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Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 8-29-14


Headlines:
This Labor Day, Let's Raise America's Pay – It Will Help with Retirement Savings
No Surprise: Between 2000 and 2011, the Wealth Gap Widened
“Star” Rating System Fails to Protect Many Seniors in Nursing Homes
AP: GOP Sees Health Care Law’s Advantages More and More
Paul Ryan Hears More from Seniors about his Medicare Cuts during Book Tour
Fiesta Addresses Machinist Retirees, Celebrates Social Security in Rhode Island

This Labor Day, Let's Raise America's Pay – It Will Help with Retirement Saving
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) addresses extremely slow wage growth just in time for Labor Day. Available at http://tinyurl.com/l4duxgm, EPI’s paper shows that wages for most Americans were flat or fell in the first half of 2014, compared to this time last year. The study’s author, Elise Gould, says that wages even fell for top wage earners and those with a college degree. The bottom 10 percent’s wages increased by 2 cents an hour, thanks to state-level minimum wage increases. Use EPI’s calculator to see how much people would make if their wages were to continue growing with productivity, as they did in the past: http://tinyurl.com/p4pkktf. To see the video, “The one obvious way to fix inequality that no one is talking about,” go to http://tinyurl.com/opdbk67
“The impact of stagnant wages is more than just an issue for those currently working,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “The problems increase at retirement, when seniors rely on what they’ve been able to save, as well as the Social Security benefits that are determined by wages earned while working. Income security now equals retirement security later.”

No Surprise: Between 2000 and 2011, the Wealth Gap Widened
New statistics from the Census Bureau show that the gap between rich and poor households only continues to rise. Between 2000 and 2011, net worth increased for the top 40% while declining for the bottom 60% of Americans. The gap has also increased according to demographic breakdowns, including race. For instance, African-Americans saw their overall median net worth decrease by $3,746 (or 37.2%) between 2000 and 2011. According to the Census report, “Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011,” (http://tinyurl.com/p78jhs2), median household net worth decreased by $5,124 for households in the first (bottom) net worth quintile and increased by $61,379 (or 10.8%) for those in the highest (top) quintile between 2000 and 2011. Each quintile represents 20%, or one-fifth, of all households.

“Star” Rating System Fails to Protect Many Seniors in Nursing Homes
In order to provide better information regarding the quality of nursing homes, Medicare has embarked on a five year process to rate every facility on a five star system - comparable to a hotel rating system. However, of the data that factor into the rating, only the results of an annual health inspection are done by an independent entity and reviewed by the government. The other two criteria, staff levels and quality, are self-reported and are not usually investigated. This creates an inherent risk of inconsistencies in the system. A report by The New York Times found that “many…top-ranked nursing homes have been given a seal of approval that is based on incomplete information and that can seriously mislead consumers, investors and others about conditions at the homes.”
“We would like to see improvements to the rating system, such as decreased self-reporting and iHi,
ncreased verification of responses,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. The complete article can be found here: http://nyti.ms/1zpP8dw.

AP: GOP Sees Health Care Law’s Advantages More and More
President Obama’s health care law is less of a political target, as vulnerable Democrats increasingly embrace it on the campaign trail and Republicans talk more about fixing it instead of repealing it. Two-term Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor (D), who is in one of the most competitive races in the country, says in an ad this week that he voted for a law that prevents insurers from canceling policies if someone gets sick, as he was 18 years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer. According to the Associated Press (http://tinyurl.com/pjhuewy), “House Republicans have voted some 50 times to repeal, change or scrap the law, and the GOP is betting Americans' opposition will be a great motivator in November's midterm elections.” The Obama administration and many health care policy experts maintain that the law is accomplishing its main goal - providing health care coverage to millions of Americans who lack it, with 8 million enrolled. The law also closes the doughnut hole gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage for seniors and provides seniors with free preventive care for many conditions, cutting Medicare’s costs.
Robert Blendon, a public opinion analyst at the Harvard School of Public Health, says that the law is incredibly popular with “Democrats or more moderate independents” and that Sen. Pryor’s embracing of the law sends a message to Democrats that a law they like could disappear if he loses his seat. Campaign ads have also reflected less use of health care as an issue. Commercials from candidates and the party organizations themselves have focused on veterans, bipartisanship and attendance at committee hearings, while Republican-leaning outside groups such as Americans for Prosperity still use many of their ads to hit Democrats for backing the health care law. In July, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), described exchanges where individuals could shop for coverage as a step in the right direction and told reporters that "there are some things I feel could be built on.”

Paul Ryan Hears More from Seniors about his Medicare Cuts during Book Tour
Last week, seniors with the Pennsylvania Alliance picketed outside House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s speaking engagement and book tour stop in Philadelphia. This week, seniors and other critics of Rep. Ryan’s budget made their feelings known to him in Florida. For a photo of Florida Alliance Recording Secretary Barbara DeVane telling Rep. Ryan her point of view about Medicare in Tallahassee, go to http://tinyurl.com/knjk5jx. For a video of Rep. Ryan saying falsely that he does not plan to cut Medicare, go to http://tinyurl.com/mvuqxaj.
“The video catches Paul Ryan lying,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Medicare cuts are a cornerstone of the Ryan budget plan. He wants to use vouchers to transfer costs to seniors, and he wants to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67, for starters.”
Fiesta Addresses Machinist Retirees, Celebrates Social Security in Rhode Island
Mr. Fiesta was in Placid Harbor, Maryland on Monday at the Machinists Union Retirees Assistance Program. On Friday, he is in Providence, Rhode Island for a Social Security birthday celebration with Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed; Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline; George Nee, President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO; and Rhode Island Alliance members.


For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/l8eqg4h.
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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