Friday, June 28, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert, 6-28-13

Headlines:
July 2 Human Chain Events now Just Around the Corner
Supreme Court’s “Defense of Marriage Act” Decision to Affect Gay Seniors Greatly
Voting Rights Decision a Major Blow to Civil Rights of Minorities
Alliance Members Join Leader Pelosi, Secretary Sebelius at Capitol Hill Press Event
Chained CPI or another Topic on Your Mind? Write a Letter to the Editor, Win a Pen!

July 2 Human Chain Events now Just Around the Corner
The Alliance will be hosting more than 45 “Human Chain against the Chained CPI” events on July 2. For a list of events, including a map that allows you to find an event near you by typing in your zip code, go to http://tinyurl.com/pd8pbsz. Highlights for a few of the events: The “Human Chain” in Providence, Rhode Island will feature Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, and the chain in Indianapolis will feature Rep. AndrĂ© Carson. The event in Albuquerque, New Mexico will feature Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “The chained CPI is a cold, calculated benefit cut to our Social Security - and some cuts never heal!” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Alliance members who are unable to attend an event in person are urged to participate in the day’s action by calling or writing to Congress. Call Congress on July 2 at 202/224-3121 and say, “I oppose the chained CPI benefit cut to Social Security.”  Encourage your Member of Congress to co-sponsor the resolution rejecting the chained CPI benefit cut – in the House, the Cicilline Resolution, H.Con.Res. 34; and in the Senate, the Harkin Resolution, H.Con.Res. 15.

Supreme Court’s “Defense of Marriage Act” Decision to Affect Gay Seniors Greatly
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), meaning that the spousal benefits of Social Security and Medicare will be extended to married, same-sex couples. The Administration on Aging estimates that there are between 1.75 million and 4 million Americans over the age of 60 who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Many LGBT seniors who live in states with legalized same sex marriage have wed. Until Wednesday, due to DOMA, these seniors did not have the same federal benefits and protections as heterosexual couples. This had particularly broad implications with regard to Social Security. The Social Security spousal retirement benefit allows the partner in a couple with the lower earnings record to receive an amount equal to 50% of their spouse’s Social Security benefits. The survivor benefit allows surviving spouses to receive Social Security equivalent to what their spouse with a higher earnings record received.

LGBT couples had also faced discrimination in the federal tax code. Since their marriages were not federally recognized, they could not claim the tax benefits reserved for married couples. Inheriting the estate of a deceased partner was often more complex and costly than for heterosexual couples.

In another civil rights ruling the same day, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal over same-sex marriage on jurisdictional grounds, ruling that private parties do not have “standing” to defend California's voter-approved ballot measure barring gay and lesbian couples from state-sanctioned wedlock.

“I am pleased that married gay and lesbian seniors will have the same rights as other seniors when it comes to not only Social Security, Medicare, and many tax issues – but also overall fairness,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.  “The Alliance wholeheartedly supports extending the same rights for older LGBT couples that this country does for older, straight couples.”

Voting Rights Decision a Major Blow to Civil Rights of Minorities
The Supreme Court made other decisions this week as well. In addition to landmark gay rights cases, they ruled on voters’ rights. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down a central part of the Voting Rights Act, invalidating crucial protections passed by Congress in 1965 and renewed four times in the decades since. The sharply divided decision will significantly reduce the federal government’s role in overseeing voting laws in areas with a history of discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities.

“The decision turns back the clock and makes it much easier to discriminate,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “There is still so much to be done. We hope Congress will act quickly to remedy this terrible, wrong decision.”

Alliance Members Join Leader Pelosi, Secretary Sebelius at Capitol Hill Press Event
On Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Alliance members and political leaders celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and marked the countdown - fewer than 100 days left - until the next provision of the law is implemented on October 1, 2013. The event noted the re-launch of web sites www.HealthCare.Gov and www.CuidadoDeSalud.Gov, which offer in English and Spanish, respectively, new tools that will help Americans understand their choices and select the coverage that best suits their needs when open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins October 1.

The event featured U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, and a score of other Representatives. Maryland/DC Alliance members Annie Leach, Audrey Bell, and Minnie Jacobs, all of Suitland, Maryland, joined the government officials on stage. Ms. Leach spoke about taken advantage of a free wellness check-up; initially she had received a bill, but an ally, Tara Maxwell, informed the doctor on her behalf that the Affordable Care Act covered it. For video footage of the event, go to http://tinyurl.com/op2rqau. For photos, go to http://tinyurl.com/q38pgfj.

Chained CPI or another Topic on Your Mind? Write a Letter to the Editor, Win a Pen!
With the July 2 Human Chain events fast approaching, Alliance members have an excellent opportunity to write a letter to the editor in their local paper. If you want others to know about the chained CPI or another topic, take a moment and write that letter. If it is published, the Alliance will send you a free, union-made “Retirees with the Write Stuff” pen. Most recently, Edward Corrigan, Teresa Ewbank, Lynda Fainter, Gary Hall, Janice Laue, Bob Laurence, Jewel Littenberg, Al Mumm, Lester Newton, William Stevens, and Ron Thompson contributed to their local papers. Please e-mail aracommunications@retiredamericans.org if you have had a letter published. “Letters to the editor are a cost-effective way to get our message out,” said Mr. Burks.

The next issue of the Friday Alert will be published on July 12. Enjoy the Fourth of July holiday!


For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/153hCxI.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Disappointed in Rep. Walorski and Sen. Donnelly

103 Members of the U.S House have co-sponsored H. Con. Res. 34, the House Resolution rejecting the Chained CPI that was introduced by Rep. Cicilline (D-RI). To see who those co-sponsors are (as of June 17), go to http://tinyurl.com/ob7yqed. In addition, twenty U.S. Senators have now co-sponsored S. Con. Res. 15, a Senate Resolution introduced by Senators Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Whitehouse (D-RI), rejecting the Chained CPI. To see that list of co-sponsors as of June 17, go to http://tinyurl.com/o4465ot. The Resolutions express the sense of Congress that the Chained Consumer Price Index should not be used to calculate cost of living adjustments for Social Security.

Look, I'm very disappointed in both Representative Jackie Walorski and Senator Joe Donnelly for not appearing on the list of co-sponsors as of today and I hope they will get on the list as soon as they can.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 6-21-13

Headlines:
Initial List of Members of Congress Joining July 2 Human Chain Events is Revealed
103 House Members, 20 Senators Co-Sponsor Resolutions Rejecting Chained CPI
Help Sen. Bernie Sanders Address Poverty among Seniors
Generic Drugs, Consumers Win in Supreme Court Ruling
ACLU of Indiana Files Suit to Keep Seniors and the Disabled in Their Homes


Initial List of Members of Congress Joining July 2 Human Chain Events is Revealed
Politicians continue to press for the Chained CPI cut to Social Security benefits as a way to reduce the deficit. However, an average earner retiring at age 65 would lose over $6,000 over 15 years if the chained CPI were adopted. On Tuesday July 2nd, the Alliance is mobilizing people in more than 40 cities across the country to form a Human Chain against the Chained CPI. This National Day of Action will showcase the broad base of Americans who support protecting and enhancing retirement security, not dismantling Social Security inch by inch.

Members of the U.S. Senate and House who are planning to join the July 2 events, as of today, are: Sens. Kay Hagan in Raleigh, NC; Tom Harkin in Des Moines, Iowa; and Sheldon Whitehouse in Providence, RI; as well as Reps. Jim Langevin (RI), also in Providence; Michelle Lujan Grisham in Albuquerque, NM; and Maxine Waters in Los Angeles, CA. To find an event near you, go to http://tinyurl.com/ndah9ea. To view the Alliance webpage for July 2, which includes both a map and a link to find an event, go to http://tinyurl.com/pd8pbsz. To join the events over Facebook, and invite your friends to do the same, go to http://on.fb.me/13QpMbH.

103 House Members, 20 Senators Co-Sponsor Resolutions Rejecting Chained CPI
103 Members of the U.S House have co-sponsored H. Con. Res. 34, the House Resolution rejecting the Chained CPI that was introduced by Rep. Cicilline (D-RI). To see who those co-sponsors are (as of June 17), go to http://tinyurl.com/ob7yqed. In addition, twenty U.S. Senators have now co-sponsored S. Con. Res. 15, a Senate Resolution introduced by Senators Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Whitehouse (D-RI), rejecting the Chained CPI. To see that list of co-sponsors as of June 17, go to http://tinyurl.com/o4465ot. The Resolutions express the sense of Congress that the Chained Consumer Price Index should not be used to calculate cost of living adjustments for Social Security.

“Alliance members have been instrumental in drumming up support for additional co-sponsors, and we thank you for that,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Help Sen. Bernie Sanders Address Poverty among Seniors
Last month, Sen. Sanders, chairman of the subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced S. 1028, the Older Americans Act (OAA) Amendments of 2013. This legislation would reauthorize and strengthen the OAA, which supports Meals on Wheels and other critical programs for seniors. This past Wednesday, Sanders held a hearing to discuss the role of the OAA in addressing poverty and hunger among seniors. The hearing took place as the HELP Committee attempts to pass the reauthorization of the OAA before the August recess.

The HELP Committee is marking up S. 1028, now cosponsored by 17 Senators (http://tinyurl.com/ocalyj9), in the coming weeks. Contact your Senators, especially those on the HELP Committee (http://www.help.senate.gov), to share your support of S. 1028 as it moves through the Committee. To read Sen. Sanders’ related piece this week in Politico, “Keep Meals on Wheels Going,” go to http://tinyurl.com/o9q2neu.

Vote in the Alliance’s Social Security Bumper Sticker Poll!
The Alliance is preparing to put our message on bumpers across the country – but we would like your input on what we should say about Social Security first. Please participate in our online poll to choose the bumper sticker we use. Go to http://tinyurl.com/pjcyra2 to vote on Facebook!

Generic Drugs, Consumers Win in Supreme Court Ruling
This past Monday, the Supreme Court sided with the Federal Trade Commission in a case challenging "pay-for-delay" and other payment agreements that pharmaceutical companies make with rival companies to keep cheaper generic versions of drugs off the market. The Court ruled that regulators can challenge deals between brand-name drug companies and generic rivals that delay cheaper medicines from going on sale, which can increase costs to consumers by billions of dollars. However, the Court's 5-3 vote denied the Federal Trade Commission's request to declare "pay-for-delay" deals illegal. The case centered around drug company Solvay's agreement with four generic companies to suspend sales of the generic versions of Androgel, a gel for men with low testosterone. For more information, read a New York Times article here: http://nyti.ms/19VYRQy.

“Seniors and consumers should celebrate the decision,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “However, while it is great that regulators can challenge these unholy deals to keep generic drugs off the market, it would have been even better if the deals had been ruled illegal altogether.”

ACLU of Indiana Files Suit to Keep Seniors and the Disabled in Their Homes
Last Friday, the ACLU of Indiana filed a suit against the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), saying that changes to the Medicaid Waiver program put Hoosiers “at grave risk of immediate and irreparable harm.” The suit challenges the way in which the agency operates two of its Medicaid waiver programs, the Community Integration and Habilitation Waiver (CIH) and the Aged and Disabled Waiver (A&D). The programs serve thousands of Hoosiers, offering services that enable people to live in their communities even though their disabling conditions would otherwise require that they be institutionalized. To read more on this story, go to http://tinyurl.com/qc7a86r.

“I am glad the ACLU filed this case,” said Elmer Blankenship, President of the Indiana Alliance. “People in Indiana who could and should be living at home are being placed in institutions.”

Did You Know...
The average age at which current U.S. retirees say they actually retired is now 61, up from 59 a decade ago and 57 in the early 1990s. Conversely, 37% of non-retirees expect to retire after age 65, up from 14% in 1995 (http://tinyurl.com/cmzysvf).

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/10DNc5T.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Differences Between Union and Non-union Compensation

In 2011 union members were making an average wage difference of $3.51 per hour. That’s a total over $7,300 per year on a straight time basis or over $140.00 per week more for union members.

The benefit costs are even greater. Union members enjoy a $7.11 per hour more ($14.67 vs. $7.56 per hr.) That’s over $14,788 more per year for union members vs. nonunion or over $284.00 more per week in benefits for the union member.

Union members have better retirement plans, insurance plans, holidays, vacations, etc.

The total union member advantage per year on a straight time basis is over $22,000 more per year or $424.00 more per week.

It should not be forgotten that union contracts provide numerous other rights that no cost can cover, like fair treatment, just cause standards protecting employees from unfair, unjust discipline and seniority rights covering promotional opportunities, etc.

Basically, a right at the table and democracy on the job.

Is it any wonder why so many in corporate America and the greedy are so viciously and wrongly attacking organized labor?

http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/04/art2full.pdf

Friday, June 14, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 6-14-13

Headlines:
Momentum Continues to Build Ahead of July 2nd Human Chain Day of Action
Did Your U.S. Rep. Vote for the Extremist Republican Study Committee Budget?
New York Times Editorial Board Comes Out Against Social Security Cuts
Mississippi Republicans Risk Entire Medicaid Program to Avoid Vote on Expansion
Medicare Must Retain Crucial Protections against “Balance Billing”
Average Household Income of American Seniors is Precariously Low

Momentum Continues to Build Ahead of July 2nd Human Chain Day of Action
The Alliance and our allies continue to plan events around the country for the July 2nd “Human Chain against the Chained CPI” National Day of Action. The day is devoted to stopping the chained CPI benefit cut to Social Security. More than forty actions are already scheduled to take place in front of key Congressional offices and Federal Buildings across the country. A comprehensive map of events is now available, along with an event listing, on our website at http://tinyurl.com/pd8pbsz. Several members of the U.S. Senate and House are already confirmed to join the July 2 events – stay tuned for details.

“We cannot cut Social Security,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Some cuts never heal!”

Did Your U.S. Rep. Vote for the Extremist Republican Study Committee Budget?
This past March, the U.S. House of Representatives held a vote on a budget proposed by the House Republican Study Committee (RSC), a caucus of 170 conservative Republicans. If passed, the budget would have decimated crucial benefit programs. Medicare would be gutted by turning it into a voucher program. Social Security would be cut by implementing chained CPI and increasing the retirement age to 70. All discretionary spending, including Meals on Wheels and vital medical research, would have been frozen until 2017. The RSC budget ultimately failed, but 104 Republicans (over half of the House Republican caucus) voted to pass it. To view a list of these lawmakers, go to http://tinyurl.com/mn5z4ss.

“The RSC budget achieves the remarkable feat of being even more harmful to retirees than the already destructive Paul Ryan budget,” said Ms. Easterling. “The Alliance is committing to ensuring that our members know how extreme these 104 politicians are.”

New York Times Editorial Board Comes Out Against Social Security Cuts
In a strongly worded editorial released this past Sunday, The New York Times Editorial Board condemned the chained CPI and other proposed cuts to Social Security. The editorial states that the majority of people over 65 get two-thirds or more of their income from Social Security. It also points out that benefits are already being reduced due to the rise in Medicare Part B premiums and the gradual increase in the retirement age from 65 to 67. For these reasons, the editorial board argues that no further across the board cuts to Social Security, including the chained CPI, should be implemented. To read it, go to http://tinyurl.com/og9zk45. “It is heartening to see the editorial board of such a major paper strongly denounce chained CPI and other Social Security cuts,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Those who continue to support draconian cuts are finding that their position is increasingly out of the mainstream.”

The Sunday Times also contained an article stressing that people at nearly all levels of the income distribution have under-saved. Social Security is going to be a major, and maybe primary, source of income for people, even for those with $1 million in new worth. (http://tinyurl.com/kkwsdql).

Mississippi Republicans Risk Entire Medicaid Program to Avoid Vote on Expansion
Mississippi’s entire Medicaid program is in danger of losing all funding due to the refusal of Gov. Phil Bryant (R) and conservative leaders in the state legislature to hold a vote on the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Mississippi has not passed a Medicaid budget, meaning that the program will run out of funding and cease to exist on July 1. Republican leaders are demanding that Democrats pass a bill reauthorizing Medicaid without the expansion, which would prevent them from having to bring the expansion to the floor for an up-or-down vote.  Currently, 700,000 people are enrolled in Mississippi’s Medicaid program. If the expansion passes, coverage would be expanded to up to 300,000 more Mississippians. To read a Politico write up of the story, go to http://tinyurl.com/ppdtjwh.

“Governor Bryant and his allies should be ashamed of themselves,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “This is a clear case of putting politics and obstructionism above the interests of Mississippi’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Medicare Must Retain Crucial Protections against “Balance Billing”
“Balance billing” is a practice that occurs when health care providers, such as physicians or hospitals, feel that they have not been paid enough by a patient’s health care plan, and they make up the difference by levying charges on the patient. Currently, Medicare includes protections that make this practice illegal for all approved Medicare services. However, a Medicare reform bill recently proposed by House Republicans does not include the balance billing protections.  To learn more about balance billing and how to protect yourself, go to http://tinyurl.com/qcm636l. To read a letter from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) defending the protections, go to http://tinyurl.com/k7uu5me.“Removing Medicare’s protections against balance billing would leave seniors vulnerable to unfair and unexpected charges,” said Mr. Coyle. “We are staunchly opposed to any legislation that would remove these protections.”

Average Household Income of American Seniors is Precariously Low
According to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data recently released by the financial website Interest.com, the median household income for Americans over the age of 65 is $35,107. That amount is only 57% of the median household income for Americans 45 to 64, meaning that many seniors are living on considerably lower incomes than they had during their working lives. The analysis found that the average varied considerably by state, ranging from 45% of pre-retirement income in Massachusetts to 71% in Nevada. Retirement experts recommend that retirees retain at least 70% of pre-retirement income, but only two out of fifty states meet that benchmark in their average. To read a Washington Post article about the analysis, go to http://tinyurl.com/lv249n6. “The results of this study, while very troubling, are no surprise in light of the decrease in pensions and the recent recession making it very difficult for seniors to save for retirement,” said Mr. Burks. “Given these difficult circumstances, it is more crucial than ever to protect, preserve, and strengthen Social Security and Medicare.”

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/12LxZkB.

Immigration Reform Vote

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate took their first vote on Immigration Reform. Some Republicans were insisting that before allowing those immigrants here in the United States illegally to pursue a pathway to citizenship, the borders must be made “fully secure”. There is no such thing.

There is no way on earth that the border between two countries can become “fully secure”.

If a person needs food for their family, a better life, life saving medicine etc; and that person is in reasonably good health and young enough, there is no way to prevent him from trying and trying and trying to cross a border that has a strong, high, fence; drones, land mines, military personnel every ten feet or whatever, until he finally succeeds.

Fortunately, wiser Senators turned  back that attempt.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Obamacares for 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:
Expanding health insurance coverage in every state
The Affordable Care Act will expand health insurance coverage by establishing a Health Insurance Marketplace in every state and increasing access to the Medicaid program. 909,633 or 16% of Indiana’s non-elderly residents are uninsured, of whom 860,652 (95%) may qualify for either tax credits to purchase coverage in the Marketplace or for Medicaid if Indiana participates in the Medicaid expansion.
Establishing the Health Insurance Marketplace.  When key parts of the health care law take effect in 2014, there’ll be a new way for individuals, families and small businesses to get health insurance. Beginning Oct. 1, 2013, individuals in every state will be able to shop for health insurance and compare plans through the Marketplace.
Increasing Access to Medicaid.  The Affordable Care Act also fills in gaps in coverage for the poorest Americans by giving states the option to expand Medicaid to individuals under 65 years of age with income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) (approximately $14,000 for an individual and $29,000 for a family of four) beginning in January 2014.  States will receive 100% federal funding for the first three years to support this expanded coverage, phasing to 90% federal funding in subsequent years. In addition, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) eligibility and enrollment will be much simpler and will be coordinated with the Marketplace.
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.
Making prescription drugs affordable for seniors
The Affordable Care Act makes prescription drug coverage (Part D) for people with Medicare more affordable. It does this by gradually closing the gap in drug coverage known as the "donut hole." Since the enactment of the law, 6.1 million Americans with Medicare who reached the donut hole have saved over $5.7 billion on prescription drugs.  Nationwide, drug savings of $2.5 billion in 2012 were higher than the $2.3 billion in savings for 2011.  In Indiana, people with Medicare saved over $144.1 million on prescription drugs since the law’s enactment.  In 2012 alone, 85,784 individuals in Indiana saved over $60.2 million, or an average of $702 per beneficiary.  In 2012, people with Medicare in the “donut hole” received a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 14 percent discount on generic drugs.  And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, coverage for both brand name and generic drugs will continue to increase over time until the coverage gap is closed.
Covering preventive services with no deductible or co-pay
The health care law requires many insurance plans to provide coverage without cost sharing to enrollees for a variety of preventive health services, such as colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for all children and adults. The law also makes proven preventive services free for most people on Medicare.
In 2011 and 2012, 71 million Americans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing, including 1,508,000 in Indiana. And for policies renewing on or after August 1, 2012, women can now get coverage without cost-sharing of even more preventive services they need.  Approximately 47 million women, including 983,850 in Indiana will now have guaranteed access to additional preventive services without cost-sharing.
The Affordable Care Act is also removing barriers for people with Medicare.  With no deductibles or co-pays, cost is no longer a barrier for seniors and people with disabilities who want to stay healthy by detecting and treating health problems early. In 2012 alone, an estimated 34.1 million people with Medicare benefited from Medicare’s coverage of preventive services with no cost-sharing.  In Indiana, 626,050 individuals with traditional Medicare used one or more free preventive service in 2012.
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 year, for an average rebate of $99 per family 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 $4,890,752 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 people in Indiana, 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 August 2012, 1,924 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 $7,895,126 in grants for research, planning, information technology development, and implementation of Affordable Insurance Exchanges.
  • $1,000,000 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
  • $6,895,126 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 (Last Updated: March 15, 2012)
Since 2010, Indiana has received $16,500,000 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 centers and primary care cliniciansThe Affordable Care Act increases the funding available to community health centers nationwide. In Indiana, 20 health centers operate 105 sites, providing preventive and primary health care services to 273,536 people.  Health Center grantees in Indiana have received $51,602,560 under the Affordable Care Act to support ongoing health center operations and to establish new health center sites, expand services, and/or support major capital improvement projects.
As a result of historic investments through the Affordable Care Act and the Recovery Act, the numbers of clinicians in the National Health Service Corps are at all-time highs with nearly 10,000 Corps clinicians providing care to more than 10.4 million people who live in rural, urban, and frontier communities.  The National Health Service Corps repays educational loans and provides scholarships to primary care physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, behavioral health providers, and other primary care providers who practice in areas of the country that have too few health care professionals to serve the people who live there.  As of September 30, 2012, there were 121 Corps clinicians providing primary care services in Indiana compared to 54 in 2008.
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.  These partnerships help ensure that health care providers are working where they are needed most - in both urban and rural areas. They ensure that half a million people annually get access to HIV/AIDS treatment and access to high quality primary care services.
Examples of Affordable Care Act grants to Indiana not outlined above include:
  • $2,444,294 for school-based health centers to help clinics expand their capacity to provide more health care services and modernize their facilities.
  • $287,100 for Family-to-Family Health Information Centers, organizations run by and for families with children with special health care needs.
  • $24,356,269 for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs. These programs bring health professionals, social workers, or paraprofessionals 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.
Last updated: March 18, 2013
source: Healthcare.org

Friday, June 07, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 6-7-13

Headlines:
States That Reject Medicaid Expansion Will Spend Billions More To Cover Fewer
Human Chain Events against the Chained CPI Take Shape for July 2
Alliance Takes over LCAO Stewardship
North Carolina, Florida, and Indiana Alliance Chapters Hold Their Conventions
Alliance Remembers Senator Frank Lautenberg

States That Reject Medicaid Expansion Will Spend Billions More To Cover Fewer
According to a new study in the journal Health Affairs, states would save money by accepting the Medicaid expansion in President Obama's health care law. The study finds that fourteen of the states that have rejected the expansion will spend a combined $1 billion more on uncompensated care, and give up $8.4 billion in payments from the federal government. In addition, 3.6 million Americans who would have received coverage in the expansion will remain uninsured. Opposition to accepting the funds comes from ultra-conservative governors and state legislators. More in The Hill at http://tinyurl.com/lguy98b.

The Medicaid expansion has become an extremely divisive issue among Republicans. Several Republican governors, including Jan Brewer (AZ) and John Kasich (OH) who are attempting to expand Medicaid, are being opposed by state legislatures controlled by their own party. At this time, twenty-three states have decided to expand Medicaid, nineteen have decided to reject the expansion, and eight are still debating the issue. The Washington Post details the intra-party feud at http://tinyurl.com/lgjtlqs.

“Expanding Medicaid will provide vital health insurance for millions of Americans, including many retirees,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Regardless of party affiliation, lawmakers should not play games with their citizens’ health.”

Human Chain Events against the Chained CPI Take Shape for July 2
New events are being added regularly to the Alliance’s July 2 Human Chain Event web page. On that date, activists around the country will form a “Human Chain against the Chained CPI” in front of key Congressional offices and Federal Buildings. It is a National Day of Action for the Alliance and its partners to stop the chained CPI: a formula change that would cut Social Security benefits by $6,000 over 15 years for a 65-year-old who retired in 2011. Thirty-eight events across the country are posted at http://tinyurl.com/pd8pbsz, and more events and details will be added next week.

Alliance Takes over LCAO Stewardship
On Wednesday, the Alliance took over the gavel for a year of heading up the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), succeeding the National Council on Aging (NCOA). LCAO is a coalition comprised of 68 of the nation’s diverse non-profit organizations that serve older Americans. It is dedicated to preserving and strengthening the well-being of America’s older population, and provides a loud voice for seniors and their families in the ongoing national debate on aging policy.

North Carolina, Florida, and Indiana Alliance Chapters Hold Their Conventions
National Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling swore in the elected officers, and North Carolina State AFL-CIO President James Andrews spoke at the North Carolina Alliance convention in Durham on Tuesday. State President Jim Moore and the entire state leadership were elected for another 2-year term. The theme of the convention this year was the creation of new activists. To view photographs from the convention, go to http://tinyurl.com/kdxky55.

On Monday and Tuesday this week, the Florida Alliance held its annual convention in Orlando. Tony Fransetta was re-elected as President and Richard Fiesta, Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs for the national Alliance, represented the DC office. They were joined by many State House and Senate members and other distinguished guests. A highlight of the conference: sending get-well cards to three state legislators who voted not to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid. The cards wished “a speedy recovery from whatever affliction that has caused you to turn your backs on Florida's working families, businesses and hospitals.” To read more, go to http://tinyurl.com/mn5emax.

On May 29 in Indianapolis, 125 delegates attended as Elmer Blankenship was re-elected President of the Indiana Alliance. Ms. Easterling was a speaker at the convention and declared, “Call us old school, but we believe that the promises made through Social Security and private pensions must be honored in full.  We believe that Medicare should take care better care of seniors’ health than CEOs’ wealth.  We believe in sacrifice when times get tough, but also that we should not ask those with the least to sacrifice the most.” Other guests included Rep. AndrĂ© Carson (D-IN), who has a lifetime 100% voting record with the Alliance; UAW regional director Ken Lortz; Warren Danford, the UAW’s retiree director and a member of the national Alliance’s Executive Board; and Tim Foley, who serves on both the Alliance’s Executive Board and also the Regional Board.

Alliance Remembers Senator Frank Lautenberg
This Monday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) passed away at the age of 89. Lautenberg, a five- term senator who was first elected in 1982, was the oldest member of the Senate and the last remaining WWII veteran. According to the Alliance’s 2012 Congressional Voting Record, Lautenberg received a high lifetime score of 93%, illustrating his commitment throughout his career to issues important to seniors. He was a vocal opponent of attempts to weaken Medicare and Social Security, including the Ryan Budget and chained CPI.

“The Alliance would like to thank Senator Lautenberg for his many years of advocacy on behalf of seniors and all Americans,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “His voice will be sorely missed.”

Gov. Christie appointed New Jersey Attorney General Jeff Chiesa on Thursday to fill the Senate seat left unfilled by Sen. Lautenberg’s death, opening the field for a special election on October 16. Mr. Chiesa, a fellow Republican and close friend to Mr. Christie, won't run in that election.

Did You Know…
More than half of retirees above the median U.S. income cite pensions as a major source of funding, double the percentage for lower-income retirees. Seven in 10 lower-income retirees cite Social Security as a major source of funds (Source: Gallup).

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/15HERML.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Retirees Helped with Rx Costs through Obamcares


In 2013, the Medicare Part D drug benefit doughnut hole is from $2970 to $7720. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, when beneficiaries fell into the doughnut thole, they had to pay 100% of the costs of their prescription medications. The new health care law provides drug discounts and subsidies to help fill in the doughnut hole. In 2013, Medicare beneficiaries who fall in the Part D drug benefit doughnut hole will receive a 50% discount on the price of their brand name drugs. Beneficiaries who fall in the doughnut hole will also receive a 21% government subsidy toward the cost of generic drugs and 2.5% government subsidy toward the cost of brand name drugs. Thus, the total out-of-pocket costs (this includes what beneficiaries pay -- deductible and co-payments -- plus drug discounts) is $4750. The doughnut hole will be closed by 2020.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Congresswoman Walorski, What is Your Healthcare Plan?

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Act provides numerous benefits for seniors under Medicare and Medicaid. Here’s just one of them: Prior to passage of the ACA, Medicare allowed for a one-time free check up when seniors joined the Medicare program. In 2011, seniors began receiving a free check up; this benefit is now available on a yearly basis. My Congresswoman, Jackie Walorski voted to repeal the ACA. Does anyone know what the Republicans Health Care Plan is?

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 5-31-13


Headlines: 
Trustees Reports: Social Security Steady, Medicare Financial Outlook Improved;
Immigrants are Helping Medicare’s Solvency;
UMWA Speaks Out Against Bankruptcy Ruling That Cuts Off Retiree Health Care;Report Ranks States Based on Measures of Senior Health;Alliance Observes Memorial Day;
Obituary: NARA Member Janice Ayres

Here is your May 31st edition:

Trustees Reports: Social Security Steady, Medicare Financial Outlook Improved

The Social Security and Medicare Trustees issued their annual reports on the state of the two programs’ finances today. Social Security, according to its Trustees, has a $2.7 trillion surplus, enough to fully meet the demands of a growing retiree cohort through 2033 – the same as last year. With no action from Congress, it would cover most benefits through 2087. The Trustees report for Medicare noted that its Trust Fund, which covers hospital care, can fully pay benefits through 2026 – two years later than forecast last year. The Medicare trustees report shows reduced cost growth; this is further proof in many experts’ eyes that health care reform is working for seniors.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Alliance Executive Director Edward Coyle issued a joint statement about the reports. “We must call out those who will try to misuse today’s  report as political cover for unwarranted and ill-advised benefit cuts, like switching to the ‘chained CPI’ to calculate Social Security’s annual cost of living increase (COLA),” Mr. Trumka and Mr. Coyle said. To read their full statement, go to http://tinyurl.com/k6qnk3u.


Immigrants are Helping Medicare’s Solvency
Kaiser Health News, quoting a study in the journal Health Affairs, reported on Wednesday that immigrants contribute more to Medicare than they take out. Between 2002 and 2009, immigrants generated a cumulative surplus of $115 billion for the trust fund, the study found. Most of the surplus contribution came from noncitizens. The immigrants created a net gain primarily because of demographics: There are 6.5 immigrants of working age for every one elderly immigrant, but only 4.7 working-age native citizens for every one retiree. That ratio could change in the future; however, the report notes that the Census Bureau projects that the share of immigrants in the U.S. will increase for the next 18 years.

Kaiser reports that the authors added personal views not often found in academic papers of this sort, writing, “…economic concerns — including the worry that immigrants are driving up US health care costs — have often dominated the debate over immigration. Our data offer a new perspective on these economic concerns.” The fullKaiser article is available at http://tinyurl.com/nrxfjko.


UMWA Speaks Out Against Bankruptcy Ruling That Cuts Off Retiree Health Care
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of Missouri has ruled in favor of proposals by Patriot Coal to eliminate its collective bargaining agreements. The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) has adamantly denounced the ruling and plans to appeal in Federal District Court. Patriot was created by Peabody Energy in 2007 with 43 percent of Peabody’s liabilities but just 11 percent of its assets. Because Patriot was created with insufficient assets to meet its liabilities to retired miners, analysts such as Bruce Rader, Professor of Finance at Temple University, have described the company as “designed to fail.” By creating Patriot and allowing it to go bankrupt, Peabody has deprived tens of thousands of workers of the benefits they earned. 
Under the Bankruptcy Court’s ruling, Patriot will be allowed to cease paying for retiree health care benefits as early as July 1. Responsibility for paying benefits would be handed over to a Voluntary Employee Beneficial Association (VEBA), which will only have guaranteed funding of $15 million plus a royalty payment of $0.20 per ton of coal the company produces, which may add approximately $5 million to the VEBA per year. Current health care costs for these retirees average nearly $7 million per month.

“What Peabody Coal is doing is absolutely criminal.  They are using our nation’s bankruptcy laws as a license to steal from the sick and the elderly,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “You cannot break a promise just because you want to make more money.”  Ms. Easterling was arrested earlier this month at a peaceful protest of Peabody’s actions in St. Louis.

Report Ranks States Based on Measures of Senior Health
A new report ranks the 50 states based on 34 different measures of senior health. These measures range from the rates of chronic conditions among seniors to the availability of medical care to the  rate of seniors living in poverty. Minnesota, which has a high number of home health care workers and a low rate of hunger among seniors, was ranked the best state for senior health. Mississippi, which has a high percentage of seniors living in poverty and a high rate of premature death, was the lowest ranked state. To read a USA Today story about the report, go tohttp://tinyurl.com/o3aotx6. To view the report itself, go to http://tinyurl.com/llkopd4.

“This report shows a wide range of variability between different areas of the country,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “While even the highest ranked states still have some challenges to overcome, we hope that this report will present an opportunity for state governments to learn from each other and implement policies that are currently in place in highly ranked states.”

Alliance Observes Memorial Day
On Monday, the Alliance joined with the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council in observing Memorial Day. The holiday marks a reminder of the importance of Social Security not just for retirees but also for other groups in need of Social Security benefits, including the survivors of the brave military men and women who are killed in action. “Since 1868, this holiday has served as a moment when Americans remember the men and women of the military who lost their lives to preserve our freedom,” said James Gilbert, Director of the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council.

Obituary: NARA Member Janice Ayres
Beloved Nevada Alliance member Janice Ayres passed away on Monday. She was 92. Her obituary in the Nevada Appeal can be read at http://tinyurl.com/jvthxam. A celebration of her life will be held on June 7th at 11:00 a.m. at the Presbyterian Church at 115 N. Division Street in Carson City. 
“On behalf of the Nevada Alliance Board of Directors and our members, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Ayres family, the Nevada Rural Counties Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) staff, and all seniors for whom Janice fought and assisted,” said Scotty Watts, President of the Nevada Alliance. “She was my dear friend and she will always be remembered for her compassion for seniors.”

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/lvbl9ob.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Social Security System Continues to Work

For Immediate Release
Contacts: Josh Goldstein – 202/637-5219 or jgoldstein@aflcio.org
                  David Blank – 202/637-5275 or dblank@retiredamericans.org

Joint Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and
Retiree Leader Edward Coyle
on the 2013 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports
May 31, 2013

The most important message from the 2013 Social Security Trustees Report is that our Social Security system continues to work for the American people.  After years of economic crisis for working families, Social Security is in better shape and more dependable than 401(k)s, private pensions, or any other public or private program.  We must call out those who will try to misuse today’s  report as political cover for unwarranted and ill-advised benefit cuts, like switching to the “chained CPI” to calculate Social Security’s annual cost of living increase (COLA).

The truth is that at a time when America’s retirement income deficit is estimated to be an astounding $6.6 trillion because too many people have nothing or too little in pensions or savings, we cannot afford to cut Social Security’s modest benefits in anyway whatsoever, including how it keeps pace with inflation through its annual COLA.   The Report reaffirms that, without any changes, Social Security can pay full benefits until 2033 and three-quarters of benefits after that, unchanged from last year’s report. 

Social Security provides a critical base of financial security and dignity for Americans in retirement or unable to work due to disability or when a working parent dies and is survived by young children. Going forward, strong economic growth broadly shared will serve to strengthen the program further.

While much might be made of the projected shortfall in the disability trust fund, there is a simple step that should be taken to address any short-run concerns.  As it has done eleven times before, Congress should reallocate the income across the two funds.

The good news from today’s Medicare Trustees report, extending the life of the Hospital Insurance trust fund by another two years to 2026, reminds us that we do not have a Medicare problem.  We have a health care cost problem.  Recent reforms have helped strengthen Medicare and appear to have contributed to a significant slowing of health costs overall in the short run.  If we are to succeed in the long run, however, we need to continue taking steps to make health care more affordable and the health care system more cost effective, and reject proposals to cut benefits or shift costs to individuals.

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The AFL-CIO is the umbrella federation for U.S. unions, with 57 unions representing more than 12 million working men and women.

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.