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Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert, 1-24-14




Headlines:
Supreme Court Hears Landmark Union Case Involving Home Health Care Workers
Last Chance to RSVP for Conference Call with Sen. Bernie Sanders Monday Night
Insurance Industry Ads Seek to Preempt Medicare Advantage Cuts
Scam Using Medical Alert Devices was Aimed at Seniors
Hawaii Alliance for Retired Americans Holds its Convention, Elects Officers
Obituary: Kenny Stevens, Member of Alliance Executive and Regional Boards
Obituary for former Vermont Alliance President Chet Briggs


Supreme Court Hears Landmark Union Case Involving Home Health Care Workers
This week, U.S. Supreme Court heard Harris vs. Quinn, a case concerning in-home care providers who work with Medicaid patients, and their right to unionize. In response to high turnover rates and low wages amongst home care providers, 20,000 individuals in Illinois voted to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), securing higher union wages in negotiations with the state. In response, the anti-union group the National Right to Work Foundation brought suit against SEIU and Governor Pat Quinn (D). At issue are two questions: whether states may recognize a union to represent health care workers who care for disabled adults in their homes instead of in state institutions; and whether non-union members must pay for negotiating a contract they benefit from.

“We hope that the Court will see through this attempt by anti-labor groups to strip power from unions and from the millions of employees they represent,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. More at http://tinyurl.com/pc4zo9g.

Last Chance to RSVP for Conference Call with Sen. Bernie Sanders Monday Night
On Monday night, January 27th, at 8 PM EST, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will host a tele-conference call with activists from across the nation. Alliance members and coalition partners will come together for a discussion about how we can protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and create an agenda that works for all Americans, not just powerful special interests. To take part, go to http://tinyurl.com/orcrzkc. Today (Friday) is the deadline to RSVP, so don’t miss your chance!

Insurance Industry Ads Seek to Preempt Medicare Advantage Cuts
America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a trade association representing health care insurers, launched a seven figure advertising blitz this week. The campaign comes in advance of an annual notice that sets the plans’ payment rates for the upcoming year and focuses on that issue.

According to Politico (http://tinyurl.com/q25lxou), the ads follow the “Seniors are Watching” theme of a prior campaign. Medicare Advantage (MA), unlike “Original Medicare,” is offered by a private insurance company which in turn contracts with Medicare.  Historically, Medicare trust fund reimbursements for MA have been higher than regular Medicare for similar services, and certain Affordable Care Act provisions set out to bring the costs more in line. While AHIP and allies refer to the incoming changes as catastrophic for seniors, others disagree. “This is just setting the stage so that when the 2015 announcement comes out, AHIP will try to argue that these are new cuts... but there are no new cuts,” said Edwin Park of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“The cuts that the ads aim to stop are actually a bonanza for private insurance companies,” added Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “That money is better spent on providing health care to those who cannot afford it.”

Scam Using Medical Alert Devices was Aimed at Seniors
According to MSN Money (a service of MSN, originally The Microsoft Network), federal and state regulators have shut down a multimillion-dollar scam that they said duped seniors into turning over their credit card information in exchange for supposedly free medical-alert devices. The business blasted seniors across the U.S. and Canada with robocalls and said that they were eligible for “a free alert system purchased by a friend or relative.” Once the person agreed to receive the device, “they were transferred to an operator who took their billing information and immediately began charging them for the service.” Government officials said last week that they received more than 66,000 complaints about the scam, which deliberately targeted the elderly. Medical alert systems are designed to help seniors get quick help in the event of an emergency. The devices most often consist of a necklace or wristband with an emergency button that contacts a company dispatcher. The scam was not connected with any real manufacturers of medical alert devices. The makers of Life Alert had sued the business for using its “Help, I've fallen and I can't get up,” phrase on the robocalls. Prosecutors said the business appeared organized in a way that would evade law enforcement.

“Many Americans have been talking recently about having their information stolen at the checkout lines of retail stores,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “But we should all remember that giving out too much information to people who call you can be equally dangerous.”

Hawaii Alliance for Retired Americans Holds its Convention, Elects Officers
Mr. Fiesta traveled to Hawaii for the Hawaii Alliance's convention in Honolulu on January 11. Eighty-six voting delegates attended, representing all eight statewide affiliates.  Speakers included Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell; International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 142 Secretary-Treasurer Guy Fujimura; Mr. Fiesta; and Alliance Western Regional Board Member Luis Duran. One highlight was the educational session on Long Term Care Costs and Services Relating to Alzheimer's Disease, presented by Wes Lum, Director of the Executive Office on Aging (EOA); Jody Mishan, State Coordinator of Alzheimer's Disease; and financial adviser Michael Yee. Congratulations to all of the newly elected officers: Justin Wong, President; Elmer Yuen, Vice President; Carol Noland, Secretary; and Phyllis Hiramatsu, Treasurer.

Obituary: Kenny Stevens, Member of Alliance Executive and Regional Boards
Kenneth (“Kenny”) Stevens, who was on the Alliance Executive and Regional Boards and a member of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), passed away on January 17th at the age of 78. “Kenny was so crucial to the formation of the Virginia Alliance,” said Ms. Easterling. “I know we will all miss him greatly. Our condolences go out to his family and all of those close to him. He had many friends at the Alliance.” Interment will take place in Danville (Virginia) Memorial Gardens with military honors by American Legion Post #1097 and the U.S. Army. For a more detailed obituary, go to http://tinyurl.com/ojk6jpr.

Obituary for former Vermont Alliance President Chet Briggs
Chester (“Chet”) Arthur Briggs, who was formerly President of the Vermont Alliance, has died at the age of 73. “From leading a movement in 1960 to integrate lunch counters and movie theaters in Austin, Texas, to serving as state President for the Vermont Alliance, Chet led a life dedicated to making the world a better place,” said Mr. Fiesta. “I offer our deepest condolences to his family. He touched a lot of people.” To read a full obituary, go to http://tinyurl.com/qhsy8sw.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/k99c9b6.


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