Friday, March 28, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-28-14

Headlines:
Doc Fix Prevents Cuts to Medicare Providers for a Year
Kellogg’s: Frosted Flakes®, Froot Loops®, and a Worker Lockout
See Hidden Camera Footage of American Legislative Exchange Council in Action
NAFTA at 20: AFL-CIO Reports on Legacy of the Trade Deal
Fiesta Speaks at NEA Conference
Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas


Doc Fix Prevents Cuts to Medicare Providers for a Year
On Thursday, the House approved a so-called “doc fix” bill that serves as a temporary solution to an ongoing structural problem in the formula used to determine Medicare funding levels. After hours of uncertainty over whether the bill would have sufficient support to pass, House Republican leaders moved quickly to approve the measure by voice vote. The legislation, which is also expected to be taken up and passed by the Senate on Monday, prevents a 24 percent cut in reimbursements to physicians under Medicare. The Washington Post reported that many House Democrats criticized the bill -- insisting that Congress should have voted on a permanent fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate, as the doc fix is known.

“This is a band-aid,” declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “There are so many things that are wrong with this bill, but the simple fact is that the clock is ticking and on March 31, it's bad news for our seniors and the doctors that treat them.” She voted in favor of the year-long fix despite its shortcomings, after considering the consequences of not doing so.

This “doc fix” is the latest incarnation of a bill passed frequently by the House -- sometimes multiple times per year -- that avoids a sharp drop-off in Medicare payments. In 1997, Congress created the Sustainable Growth Rate, a system that pegged the amount of money budgeted for Medicare payments to projected growth of the economy. However, within a few years, health care costs far outpaced economic growth -- creating a multibillion dollar shortfall in funding.

“While we really need a permanent fix, we can at least breathe a sigh of relief that seniors will not have trouble getting doctors to accept patients on Medicare next week,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Kellogg’s: Frosted Flakes®, Froot Loops®, and a Worker Lockout
Kellogg Company, the $14 billion global snack food giant, has embarked on a perilous path that threatens the very principles and values that its founder W.K. Kellogg envisioned a century ago. Under the guise of another restructuring program and led by its CEO, John Bryant, Kellogg is closing factories, cutting production lines, locking out workers, taking uncompromising and unreasonable stands at collective bargaining tables throughout the world and is even turning its back on its hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan.

More than 220 workers have been locked out of their jobs at Kellogg's Memphis, Tenn. cereal plant since October 22, 2013. The workers, members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 252G, who make Frosted Flakes®, Froot Loops® and other breakfast favorites, were locked out as part of the drive by the company to replace steady, middle-class, full-time jobs with casual part-time employees who would make significantly lower wages and substandard benefits.

“We need to stand with these Kellogg’s workers in order to help save the middle class,” said Rich Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. To tell Kellogg to stop the global destruction of middle class jobs, go to http://www.kellogggreed.com.

See Hidden Camera Footage of American Legislative Exchange Council in Action
Check out the Alliance’s new web page http://tinyurl.com/nqr4g2q, which features a story about a hidden camera in an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Arizona with state legislators and corporate lobbyists. The page also has action links (updated for all browsers!) and resources.

NAFTA at 20: AFL-CIO Reports on Legacy of the Trade Deal
The AFL-CIO’s new report “NAFTA at 20” outlines what workers have learned from 20 years of NAFTA. The report, available at www.aflcio.org/NAFTAat20, argues that NAFTA-style agreements prove to be a vehicle to increase corporate profits at the expense of workers, consumers, farmers, communities, the environment and even democracy itself.

“The report is particularly relevant in the context of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, wealth inequality, and the jobs deficit,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Insurers Benefit More from Additional Medicare Reimbursements than Seniors do
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has released a paper looking at the Medicare Advantage (MA) program, through which the federal government contracts with private insurers to coordinate and finance health care for more than 15 million Medicare recipients. NBER found that additional reimbursements to Medicare providers lead more private firms to enter the market and to an increase in the share of Medicare recipients enrolled in MA plans. The findings revealed that only about one-fifth of the additional reimbursement is passed through to consumers in the form of better coverage. A somewhat larger share accrues to private insurers in the form of higher profits. There was also evidence suggesting a large impact on advertising expenditures. The results have implications for a key feature of the Affordable Care Act that will reduce reimbursement to MA plans by $156 billion from 2013 to 2022. The paper is available at http://tinyurl.com/qy6yanp.

Fiesta Speaks at NEA Conference
Mr. Fiesta traveled to Houston for the NEA Retired Organizing Conference on Wednesday. The conference was devoted to training retired members of the National Education Association to organize their communities to advance the cause of public education.

Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas
It is not too late to register for the Alliance for Retired Americans 2014 National Membership Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 28 through May 1. More info is at http://bit.ly/1hYpj0g. Retirees will take home all the information they need to fight for retirement security and help fellow Americans retire with dignity. Convention attendees will have time to network with activists from across the country, share experiences, and gain helpful tips. Delegates registered to attend may offer or second a resolution for consideration. It must pertain to a statement of the Alliance’s position or policy on a specific matter and be sent to Resolutions2014@retiredamericans.org. Resolutions and seconds must be received by the Alliance by April 8, 2014.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/1mbcWwV.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-21-14

Headlines:
Medicare Means Testing Would Harm Middle Class
Rapper “Common” to Support Nissan Canton Unionization Effort
Medicaid Expansion Causes Waves at State Level
Sign Up For, Share Our Spanish Friday Alert - Alerta Semanal
Convention Deadline, Register Now!

Medicare Means Testing Would Harm Middle Class
Alliance for Retired Americans member and AFSCME retiree leader Charlie Hogan of Chicago joined Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky on a press call Thursday co-hosted by the Congresswoman, Social Security Works and the Medicare Rights Center. Mr. Hogan, a veteran, stressed that the retirees of today and tomorrow contributed to our earned benefits, Medicare and Social Security, and that promise should not be broken. Hogan said, “If we didn't have Medicare, if we didn't have insurance at work, we'd lose our homes, we'd lose everything”(http://bit.ly/1h1kBt6).

Stacy Sanders, Federal Policy Director for the Medicare Rights Center, explained three important facts about further means testing Medicare on the call: Medicare is already means-tested – wealthy Medicare beneficiaries already pay more for their Medicare premiums; further means-testing means higher health care costs for the middle class; and more means-testing would undermine the universality and integrity of Medicare. Dr. Ben Veghte, Research Director for Social Security Works, pointed out that the average senior's Social Security benefits are equivalent to a minimum wage income, about $15,000/year. He added, “Indirectly, Social Security benefits have been cut by rising out-of-pocket health care costs over the last two decades.” A fact sheet on the issue is available here: http://bit.ly/1jcOxVO. Veghte said, “Our health care system is currently twice as expensive as most other Western countries’; there are a number of proposals that would reduce health care costs, not just shift costs onto seniors.”

Rapper “Common” to Support Nissan Canton Unionization Effort
Tonight, a rapper and actor named Common will perform a concert in support of the workers at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi plant. He will be joined by actor Danny Glover. Common and Mr. Glover said, “This event is an expression of support for Nissan auto workers in Canton, Mississippi, who are fighting for a fair union election and a voice in their workplace at Nissan.”  Many at the plant have tried to push for a vote to join UAW for the last several years, but Nissan has fought unionization. A vote would be particularly significant on the heels of the failed vote at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, where union activists have appealed the result, arguing that workers were unfairly intimidated into voting against joining.  If successful, the vote will offer UAW another opportunity to represent its first foreign-owned plant in the South, and provide a launching pad for UAW. More info: http://bit.ly/1eqXCuo.

Medicaid Expansion Causes Waves at State Level
After the Affordable Care Act paved the way for Medicaid expansion, 25 states and the District of Columbia moved relatively quickly to adopt it.  Some states did the opposite, however, and their legislatures and governors are still working to block it.

This week, the Georgia legislature approved two measures that will block Georgians’ access to health insurance, including HB 990, which strips Gov. Nathan Deal of his authority to expand Medicaid. This vote came at the governor’s request, in order to prevent Medicaid expansion by any means.  That leaves 600,000 of the poorest Georgians without access to affordable health care (http://bit.ly/1ik2imv). The legislature took these actions despite Georgia having the 5th highest uninsured population in the nation. “Moral Monday” protestors, part of a movement sweeping the South which originated in North Carolina and aims to give voice to citizens whose rights are under attack by their own legislature, were present at the Georgia capitol. About 40 of the protestors were arrested for disrupting proceedings (http://huff.to/1g5RAk2).

In Virginia, despite electing a pro-expansion Democratic governor in Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s Republican-controlled state house has promised to block Medicaid expansion. In response, McAuliffe embarked on a tour of the state, pitching the benefits of the program aiming to mobilize the support of Virginia citizens (http://wapo.st/1fKG9td). Members of the Senate and House of Delegates return to Richmond next Monday to continue work on the budget and Medicaid expansion. Last Saturday, Virginia Alliance members joined with Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare, Virginia Organizing, and the Virginia AFL-CIO at a capitol rally, with hundreds expressing why Virginia legislators need to put their constituents first and expand Medicaid. One fast food worker present explained that she earns minimum wage and is above the cut-off for Medicaid benefits but cannot afford to purchase her own insurance; many others shared their stories about how Medicaid expansion would improve lives. Citizens and activists, including Alliance for Retired Americans members, will reach out to constituents at their doors this weekend across the entire state, encouraging them to speak up for expansion. Ron Thompson, President of the Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans, said, “I’ve walked the halls of the capitol many Mondays and met with state legislators who say the same thing: we won’t do it because we can’t trust the federal government. They’re like clones. My question for them is: aren’t you a government employee? And don’t you work for the people of Virginia? They need health care!”

Sign Up For, Share Our Spanish Friday Alert - Alerta Semanal
The Friday Alert is now available each week in Spanish! Find last week’s Alerta Semanal, at http://bit.ly/1kMauwN or on the Alliance’s Spanish language page http://tinyurl.com/nllcz6n. You can also sign up for Spanish-language emails at http://bit.ly/1jbQ0fd or on the Spanish language page.

Convention Deadline, Register Now!
Hurry, now is the time to register for the Alliance for Retired Americans 2014 National Membership Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 28 through May 1. Avoid the late fee for convention registration by registering today at http://tinyurl.com/prl8box. Don't miss out on the discounted $99.00 per night room rate expiring March 21. More info: http://bit.ly/1hYpj0g.

It is more important than ever that retirees have all the information and the skills they need to fight for retirement security and to help fellow Americans retire with dignity. Convention attendees will have time to network with activists from across the country, share experiences, and gain helpful tips. Delegates registered to attend the Convention may offer or second a resolution for consideration. It must pertain to a statement of the Alliance’s position or policy on a specific matter and be sent to Resolutions2014@retiredamericans.org. Resolutions and seconds must be received by the Alliance by April 8, 2014.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/1kPCakg.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What's wrong with Indiana

More than one thing. That's for sure. Lousy, dirty, stinky toll road rest areas. Goofy time zones. An intolerant, backwards, uncaring General Assembly and this:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-14-14

Headlines:
Stand up to the American Legislative Exchange Council and Protect Pensions
Alliance Letter: House “Doc Fix” is the Wrong Solution
USA Today Piece Describes Retirees’ Biggest Financial Regrets
Spanish Friday Alert now Available
Oregon Alliance Holds State Convention, Hosts Former Governor Roberts
Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas

Stand up to the American Legislative Exchange Council and Protect Pensions
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a corporate-funded, “pay-to-play” lobbying group that brings corporations and state legislators together to craft “model” legislation. The “model bills” they craft, regrettably, put corporate profits before the public interest. Stand up to ALEC – the coalition group that includes the Alliance for Retired Americans, the AFL-CIO, and other unions and allies, will focus on pensions during the week of March 17. ALEC’s goal is to wipe out public pension systems in favor of private 401(k) type plans. In a Wall Street-managed, individual 401(k) world, workers would lose their ability to save, invest and take action collectively. For a fact sheet on ALEC and retirement security, go to http://tinyurl.com/l6ruewq.

“ALEC and its sister organization, the State Policy Network, are planning campaigns, lobbying activities, and lawsuits to challenge and degrade state and local public pension systems in numerous states,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania are targets at the least, and we cannot afford to stay out of this battle. We will reach out to expose these anti-democratic efforts step-by-step.”

Alliance Letter: House “Doc Fix” is the Wrong Solution
The Alliance sent a letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday regarding the “doc fix,” or “Sustainable Growth Rate” (SGR). The SGR is supposed to chop provider reimbursement if spending rises too fast, but such steep cuts in practice would harm patient care, and more doctors would refuse to treat seniors.  The letter from Alliance Executive Director Richard Fiesta opposed the passage of H.R. 4015, the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act, as the solution. The letter suggested other ways to solve the problem, including the Medicare Drug Discount Act (http://tinyurl.com/p5px7p5). However, the bill passed on Friday, 238-181. For a tally of the vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/mgnvxze.

“While the February 2014 agreement reached by the House and Senate to fix the sustainable growth rate formula in Medicare’s physician reimbursement was bicameral and bipartisan, this legislation is not,” Mr. Fiesta wrote. “Under this egregious proposal, doctors would be paid on the backs of uninsured Americans. This is simply unacceptable….(i)t is disturbing to us that the authors of this proposal found money to provide an update for physicians, who on average make upwards of $200,000 per year, but not for low-income Medicare beneficiaries.” To read the full letter, go to http://tinyurl.com/qj7zve9.

USA Today Piece Describes Retirees’ Biggest Financial Regrets
Financial advisers, asked about their retired clients’ biggest money regrets, offered several recommendations in USA Today this week. Among the regrets listed: retiring too early, not planning for worst-case scenarios, and underestimating future medical costs. Some also regret withdrawing early from an IRA or 401(k) and not moving to a new city or state to reduce taxes.

“I’m sure many people would love to have saved more for their retirement, but the money was just never there,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Tash Elwyn, president of the Raymond James & Associates firm, says a key mistake people make is that they fail to make provisions for catastrophic events. “Whether it's a major medical issue or a debilitating illness, those that find they are not only financing their own retirement, but an adult child who has returned after a job loss aren't accounting for real life. Planning can't just be for best-case scenarios, and far too often it is.” More at http://tinyurl.com/q44lwqb.

Spanish Friday Alert now Available
The Friday Alert will now be available each week in Spanish! To see last week’s Alerta Semanal, go to http://tinyurl.com/mq7gpry. For the Alliance’s Spanish language page, which includes fact sheets and other translated documents from the main site, go to http://tinyurl.com/nllcz6n. More outreach from the Alliance to the Hispanic elder community will be coming in the next few months.

Oregon Alliance Holds State Convention, Hosts Former Governor Roberts
On March 8, the Oregon Alliance for Retired Americans held its annual convention, and it included the most attendees in years. Featured speaker Barbara Roberts, Oregon's first woman governor, shared her life story. In observance of International Women's Day, she encouraged women to record their successes. Progressive talk show host Carl Wolfson spoke about fighting income inequality. Resolutions were passed opposing ALEC legislative activities and supporting Postal Service banking. Board member Jim Davis reported success at the just-ended Oregon legislative session in securing funding for the placement of senior and disability mental health and addiction specialists in all 36 county mental health programs. Ron Rogers and Jane Netboy were elected as trustees.

Alliance’s National Convention is 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! Confirmed speakers now include: Lee Saunders, President of AFSCME; Danny Thompson, Nevada AFL-CIO Executive Secretary-Treasurer and Nevada Alliance Vice President; Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Liz Shuler, Alliance Executive Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO; Linda Chavez-Thompson, former Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO; J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees; and several others.

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. Hotel reservations must be made by March 21, 2014. Click on http://tinyurl.com/luw8vke to visit the Alliance’s convention web page. Go to http://tinyurl.com/prl8box to register on-line. Questions? Contact Joni Jones at jjones@retiredamericans.org or 202-637-5377.

Any delegate registered to attend the National Membership Convention may offer or second a resolution for consideration. The resolution must pertain to a statement of the Alliance’s position or policy on a specific matter. Resolutions, and seconds, must be received by the Alliance no later than April 8, 2014. The Resolutions Committee, designated by the Alliance President, will review proposed resolutions. Send resolutions to Resolutions2014@retiredamericans.org.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/k9vlzqv.

Letter to Indiana CD2 Jackie Walorski

Indiana has always had a proud manufacturing tradition but unless we do something to create more jobs, that tradition will be a thing of the past. We've lost 183,400 manufacturing jobs since 2000!  The way to get good jobs back is to crack down on currency manipulation. It's one of the chief reasons America's trade deficit was $456 billion last year. But a new report by the Economic Policy Institute says that Indiana could create 152,600 jobs by 2015 if we simply stamped out currency manipulation. In North Central Indiana, 20,000 jobs could be created, which makes our Congressional District sixth in the nation in the amount of jobs that could be created if Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and others stood up to unfair trade.

There is a bill in congress that would do that. HR 1276 would take countries like Communist China to task for rigging their exchange rate to cheat American companies and workers out of business. But it needs more support, and Representative Jackie Walorski hasn't added her name yet. Representative Walorski, will you help fight currency manipulation? We need to get serious about job creation, and these issues are one and the same.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-7-14




Headlines:
House Budget Committee Chair Ryan Misrepresents Economists in Poverty Report
President Obama Releases His 2015 Budget
Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare
Senators Introduce Legislation to Protect Medicare for Seniors
Bridge Project Reports on the Conservative Money Trail

House Budget Committee Chair Ryan Misrepresents Economists in Poverty Report
The House Budget Committee released a report, The War on Poverty: Fifty Years Later, on Monday, and the findings left several economists and social scientists bemused and angry, according to The Fiscal Times. Several experts who read it said that Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) either misunderstood or misrepresented their research. One of the study’s authors, Jane Waldfogel, a professor at Columbia University and a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, said that she was surprised when she read the paper, “because it seemed to arbitrarily chop off data from two of the most successful years of the war on poverty.” Barbara Wolfe, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, objected to Ryan’s use of two of her studies: Ryan’s paper erroneously claimed that one of Wolfe’s studies found that only a minority of families alter their employment decisions in response to Medicaid’s design. For analysis and a link to the report itself, go to http://tinyurl.com/o23ysld.

“It is especially galling when the misinformation is used to attack the economically disadvantaged,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

President Obama Releases His 2015 Budget
President Obama released his 2015 budget on Tuesday. As expected, it did not include the chained CPI benefit cut to Social Security and other programs. The budget includes $250 million to modernize customer service at the Social Security Administration in order to decrease wait times. Also, an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit is expected to benefit 300,000 working seniors, and increased funding to the Department of Housing and Urban Development is slated to expand housing for seniors by 3,000 units. The budget also includes some cuts, especially to Medicare beneficiaries, that many seniors’ advocates would rather not see. To read The Washington Post’s budget write-up, go to http://tinyurl.com/objbnjh. For the National Coalition on Aging’s take on the budget, go to http://tinyurl.com/qalg8jo. To see the White House’s fact sheet on the budget and seniors, go to http://tinyurl.com/p7evz3q.

“Seniors continue to be thrilled with reports that came out in February that President Obama has removed the chained CPI cut to Social Security and other programs from his 2015 budget,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “We would soon like to see a White House plan, articulated well by members of Congress like Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), to expand Social Security.”

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.

Senators Introduce Legislation to Protect Medicare for Seniors
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is the lead on a bill that was introduced on Thursday to protect Medicare.
Co-sponsors include fellow Democrats Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Jeff Merkley (OR), Al Franken (MN), Brian Schatz (HI), Tom Udall (NM), Kay Hagan (NC), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Warren. The Senators introduced the Medicare Protection Act, legislation expressing strong opposition to changes in Medicare that would reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or raise the eligibility age for hard-working seniors.

“We’ve seen an irresponsible few in Washington try to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors by recklessly voting to turn Medicare into a voucher system and raise the eligibility age for benefits,” Sen. Pryor said. “I refuse to let that happen. That’s why I’m proud to lead the charge on the Medicare Protection Act, a responsible solution that will protect the health, safety, and financial security of nearly 600,000 seniors in my state alone.”

The Medicare Protection Act would amend the Congressional Budget Act to define any provision included in reconciliation legislation that makes changes to Medicare to reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or restrict eligibility criteria as extraneous and an inappropriate use of the reconciliation process. The bill would also express the sense of the Senate that 1) the Medicare eligibility age should not be increased, and 2) the Medicare program should not be privatized or turned into a voucher system. For a copy of the bill, click http://tinyurl.com/oa29ghe.

“This legislation would protect Medicare so that it is not turned into a voucher system, benefits are not slashed, and it is not privatized,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Bridge Project Reports on the Conservative Money Trail
On Thursday, Bridge Project, an organization dedicated to “opposing the conservative movement’s extreme ideology and exposing its often dishonest tactics,” released a new report shining a light on the money funding the conservative agenda. Coming on the first day of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the report, “Conservative Transparency: A Look at the Organized Right in 2014,” and its accompanying website give the public a window into the complex and often cloudy flow of money among conservative donors, organizations, and candidates. The full report is available at http://tinyurl.com/k5ay996.

The first of several planned state-based case studies was also released on Thursday: it details how North Carolina, since 2010, has pushed one of the most aggressive right-wing agendas in the country. The North Carolina case study is available at http://tinyurl.com/qcvw5ms. The group’s accompanying website, www.ConservativeTransparency.org, tracks the flow of money among conservative donors, advocacy groups, political committees, and candidates. In the 2012 cycle, conservative outside groups spent more than $800 million on federal elections.

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

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 2-28-14




Headlines:
U.S. Ranks Just 19th in Retirement Security Worldwide
Virginia Alliance Member Joins Sen. Chris Murphy in Support of Affordable Care Act
Rep. John Dingell Announces his Retirement after Record 58 Years in Congress
Pentagon Budget Could Hurt Military Retirees
Nebraska Takes Center Stage in Medicaid Expansion Debate
Texas Alliance Stands up for Minimum Wage Hike, Illinois for Nursing Home Safety


U.S. Ranks Just 19th in Retirement Security Worldwide
U.S. retirees are facing worse conditions for their golden years than retired workers in many other developed countries -- from Canada and the United Kingdom to South Korea, CNN reports. The U.S. ranked 19th in retirement security for the second year in a row, according to information from Natixis Global Asset Management that ranked 150 countries based on health care, finances, economic well-being and quality of life factors. European countries took eight of the top 10 spots, lifted by strong social programs for seniors. Number 1 Switzerland, for instance, is known for its strong public and private pension system. In contrast, American workers increasingly have to save for retirement on their own or through workplace 401(k) plans, while high health care costs remain an added burden. More at http://tinyurl.com/lfg23ns.

“A nation as wealthy as the U.S should be doing better than 19th,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “I see in these numbers more proof that we need to expand Social Security.” The Alliance fully supports the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 (S.567), introduced by Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the U.S. Senate, and its companion bill H.R. 3118, introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) in the House. The legislation would increase annual Social Security benefits by an average of $800. It also improves the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) calculations by using a formula that reflects the cost of goods and services typically used by older Americans and ensures the Social Security Trust Fund remains solvent for years to come.

Virginia Alliance Member Joins Sen. Chris Murphy in Support of Affordable Care Act
On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) launched a coordinated effort in Congress to highlight the positive effects that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is having on millions of low- and middle-income Americans. Over the past four years, the law has provided health insurance coverage and new benefits to millions, reduced their overall cost of care, and reduced federal health spending. More than 6 million Americans have signed up for health insurance since 2010. Many say that Republicans in Congress have worked to sabotage the ACA by attempting to block implementation and deny funding for critical provisions of the law. At the Wednesday event, senators highlighted the impact the law has had on seniors across the U.S. Please tell us your story about affordable health care here: http://bit.ly/1gHdg34!

Virginia Alliance member Ken Pease joined the five senators, stating, “The Affordable Care Act is important, because it gives me peace of mind to know that my drug costs will be lower than they would have been without it. Repealing the health care law would send my prescription drug costs right back up again.” Photos at http://tinyurl.com/ooby3ve. Paul Krugman wrote this week in The New York Times about the multitude of false stories propagated by opponents of health care reform in an effort to make their case. Read the article at http://tinyurl.com/nxwu4vk.

Rep. John Dingell Announces his Retirement after Record 58 Years in Congress
U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), at 87, the longest-serving member of Congress in American history, announced his retirement on Monday. Dingell, a fierce protector of Detroit’s auto industry, is the former chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. He has served with every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower. In September, 2006, Rep. Dingell received the Alliance's Leadership Award for a career dedicated to the health care and economic justice of retirees.  He had presided over the House vote to pass Medicare in 1965. For a video of Rep. Dingell with that day’s gavel, go to http://tinyurl.com/k5lxubl.

“Rep. Dingell has been a great friend to seniors ever since he was first elected in a 1955 special election to replace his late father,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ), also won’t seek reelection in 2014, he announced Thursday. Last week, both Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA) announced that they will not be seeking another term in Congress. The full list of members who will not be returning to their seats can be found on the Roll Call Casualty List at http://tinyurl.com/mhfd3l.

Pentagon Budget Could Hurt Military Retirees
On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined in great detail the Pentagon's plan to save money while emphasizing special operations and technology by calling for a smaller Army, changes in pay, and the elimination of some aircraft, weapons and bases. The budget calls for a 1% pay increase for most troops. However, generals and admirals would receive a one-year pay freeze. Hagel said he wants to slow the growth of housing allowances and require active-duty and retired members of the military to make a larger contribution to their health care costs in the TRICARE program. Future pay and pension questions will be handled by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which is expected to issue its report in a year.

Nebraska Takes Center Stage in Medicaid Expansion Debate
With more red states moving toward adopting the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, Americans United for Change is targeting a series of radio ads in a place that could actually do it: Nebraska. The spots contrast Gov. Dave Heineman's (R) request for a new $3.3 million state plane with his refusal to pay the state's relatively minor share of the cost to expand Medicaid. A bipartisan bill to expand Medicaid and cover an additional 54,000 Nebraskans is pending in the legislature, but it is several votes short of the 33 needed to break a procedural hurdle. The 33 votes would also be enough to override a veto, if Heineman were to reject the measure (http://tinyurl.com/mmvdeqc).

“Several states with Republican governors or state legislatures still might expand Medicaid, despite initial objections,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “…Nebraska, Arkansas, and Maine, just to name three.”

Texas Alliance Stands up for Minimum Wage Hike, Illinois for Nursing Home Safety
A Daily Kos blog post highlights an event at which Texas Alliance activists joined a downtown Dallas demonstration in favor of increasing the minimum wage at http://tinyurl.com/mgdlw4w. To view Illinois Alliance members protesting GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner's ties to dangerous nursing homes, go to http://tinyurl.com/nbje5r9.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/ob44khs.