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Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 2-7-14




Headlines:
NY Gov. Candidate Astorino: Let Seniors Eat Soup, and They Won’t Need Dentures
Harvard-CUNY Study: Governors’ Refusal of Medicaid Funds May Kill up to 17,000
Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare
Vote to Extend Benefits for the Long-Term Unemployed Fails in Senate
Republicans in House Discuss Tying Debt Limit to Medicare
“Compassionate Allowances” Speed up Social Security Disability Claims
Come to the Alliance’s Convention, April 28 – May 1, 2014, at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas

NY Gov. Candidate Astorino: Let Seniors Eat Soup, and They Won’t Need Dentures
This past Monday, Republican/Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino formed an exploratory Committee to run for New York Governor against Andrew Cuomo (D). The New York Daily News covered it by reporting on an interview that Mr. Astorino gave in 2011. During a “Capital Tonight” conversation, Astorino said that Medicaid should not pay for dentures for seniors. Asked by interviewer Liz Benjamin how seniors would be able to chew, Astorino said, “Soup is good.”

In response to the article, Dennis Tracey, President of the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans, said, “Telling seniors who depend on Medicaid to ‘go eat soup’ is insulting and degrading to senior citizens everywhere.  This kind of thoughtless comment ignores that there are countless senior citizens who depend on Medicaid for all kinds of critical health issues, from prescription drugs to dentures.” Mr. Tracey continued, “To mock these real issues shows that Rob Astorino not only doesn't care about the needs of seniors, but that he thinks our best use is being the butt of a political joke.  Mr. Astorino should immediately apologize.” To see video footage of Astorino’s original remarks, go to http://tinyurl.com/q4zgjvq. Monday’s Daily News article is at http://tinyurl.com/nwk254m.

Harvard-CUNY Study: Governors’ Refusal of Medicaid Funds May Kill up to 17,000
Using mortality rate statistics from other states’ previous efforts to expand Medicaid, a Harvard – City University of New York study has found that between 7,000 and 17,000 Americans are likely to die due to 25 states’ refusal to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. More at http://tinyurl.com/pgdpchx. For an Alliance fact sheet with Medicaid information for 2014, go to http://tinyurl.com/oz43huc.

Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare
Are you a union retiree or spouse?  Did you know you are eligible for affordable supplemental insurance to Medicare exclusively endorsed by the Alliance?  The Union Retiree Health Plan offers several options to fit your budget and is proud to announce the program’s most competitive rates ever!  The Open Enrollment Period is currently in effect through March 31, 2014!  During this period, Medicare-eligible union retirees and spouses are guaranteed acceptance without waiting periods, regardless of preexisting health conditions.  If you are not one of the thousands of your fellow members currently benefiting from the Union Retiree Health Plan, now is the best time to enroll!  Already enrolled?  Tell your friends! Enrollment is easy.  For more information, please call 1-855-733-0557 today!

Vote to Extend Benefits for the Long-Term Unemployed Fails in Senate
On Thursday, the Senate again failed to approve an extension of emergency unemployment insurance, 40 days after the benefit was allowed to lapse. One vote prevented 1.7 million long-term unemployed Americans from receiving a desperately needed lifeline. Republicans opposed the bill even after Democrats met their demands that it be fully paid for and only three months in duration. For a tally of the 58-40 procedural vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/pnsjnd9. Sixty votes were needed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) switched his vote to “nay” in the end, enabling him to bring the vote up again in the future. More at http://tinyurl.com/qbj234b. “Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) had said, ‘If [Senate Majority Leader Reid] gave us an offset, I’d be a yes.’ However, he did not keep his word,” noted Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Republicans in House Discuss Tying Debt Limit to Medicare
This week, House Republican leaders have tried to craft a debt-limit package that could pass with only Republican support. Now, according to Politico, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and others are considering “attaching a whole laundry list of provisions to the debt ceiling that do precious little to decrease the deficit but would instead serve only to attract enough Democratic support to move the legislation on to the Senate.”

One option being widely discussed is attaching a nine-month patch of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) to the debt-limit increase. The SGR, or “doc fix,” is the formula by which the federal government reimburses doctors who treat Medicare patients. Such a move would enable doctors to continue treating Medicare patients without seeing a cut to their payments. However, Medicare beneficiaries could see their costs go up. Also in the mix is a proposal to reverse recent cuts to the cost-of-living adjustment for some military retirees’ pensions. Top Republicans think that could attract Democratic support, but Senate insiders say Boehner is mistaken. The debt ceiling likely needs to be hiked by the end of February to avoid a default. More at http://tinyurl.com/pqhpean.

“Compassionate Allowances” Speed up Social Security Disability Claims
Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin has announced that 25 conditions would be added to the Compassionate Allowance program, bringing to 225 the number of conditions covered. The program allows individuals with the most serious disabilities to be pushed through the process of applying for, and receiving, benefits at a much faster rate. For many, applying for Social Security benefits can take months, but the Compassionate Allowance program cuts this wait to days. You can see the list of conditions added, including a dozen cancers, at http://tinyurl.com/pgrmuso
“We welcome the expansion of the Compassionate Allowance program, and the relief it will provide to countless Americans who don’t have the luxury of waiting to get their benefits,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Come to the Alliance’s Convention, April 28 – May 1, 2014, at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas
Join us in Las Vegas as we sharpen our organizing and communications skills for the 2014 elections and beyond! Liz Shuler, Alliance Executive Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO; J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees; and Linda Chavez-Thompson, former Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, are confirmed speakers. Alliance members will elect a president and secretary-treasurer, and community members will elect six community-based board members and the executive vice-president for community affairs. Alliance members whose dues are paid and are in good standing as of February 27, 2014 are eligible to be a voting delegate. Hotel reservations must be made by March 21, 2014. Questions? Contact Joni Jones at jjones@retiredamericans.org or 202-637-5377. Ready to register? Download a registration form at http://tinyurl.com/nqnz97a or register on-line at http://tinyurl.com/prl8box.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/lo7upfz.

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