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Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 7-11-14

Headlines:
Social Security Disability Insurance Event Shines a Light on Program’s Importance
Alliance Cosponsors Tele-town Hall on Caregivers’ Credit with Rep. Nita Lowey
Growth in Medicare Spending Slows Dramatically
Hawaii Alliance Holds Annual Legislative Review, Honors Former President Hamai
Graying Prison Population Means New Health Care Costs for States
Fiesta Addresses AFT Retirees

Social Security Disability Insurance Event Shines a Light on Program’s Importance
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) coverage, which workers earn through Social Security payroll tax contributions, provides benefits to 8.9 million disabled American workers and 1.9 million dependent children of disabled workers. On Tuesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Alliance Legislative Representative Eva Dominguez were featured speakers at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress focusing on the importance of SSDI. Sen. Brown spoke about the need to expand Social Security and the Republican strategy to use SSDI as a way to undermine support for the entire Social Security system. Ms. Dominguez shared stories, sent in by Alliance members, about how SSDI has been a crucial safety net for them.

For 80% of disabled workers, SSDI is the primary or only source of income, and it provides a drastic increase in the quality of life of recipients who might otherwise live in poverty. Only one-third of private-sector workers has employer-provided long-term disability insurance, and most of those plans often provide less than SSDI. Only 7% of workers who make $12 per hour or less have such insurance, since most private long-term disability insurance plans are too costly for most workers. For more on SSDI from the AFL-CIO blog, along with a link to video of the event, go to http://tinyurl.com/k7pqfh4.

Alliance Cosponsors Tele-town Hall on Caregivers’ Credit with Rep. Nita Lowey
Also on Tuesday, the Alliance co-sponsored a teletown hall on Social Security featuring Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). The event focused on Lowey’s introduction of H.R.5024, the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act of 2014 - legislation that would allow time workers spend out of the workforce caring for a family member to count towards Social Security work credits. Since Social Security benefits are based on lifetime earnings, current rules mean that taking time out of the workforce to care for a loved one can result in reduced benefits at retirement. The caregiver credit would allow up to five years of time spent out of the workforce providing home care to count towards Social Security work credits.

“Under the existing rules, caregivers are effectively penalized for taking care of a family member. This penalty especially hurts working women who are more likely to take on caregiver responsibilities. It’s long past time for the important work of our nation’s caregivers to be recognized when it comes to Social Security benefits,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.     

Growth in Medicare Spending Slows Dramatically
New estimates suggest that Medicare spending in 2014 is expected to be more than $1,000 lower per beneficiary than was projected when the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. Current estimates, reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation, anticipate that the trend will continue. By 2019, per-beneficiary spending will be nearly $2,400 lower than projected in 2010. While experts are unable to account fully for the decline, much of it appears to be tied to Medicare savings provisions of the Affordable Care Act, along with efficiency gains implemented by providers in response to incentives included in the health care law. Other possible contributors include the use of new data systems to more effectively track health spending and several popular brand name prescription drugs going off patent in recent years.

“These new estimates are more evidence that the Affordable Care Act is working to control costs and make health care more affordable for everyone, including seniors. Curbing the rise in health costs means lower Medicare premiums, an improved budget outlook, and healthier balance sheets for the Medicare trust fund,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director for the Alliance. To read more about the spending slowdown, go to http://tinyurl.com/o3wo3uu.

Hawaii Alliance Holds Annual Legislative Review, Honors Former President Hamai
The Hawaii Alliance recently teamed with fellow advocacy organization Kokua Council to co-host the 8th Annual HARA/Kokua Council Legislative Review at the Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu.  Eight state legislators participated in the event, including state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim (D) and state House Speaker Joseph Souki (D). With a crowd of retiree activists along with representatives from a number of government and non-profit organizations in attendance, the legislators reported on recent policy developments, provided a number of informational handouts, and took part in a question and answer session. Former HARA President Al Hamai was presented with the Shining Light award in recognition of his many contributions to the Hawaii Alliance and his years of work on retiree issues. The event also saw a presentation by Hawaii Alliance President Justin Wong.   

Graying Prison Population Means New Health Care Costs for States
A new survey suggests that a rapidly aging inmate population could lead to budget problems for the nation’s prison system. According to the report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the number of prison inmates 55 and older jumped 204% between 1999 and 2012, a period in which the under-55 inmate population increased by only 9%. The staggering uptick is the result of stiffer sentencing laws and an increase in the number of older felons. As a result of the nation’s aging inmate population, prisons are being forced to shoulder higher health care costs and spend money to retrofit existing structures to accommodate the physical needs of older adults. More from American Public Media’s Marketplace is at http://tinyurl.com/nx8q5qq.

“There is a high cost to denying parole to our oldest felons,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “In cases where the threat to public safety remains high, and the prisoner is not rehabilitated, parole is not the answer. However, that is not always the case. That is why officials in many states are now reconsidering and trying to make it easier for these inmates to be released.”

Fiesta Addresses AFT Retirees
Mr. Fiesta traveled to Los Angeles to speak at the American Federation of Teachers Retiree Conference on Thursday and Friday.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/mzvpcu8

For the Alliance's Spanish language page, which includes last week's Friday Alert in Spanish, go to www.alianzadejubilados.org

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