Friday, May 24, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 5-24-13

Headlines:
Voting Record Rates “The Most Unproductive Congress” in Nation’s Modern History;
In Conference Call, Sen. Harkin Explains Plan to Give Seniors an Extra $800 per Year;
Add Your Ideas for the AFL-CIO Convention!;
Join Us in Creating Human Chains against Chained CPI on July 2;
Projected Spending Numbers for Medicare and Medicaid Reduced by $900 Billion;
President Easterling is among those Arrested at United Mine Workers Protest;
New York State Alliance Holds its Convention;
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Hear from Coyle, Richard Fiesta

Voting Record Rates “The Most Unproductive Congress” in Nation’s Modern History
On Monday, the Alliance released its annual report detailing the voting record of every U.S. Senator and Representative on key issues affecting current and future retirees. The document, available at http://www.retiredamericans.org/issues/congressional-voting-record, examined 10 key Senate votes and 10 key House votes in 2012. It contains the roll calls on issues such as: whether to privatize Medicare and create a voucher-like system in its place; whether to turn Medicaid into a block grant system; and whether to undo key Affordable Care Act provisions that benefit seniors. For the first time, the report is available in Spanish (at same link).

“This past year we saw the most unproductive Congress in modern American history finally come to an end, passing fewer than 250 bills in two years,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “The House even refused to vote on needed relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Yet, it voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on its constitutionality. In contrast, while attacks on core retiree programs continued, many in Congress voted to preserve a tax system that favors the wealthiest Americans. For more than a decade, the wealthiest Americans have received trillions in tax breaks while older Americans have seen rising drug, health care, food, and energy costs.” To see the full press release about the report, go to http://tinyurl.com/plx7kov.


In Conference Call, Sen. Harkin Explains Plan to Give Seniors an Extra $800 per Year
A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, called “The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013,” (S.567) would put as much as an extra $800 in your pocket every year. Sen. Harkin addressed over 4,000 Alliance members and activists in a Telephone Town Hall on Monday, when they heard him explain his bill. The bill also increases the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to better reflect the cost of goods and services typically used by older Americans; strengthens the Social Security Trust Fund; and ensures the program is solvent for decades to come. If you have not already done so, sign our Strengthening Social Security Act Petition right now at http://tinyurl.com/ohhdzy6.


Add Your Ideas for the AFL-CIO Convention!
The AFL-CIO will hold its quadrennial convention September 8-11 in Los Angeles this year. Help shape the agenda! Propose a session or host a discussion at http://tinyurl.com/nbhnxbb.


Join Us in Creating Human Chains against Chained CPI on July 2
On Tuesday July 2nd, the Alliance will sponsor a National Day of Action in which we focus specifically on elevating grassroots voices in the battle to protect and enhance retirement security. We will work together to create a human chain in front of Congressional offices, key Federal buildings, and other strategic locations in states around the country. It will be a Human Chain against the Chained CPI!  The National Alliance will host a media event in DC with a smaller chain to create powerful symbolism of what the States are doing, spotlighting the national day of action. More information about the day is available at http://tinyurl.com/pd8pbsz.

“On the National Day of Action, Alliance members around the country will send Congress a full throated message,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “We refuse to be chained by the Chained CPI.”


Projected Spending Numbers for Medicare and Medicaid Reduced by $900 Billion
According to new figures released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO’s), projections of cumulative Medicare and Medicaid spending over the decade from 2010-2020 have been sharply reduced. Since late 2010, the CBO’s estimation of Medicare costs has fallen by $590 billion and its estimation of Medicaid cuts by $311 billion. This is not a result of any cuts to the programs, but is instead part of a larger trend of reduced health care costs over the last few years. To read a report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explaining more, go to http://tinyurl.com/ojym5eb.

“The decrease in projected spending shows that these programs are strong and healthy and will remain so for the foreseeable future as long as they are protected from the misguided ‘reforms’ like raising the eligibility age for Medicare and shifting more costs to beneficiaries,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “This is clear evidence that any cuts or major changes to Medicare or Medicaid in the guise of ‘protecting’ the programs are entirely unnecessary.”


President Easterling is among those Arrested at United Mine Workers Protest
Thousands of United Mine Workers rallied outside Peabody Energy in St. Louis on Tuesday, furious that the coal company loaded much of its union contract obligations onto a spinoff company - Patriot Coal - that was designed to fail. Patriot's plan will cut health care and retirement benefits, and about a dozen protesters were peacefully arrested for sitting in the street. Among them: Alliance President Easterling. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court is scheduled to issue a ruling on the Patriot Coal case sometime before May 29, unless all parties agree to seek an extension. To see a photo of Ms. Easterling at the protest, go to http://tinyurl.com/p2nt5nl. “What Peabody Coal is doing is absolutely criminal.  They are using our nation’s bankruptcy laws as a license to steal.  They are stealing from the sick and the elderly.  They are stealing from widows,” said Ms. Easterling at the rally.


New York State Alliance Holds its Convention
New York’s annual state Alliance convention took place in Albany on Thursday, drawing over 60 delegates. Speakers included Dani Pere, Director of Field Mobilization for the national Alliance; Eric Kingson, so-director of Social Security Works, and several others, including representatives from the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the AFL-CIO. Discussions focused on topics including chained CPI; planning for the July 2nd National Day of Action; and a report on state pensions. Elected to office were: Dennis Tracey, State President; Doris Welch, Secretary; Dorothy Breen, Treasurer; Paul Schuh, Labor VP; and Molly Krakowski, Community VP.


Coalition of Black Trade Unionists Hear from Coyle, Richard Fiesta
Mr. Coyle and Richard Fiesta, Director of the national Alliance’s Department of Government and Political Affairs, addressed an energized crowd of over 100 Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) members in Orlando on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.


For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/p9rb7mr.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

For Immediate Release
May 20, 2013
Contact: David Blank – 202/637-5275 or dblank@retiredamericans.org

Retiree Voting Record Released for 2nd Session of 112th Congress

“The Most Unproductive Congress in Modern American History”

Washington, DC – To begin the third week of May, which is Older Americans Month, the Alliance for Retired Americans today released a new report detailing the voting record of every U.S. Senator and Representative on key issues affecting current and future retirees. The document is available at http://www.retiredamericans.org/issues/congressional-voting-record.

The Alliance voting record examined 10 key Senate votes and 10 key House votes in 2012, showing the roll calls on issues such as: whether to privatize Medicare and create a voucher-like system in its place; whether to turn Medicaid into a block grant system; and whether to undo key Affordable Care Act provisions that benefit seniors.

“This past year we saw the most unproductive Congress in modern American history finally come to an end, passing fewer than 250 bills in two years,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “The House even refused to vote on needed relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Yet, it voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on its constitutionality.”

“In contrast, while attacks on core retiree programs continued, many in Congress voted to preserve a tax system that favors the wealthiest Americans,” continued Ms. Easterling. “For more than a decade, the wealthiest Americans have received trillions in tax breaks while older Americans have seen rising drug, health care, food, and energy costs.”

According to the Alliance, 155 U.S. House members achieved perfect scores of 100 percent in 2012.  One hundred fifty-four received scores of zero. One of those zeroes belonged to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), whose budget has been used as a blueprint for House Republican leaders.

In the Senate, 115 filibuster threats grounded work to a near standstill on dozens of issues. Eighteen members of the U.S. Senate achieved perfect scores of 100 percent in 2011, while another 19 received zeroes.

“This Voting Record reflects how committed our elected representatives are to retirees and older Americans,” Ms. Easterling said. “It is intended to educate, thereby helping to create an America that protects the health and economic security of seniors, strengthens families and builds safe and thriving communities. Higher scores on the 2012 Voting Record reflect a commitment to protect seniors and ask the wealthiest American people and corporations pay their fair share.”

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The Alliance for Retired Americans is a national organization that advocates for the rights and well-being of over 4 million retirees and their families.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Join Senator Harkin Today.

Thanks so much for speaking out in opposition to the Chained CPI Benefit cut.  As you may have heard, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) recently introduced the Strengthen Social Security Act, S.567.   Instead of a cold, calculated benefit cut like the chained CPI, this bill would actually increase Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA's) by an average of $800!

On Monday, May 20th at 3:30 EST, the Alliance is holding a special tele-town hall briefing with Senator Harkin (D-IA) and Alliance activists like you.  On the call, Senator Harkin will talk about the Strengthen Social Security Act and other efforts to protect retirement security.  In addition, we will talk about Alliance activities happening in your state and how you can get involved to protect retirement security.

Sign-up here to join the tele-town hall on Monday.

With the help of Alliance activist like you, we can build the public support for strengthening Social Security and make sure we are not part of the last generation to retire.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 5-17-13


Headlines: 
Join Sen. Harkin for a Tele-Town Hall about Social Security Legislation on Monday;Affordable Care Act Repeal Votes Have Cost More than $52 Million;Obituary: Washington State’s Will Parry, a Giant in the Seniors Political Movement;
Fees for Medical Procedures Vary Inexplicably from Hospital to Hospital;Alliance Activists Lobby in Connecticut, Illinois, California



Join Sen. Harkin for a Tele-Town Hall about Social Security Legislation on Monday

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) recently introduced the Strengthen Social Security Act, S.567. Instead of offering a cold, calculated benefit cut like the chained CPI, this bill would actually increase Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA’s) by an average of $800! On Monday, May 20th at 3:30 EST, the Alliance is holding a special tele-town hall briefing with Sen. Harkin. On the call, he will talk about the Strengthen Social Security Act and other efforts to protect retirement security. In addition, we will talk about Alliance activities happening in your state and how you can get involved to protect retirement security. For more information, and to participate on Monday, go tohttp://tinyurl.com/a9ctrzm. Click on http://tinyurl.com/a2gxhtl for more on the chained CPI. For the Alliance letter in support of Harkin’s bill, go to http://tinyurl.com/cnpnxaa.
“With the help of Alliance activists , we can build the public support for strengthening Social Security and make sure we are not part of the last generation to retire,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Mr. Coyle represented the Alliance at a “Kitchen Cabinet” meeting this week with another U.S. Senator, Bernie Sanders (I-VT), regarding the safeguarding of Social Security for current and future retirees. The Alliance joined with other leading seniors groups in a robust strategy discussion.

Affordable Care Act Repeal Votes Have Cost More than $52 Million
The House voted 229-195 on Thursday to pass H.R. 45, legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act. Thursday was at least the 43rd day since Republicans took over the House that they have devoted time to vote on bills to repeal or defund the 2010 legislation designed to provide health coverage for the uninsured. Since 2011, Republicans have spent no less than 15 percent of their time on the House floor on repeal in some way. Based on time spend to operate the Capitol, the GOP anti-health crusade has so far cost American taxpayers a total of $52.4 million (source: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office). To read more, see the New York Times article at http://tinyurl.com/aqwqthj. For a tally of the Thursday vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/ahxedgp.

“This issue has already been considered and decided. Despite yesterday’s House vote, it is the law of the land. It is time to move on,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Obituary: Washington State’s Will Parry, a Giant in the Seniors Political Movement

Beloved President Emeritus and Editor of the Retiree Advocate in Washington State, Will Parry, died peacefully on Monday afternoon after an extended period of illness. Will was a warrior for economic and social justice for more than seven decades and was widely known, loved and respected. He was with the Washington State Alliance since its inception, and had been with the National Council of Senior Citizens before that. Labor, community and religious leaders considered him the heart, soul, and intellectual leader of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA), and he will be sorely missed. A memorial will take place at the Labor Temple in Seattle at the end of June. Donations in his name may be made to Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action at 2800 1st Ave. #262, Seattle, WA 98121 to continue his work.

Fees for Medical Procedures Vary Inexplicably from Hospital to Hospital
There are often huge, discrepancies in fees hospitals charge for the same procedure. Count Jonathan Blum, Medicare’s deputy administrator, among those who don’t understand the logic the hospitals use to arrive at those fees.
‘’It doesn’t make sense,” Blum said when asked to explain the reason. He noted that the higher charges don’t necessarily reflect better care. Even the American Hospital Association calls the current billing system, “complex and bewildering,” says USA Today.
To bring some clarity to the pricing, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services published the costs for 100 common procedures at 3,337 hospitals (whttp:///www.cms.gov). The government hopes publishing comparative costs will promote competition and lower prices, especially as the Affordable Care Act begins taking effect.
“Geographical location; the complexity of the ailment; the length of the hospital stay; and the cost of running a teaching hospital are all factors,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer-of the Alliance. “But even if all the known factors are taken into account, the numbers are mystifying.”

According to the Associated Press (http://tinyurl.com/aqu9ubb ), the wide discrepancy in prices also cannot be totally explained by factoring in the cost of treating older, sicker or indigent patients. AP found that, exclusive of the doctors’ fees, the average charge for a joint replacement ranged from about $5,300 in Ada, Okla., to $223,000 in Monterey Park, Calif.

Private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid negotiate their own reimbursement rates with hospitals and doctors. The uninsured are often carried on the hospital’s books as being charged the full rate, but that amount is negotiated based on the patient’s ability to pay, and the truly indigent don’t pay at all.

Alliance Activists Lobby in Connecticut, Illinois, California
Alliance chapters in Connecticut, Illinois, and California have had Lobby Days this week. In Hartford on Tuesday, the Connecticut Alliance held its second annual “Senior Day at the Capitol.” Over 130 activists, their families and allies were in Hartford to meet with their elect officials. Participants then disbursed throughout the Capitol to address seniors' issues. The day ended with a well-attended press event. Speakers included Ms. Easterling; Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman; Speaker of the House Brendon Sharkey; House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz; and a host of other government officials and labor leaders.

Alliance activists in Illinois also lobbied their legislators at their State Capitol in Springfield on Tuesday. The local ABC affiliate covered the seniors’ quest for home health care funding - as well as their advocacy on other issues, such as Medicare – at http://tinyurl.com/anarvz8.

In addition, hundreds of California Alliance (CARA) members will be meeting with their State Assembly members and Senators in their district offices around the state today.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/alfcacf.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 5-3-13


Headlines: 
President Obama Issues Proclamation Honoring Older Americans Month
Republicans Less Open about Support for Benefit Cuts to Social Security, Medicare
Leadership Council of Aging Organizations Expresses Concern over Obama Budget
Cancer Physicians Campaign to Make Lifesaving Medications More Affordable
Seniors - Especially Men - are at Higher Risk as Pedestrians!
AFL-CIO, Union Plus Offer “Dreams of Jobs and Freedom Scholarship” Program
Help the Post Office with Their Financial Problems While Saving Saturday Delivery!

President Obama Issues Proclamation Honoring Older Americans MonthMay is Older Americans Month, when communities around the country come together to honor seniors. In the proclamation issued by the White House, President Obama notes the contributions retirees make to the country through volunteer programs such as Senior Corps.  You can read the proclamation at http://tinyurl.com/cgsrorp.

“Older Americans Month provides all Americans with an opportunity to recognize the contributions of seniors,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “By working to expand the opportunities that retirees have to get involved in volunteer service, the Obama administration is helping seniors stay active in their communities.”

Republicans Less Open about Support for Benefit Cuts to Social Security, Medicare 
Reining in spending on Social Security and Medicare remains an important policy goal for the GOP, according to The Washington Post. However, Republican members of Congress are becoming increasingly ambivalent about their party’s demand to cut Social Security and Medicare. While Republican Party leaders state that these cuts remain a major goal of the party, they are currently choosing to be more vocal about other issues, such as tax reform. Republican Representatives admit that they are concerned about losing the votes of seniors in their districts due to their support of the benefit cuts, and therefore do not want to make these cuts a prominent talking point. To read the Washington Post story on the issue, go to http://tinyurl.com/cl7qx3q.

“Republicans are realizing that seniors will not sit by quietly while vital programs like Social Security and Medicare are cut,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “While this is unfortunately largely a change in rhetoric and prioritization, not a change in position, it is a signal that members of Congress are learning how great the political cost will be to them if they cut our benefits. We must continue to remind them regularly.”

Leadership Council of Aging Organizations Expresses Concern over Obama Budget
The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a coalition of 68 nonprofit organizations (including the Alliance for Retired Americans) which work on issues impacting seniors, sent a letter to President Obama on Monday. In the letter, LCAO expresses concerns with several aspects of Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget, including chained CPI and proposals that shift certain Medicare costs towards beneficiaries. The letter also praises some aspects of the budget, including a provision that would allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies. To read the letter, go to http://tinyurl.com/coc6x54.

“The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, which represents a broad range of groups working to protect seniors, has taken a strong stance against chained CPI and Medicare cost shifting,” said Mr. Coyle. “We are hopeful that President Obama and members of his administration will heed the letter’s advice.” 

Cancer Physicians Campaign to Make Lifesaving Medications More Affordable
One hundred cancer specialists from around the world have banded together in support of an important cause: protesting the extremely high cost of many drugs used to treat cancer. Currently, the cost of some cancer drugs is over $100,000 a year. According to the doctors, these drugs can make a huge difference in patient outcomes but are often unaffordable. The physicians also point out that the drugs are priced much higher than they need to be for pharmaceutical companies to turn a reasonable level of profit, and that the companies have crossed the line into exploiting patients. To read a New York Times article about the story, go to http://tinyurl.com/bnofsj7.

“The Alliance strongly supports the effort to reduce the cost of cancer drugs,” said Ms. Easterling. “When pharmaceutical companies charge exorbitant prices for life-saving medications, it places a huge burden on seniors and programs like Medicare and Medicaid.”

Seniors - Especially Men - are at Higher Risk as Pedestrians!
Pedestrians account for 13% of all motor-vehicle traffic deaths, even though walking accounts for just 10.5% of trips. The risk of pedestrian death increases slowly through life and peaks with people over age 75, who are more than twice as likely to be killed by a car than are people overall. The results were published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (http://tinyurl.com/bn6g6p8).  Men were found to be twice as likely as women to be killed as pedestrians. This may be due to men walking more often than women, as well as alcohol consumption, Laurie Beck, an epidemiologist who led the study says. Read the NPR story at http://tinyurl.com/bnqnll2.

AFL-CIO, Union Plus Offer “Dreams of Jobs and Freedom Scholarship” Program 
At the February AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting, leaders decided to commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the March on Washington.  One of the ways this is being implemented is the authorization of the AFL-CIO and Union Plus “Dreams of Jobs and Freedom Scholarship” program. The AFL-CIO has partnered with the Union Privilege program to offer $5,000 scholarships to help talented high school seniors from families in need—including union families and those in the community—to help pay for the costs of higher education. The children and grandchildren of union members are eligible to apply. “The AFL-CIO has created a website where students can apply directly:www.aflcio.org/scholarship,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “If you know any good candidate, please tell them applications are due by July 1, 2013.”

Help the Post Office with Their Financial Problems While Saving Saturday Delivery!
Help fix the immediate fiscal problems of the Postal Service by ending the pre-funding mandate and allowing the Postal Service to recover pension overpayments.  The Postal Service Protection Act solves the most immediate financial problem facing the Postal Service by eliminating the unique requirement that the postal service pre-fund 75 years of future retiree health benefits in just 10 years.  No other agency or company in America is required to pre-fund its retiree health benefits, especially on such an aggressive schedule.  Since 2007, this pre-funding mandate is responsible for about 80 percent of the Postal Service’s financial difficulties. The bill, introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), would also save Saturday delivery - which seniors rely on for their medications and other needs. Go to http://wh.gov/t95i  to sign the petition (Step-by-step instructions are at http://tinyurl.com/bmqvmvg.) For more background on the bill, go to http://tinyurl.com/cxk8jco. 

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/YslRm3.