraiser on K Street in Washington on Tuesday. The activists protested the deep cuts to Rhode Island’s public pensions that Raimondo championed.  Last year, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed and Governor Lincoln Chaffee signed the Retirement Security Act, which slashed benefits for current and future retirees.  It also limited cost-of-living increases and raised the retirement age. Raimondo is “credited” as the single driving force behind these devastating cuts. 

Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans Elects a New President
The Iowa Alliance held its convention this week in Des Moines, electing Jan Laue as its new State President. Rich Fiesta, Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs for the national Alliance, was among those who addressed the group.


For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/NHO4g3.

Alliance Standing up for the ACA

Sunday, July 08, 2012

How the Health Care Law is Making a Difference for the People of Indiana

How the Health Care Law is Making a Difference for the People of Indiana

For too long, too many hardworking Americans paid the price for policies that handed free rein to insurance companies and put barriers between patients and their doctors. The Affordable Care Act gives hardworking families in Indiana the security they deserve. The new health care law forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy because of an annual or lifetime limit, or, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition.

All Americans will have the security of knowing that they don’t have to worry about losing coverage if they’re laid off or change jobs.  And insurance companies now have to cover your preventive care like mammograms and other cancer screenings.  The new law also makes a significant investment in State and community-based efforts that promote public health, prevent disease and protect against public health emergencies.

Health reform is already making a difference for the people of Indiana by:

Providing new coverage options for young adults

Health plans are now required to allow parents to keep their children under age 26 without job-based coverage on their family coverage, and, thanks to this provision, 3.1 million young people have gained coverage nationwide. As of December 2011, 62,000 young adults in Indiana gained insurance coverage as a result of the health care law. For more details on these numbers, visit here .

Making prescription drugs affordable for seniors
Thanks to the new health care law, 89,667 people with Medicare in Indiana received a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. Since the law was enacted, Indiana residents with Medicare have saved a total of $93,514,327 on their prescription drugs. In the first five months of 2012, 16,299 people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount on their covered brand-name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. This discount has resulted in an average savings of $616 per person, and a total savings of $10,037,405 in Indiana. By 2020, the law will close the donut hole.

Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay 

In 2011, 736,054 people with Medicare in Indiana received free preventive services – such as mammograms and colonoscopies – or a free annual wellness visit with their doctor. And in the first five months of 2012, 321,140 people with Medicare received free preventive services. Because of the law, 54 million Americans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing , including 1,160,000 in Indiana.

Providing better value for your premium dollar through the 80/20 Rule 

Under the new health care law, insurance companies must provide consumers greater value by spending generally at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care and quality improvements instead of overhead, executive salaries or marketing. If they don’t, they must provide consumers a rebate or reduce premiums. This means that 283,432 Indiana residents with private insurance coverage will benefit from $14,249,673 in rebates  from insurance companies this summer. These rebates will average $99 for the 145,000 families in Indiana covered by a policy.

Scrutinizing unreasonable premium increases 
 
In every State and for the first time under Federal law, insurance companies are required to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10 percent or more. Indiana has received $4.8 million under the new law to help fight unreasonable premium increases.

Removing lifetime limits on health benefits 

The law bans insurance companies from imposing lifetime dollar limits on health benefits – freeing cancer patients and individuals suffering from other chronic diseases from having to worry about going without treatment because of their lifetime limits. Already, 2,259,000 residents, including 822,000 women and 615,000 children, are free from worrying about lifetime limits on coverage. The law also restricts the use of annual limits and bans them completely in 2014.

Creating new coverage options for individuals with pre-existing conditions 

As of April 2012, 1,092 previously uninsured residents of Indiana who were locked out of the coverage system because of a pre-existing condition are now insured through a new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan that was created under the new health reform law. To learn more about the plan available in Indiana, check here .

Supporting Indiana’s work on Affordable Insurance Exchanges
Indiana has received $7.8 million in grants for research, planning, information technology development, and implementation of Affordable Insurance Exchanges.

  • $1 million in Planning Grants:  This grant provides Indiana the resources needed to conduct the research and planning necessary to build a better health insurance marketplace and determine how its exchange will be operated and governed. Learn how the funds are being used in Indiana here .
  • $6.8 million in Exchange Establishment Grants:  These grants are helping States continue their work to implement key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Learn how the funds are being used in Indiana here .

Preventing illness and promoting health

Since 2010, Indiana has received $16.5 million in grants from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act. This new fund was created to support effective policies in Indiana, its communities, and nationwide so that all Americans can lead longer, more productive lives.

Increasing support for community health center
The Affordable Care Act increases the funding available to community health centers in all 50 states, including the 99 existing community health centers in Indiana. Health centers in Indiana have received $40.2 million to create new health center sites in medically underserved areas, enable health centers to increase the number of patients served, expand preventive and primary health care services, and/or support major construction and renovation projects.

Strengthening partnerships with Indiana

The law gives states support for their work to build the health care workforce, crack down on fraud, and support public health.  Examples of Affordable Care Act grants to Indiana not outlined above include:

  • $1.7 million for school-based health centers , to help clinics expand and provide more health care services such as screenings to students.
  • $900,000 to support outreach to eligible Medicare beneficiaries  about their benefits.
  • $286,700 for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers , organizations run by and for families with children with special health care needs.
  • $13 million for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs . These programs bring health professionals to meet with at-risk families in their homes and connect families to the kinds of help that can make a real difference in a child’s health, development, and ability to learn - such as health care, early education, parenting skills, child abuse prevention, and nutrition.
  • $4 million from the Pregnancy Assistance Fund  to provide pregnant and parenting teens and women with a seamless network of supportive services to help them complete high school or postsecondary degrees and gain access to health care, child care, family housing, and other critical support.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 7-6-12


House Prepares for July 11 Vote to Repeal New Medicare Benefits for Seniors
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is preparing for a July 11 vote to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, including new Medicare benefits that are helping millions of seniors better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription.  “If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what’s left of it,” Boehner vowed on the day before the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law.  Appearing on Fox News over the weekend, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that providing health coverage to the 30 million Americans who would obtain it under the law is “not the issue,” and instead advocated replacing the law with a more incremental approach.  “Before the July 11 repeal vote, retirees need to urge their Representative to stand up for the needs of area seniors,” said Alliance Executive Director Edward J. Coyle.

Alliance Members Take to the Streets, Airwaves to Celebrate Supreme Court Ruling
In the hours after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld health insurance reform, Alliance members across the country celebrated the ruling and vowed to protect the law’s new Medicare benefits.  In Connecticut, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, Alliance members rallied in support of health reform and participated in local media interviews.  Many activists with the Alliance were quoted and photographed in media accounts of the court ruling.  Also, Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling and Executive Director Edward J. Coyle each conducted radio interviews to comment on how the new law helps seniors and how imperative the November elections are to protect this progress.  “Thanks to all the Alliance members who braved the heat to put a local angle on how health reform is good for seniors,” said Alliance Secretary-Treasurer Ruben Burks. More here: http://bit.ly/O9BG61.

“Let’s Not Be the Last Generation to Retire” Campaign Gets Started
The Alliance’s new campaign, “Let’s Not Be the Last Generation to Retire” kicks off next week with events and actions.  Check out a new video providing context for the upcoming grassroots actions this summer here: http://bit.ly/MM1r0g.  With the anniversaries of Medicare and Medicaid (July 30) and Social Security (August 14), Alliance members across the country will hold rallies and grassroots events to meet with their elected officials to discuss the needs of current and future retirees.  Stay tuned to the website www.retiredamericans.org and Facebook facebook.com/retiredamericans for more information on events near you.  Get ready by watching this video http://bit.ly/MM1r0g and share it with others.

New Alliance Fact Sheet: Looming Threats to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid
Unless Congress acts before the end of the year, automatic cuts in federal spending are scheduled to occur in January 2013 via a process known as “sequestration.”  Both Social Security and Medicaid are protected from these automatic cuts, while Medicare fees to providers can be cut by two percent.  Medicare recipients’ benefits would not be cut by sequestration.  Some in Congress are working to stop the cuts by passing an alternative deficit reduction plan.  While it is currently unclear what this plan will look like, lawmakers have begun to suggest proposals that would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while giving tax breaks to the wealthiest.  A new Alliance fact sheet provides an overview of possible congressional actions.  Please read this fact sheet http://bit.ly/M7vtad and share it with others.

Ron Paul Says Social Security Unconstitutional, But Collects it Each Month
2012 presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has long been an outspoken critic of Social Security, saying it is “on its last legs” and unconstitutional.  But according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times, the 76 year-old Paul collects Social Security each month.  When asked on MSNBC if this ran counter to his views, Paul disagreed, saying that one can simultaneously use a system they want to eliminate.  Paul is estimated to control approximately 200 delegates at his party’s convention next month in Tampa.

New Report Notes Romney’s Foreign Tax Havens
A new report in Vanity Fair magazine notes that presidential candidate Mitt Romney has financial interests in at least 12 investment funds – worth as much $30 million – that are based in the Cayman Islands to skirt U.S. tax laws.  Earlier media reports noted that a $3 million Swiss bank account was closed shortly before Romney launched his presidential campaign. Contrasting this with Romney's plans to cut Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age, Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling said, “Social Security is how retirees get by if they don't have Cayman or Swiss bank accounts.”  An Alliance calculation earlier this year of Romney’s reported income this year found that in 2010 Romney made more by 6:00 a.m. on January 1 than many retirees did the entire year.

NC Alliance Raises Money to Help Local Seniors
The North Carolina Alliance recently held its first annual golf tournament to raise money for a local YMCA as well as the state chapter’s programs that help area seniors.  The event, held in Clemmons NC, was sponsored by AFSCME, the State Employees Association of North Carolina, the AFL-CIO and many generous individuals.  Photos here: http://bit.ly/M1Qk47.  Congratulations to all for a successful event!


For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/N0yEEr.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

USW Backs Obama's Challenge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                          CONTACT:
July 5, 2012                                                                             Wayne Ranick 412-562-2444
wranick@usw.org
Gary Hubbard 202-778-4384
ghubbard@usw.org


USW Backs Obama’s Challenge to China’s Trade Action

This statement was released today by United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard

(Pittsburgh) --  “Today President Obama proved once again how important enforcing our trade laws is to job creation in America.   He’s taking China to task for the import duties they have slapped on U.S.-made vehicles. Despite the fact that China has virtually unfettered access to our market, they constantly block access to their market for our competitive products.

“Last year, Chinese consumers purchased roughly 18 million vehicles. But they allowed only 106,000 vehicles made by U.S. workers into their market.  Obviously, for the Chinese, even that was too many.  They are flooding our market with auto parts that are produced with massive illegal Chinese subsidies and benefit from numerous other predatory and protectionist policies. Their exports to the United States have contributed to the loss of more than 400,000 jobs in the auto parts sector.   Imports of Chinese auto parts have skyrocketed by almost 900 percent since 2000.

“The auto and auto parts sector is one of the main engines that drives America’s economy.  More than 350,000 Steelworkers make products that can end up in an auto part or final vehicle. Our members make products ranging from steel and aluminum, to plastics, rubber and glass, to final products like tires, transmissions and countless other items.   From mining to final products, Steelworkers are involved.  Our members’ future and the future of the auto parts and auto sectors are inextricably intertwined.  These are good, family-supportive jobs that are the bedrock of communities across the country.

“China has been conducting a guerrilla economic war against American producers and workers for years.   Today, President Obama made clear that America is going to defend itself.   This is another important step in that process. The catalog of Chinese unfair trade practices is growing and, with it, the loss of good American jobs. China needs to be called on the carpet not only for its policies in this important area, but on auto parts, currency manipulation, intellectual property theft and an almost endless array of practices.”

The USW represents about 850,000 working men and women in the United States and Canada in a wide variety of industries, ranging from glass making to mining, paper, steel, tire and rubber and other manufacturing environments, to the public sector, service and health care industries.

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 6-29-12

Supreme Court Ruling a Victory for Both Current and Future Retirees
On Thursday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the liberal wing of the Supreme Court to save the heart of President Obama’s landmark health care law, agreeing that the requirement for nearly all Americans to secure health insurance is permissible under Congress’s taxing authority.

The court modified another key provision of the law, however, ruling that the federal government cannot withdraw existing Medicaid funding from states that decide not to participate in a broad expansion of Medicaid eligibility.

“Today is an historic day for Americans of all ages, an affirmation of a law that helps children, workers, and retirees obtain affordable health care,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Americans can now live more secure, knowing that their health and well-being are no longer tied to the whims and greed of the big insurance companies.”

Coyle continued, “The law has helped millions of seniors better afford to see a doctor and fill a prescription.  In 2011, over 3.6 million seniors on Medicare saved a total of $2.1 billion on their drug costs, an average of $604 person.  Just last year, over 32 million seniors received at least one new free preventive care benefit through Medicare.  Medicare’s ‘Doughnut Hole’ – a shameful legacy of the big drug companies’ sway in Washington – is closing, and premiums for Medicare Advantage plans are down 16 percent since the law took effect in 2010.”

Coyle went on to warn that yesterday’s ruling will be a short-lived victory if, this November, we fail to elect a President and Congress with the courage to stand up for the middle class.  A repeal vote in the U.S. House, scheduled for July 11, will provide an opportunity for lawmakers to show their constituents where they stand.

“This year’s presidential election provides a clear contrast between Barack Obama, who had the courage to risk his presidency fighting for the middle class, versus Mitt Romney, who would replace the Affordable Care Act with a plan that is good for only the healthy and the wealthy,” Coyle said.

He concluded, “Today is a tremendous victory for seniors, their children, and their grandchildren.  But we cannot rest on our laurels.  In the 2012 elections we cannot let politicians roll back the progress we have made.”

Romney has made it clear that he would repeal Obamacare, saying he would “kill it dead.” For more fact sheets and background on how health reform is good for seniors, please visit these three locations on the Alliance web site: Affordable Care Act Myth Busters at www.bit.ly/x1U472; the Health Care Reform page at www.bit.ly/cQTDL9; and the Medicare page at www.bit.ly/Ljzb17.

Alliance’s Summer Slogan Contest Winner is….
Congratulations to Jen Roberts of Wisconsin, the winner of the Alliance’s national contest to name our summer campaign slogan. “Jen’s entry, ‘Let’s not be the Last Generation to Retire’ was chosen from several wonderful entries. Thank you to all who lent us their creativity!” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. Look for the slogan on materials celebrating the anniversary of Medicare in July and the anniversary of Social Security in August!

Romney’s Outsourcing Hurts Retirees
Pouncing on a new Washington Post report on certain Bain Capital investments, leaders in the American labor movement last Friday assaulted former Bain CEO and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Romney as a “happy outsourcer” willing to send American jobs overseas for personal gain. The problems with the American economy, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said on a call with reporters, are “vulture capitalists and Wall Street and CEOs who put their own pay ahead of workers. Our problems are companies like Bain Capital and happy outsourcers like Mitt Romney.”

“The better you work, the better you retire,” added Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “When jobs get shipped overseas, American workers not only lose their paychecks, they become less likely to have the retirement savings and health care benefits they will need to have a comfortable, dignified retirement.”

Social Security: The Young Trust Democrats More
According to the publication The Hill, (www.bit.ly/LnYK3u) young voters believe that Democrats will do the better job of protecting Social Security, by a whopping 50-26 percent margin. A poll released last Friday found that President Obama has a 13 point lead over Romney among voters between the ages of 18-29. Obama was the choice of half of young voters surveyed by the Garfield Institute for Public Leadership at Hiram College, versus just 37 percent for Romney.

Alliance Educational Fund Awards Seidman Prize
The Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund has awarded its seventh annual Bert and Annabel Seidman Prize for Advancing Social Policy to National Labor College (NLC) student co-winners Jon Leinbaugh of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, from Rockford, Illinois, and Joe Walsh, a member of the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters from Attica, New York. The prize encourages NLC students to research and analyze social policies that affect the older population.

Ms. Easterling said, “I am pleased to honor the memory of Bert and Annabel Seidman with Mr. Leinbaugh’s paper on the importance of volunteering after retirement, and Mr. Walsh’s paper on how to strengthen Social Security for all Americans.” Mr. Leinbaugh and Mr. Walsh will split the $3,000 award for their research.


For a printable version of this document, go to bit.ly/NXAmqa.