Top Democrats Reject Coburn-Lieberman Plan to Cut Medicare

July 01, 2011

According to The Washington Post, leading congressional Democrats “immediately recoiled” Tuesday from a new proposal to cut $600 billion in Medicare spending over the next decade — in part by raising the eligibility age. Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) unveiled the proposal as part of a bipartisan effort to produce the kind of savings necessary to achieve the $2 trillion in debt reduction both parties say is needed to convince lawmakers to vote to raise the debt ceiling. The senators’ plan would raise Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 67 and assess higher premiums on wealthier seniors. Democrats say that no deal on the debt limit is possible without an agreement to close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy, including subsidies for major oil companies and a tax break provided to companies that buy private jets. They have promised they will not trim benefits to Medicare beneficiaries, “a point underscored by their chilly reception of the plan advanced by Lieberman and Coburn.” The two senators conceded that their plan would be unpopular. Democratic rejection of the proposal was swift. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) termed it “a bad idea.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called it “unacceptable.” Economists and credit rating agencies have warned that financial markets may grow turbulent if an agreement to raise the debt limit is not reached soon.

 

Chief Actuary Sheds Light On Privatization Debate

Chief Actuary for the Social Security Administration Stephen Goss was called upon last week to discuss “The Savings Account for Every American Act,” (H.R. 2019), a House Resolution introduced by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) that would privatize Social Security by allowing workers to opt out of the FICA tax. Mr. Goss’s analysis showed that the proposed legislation would reduce Social Security’s revenue stream drastically, severely damaging the program’s ability to pay current and soon-to-be beneficiaries. Furthermore, Goss warned, should workers be allowed to opt out of the FICA tax, the Social Security Trust Fund would be depleted far earlier than the current 2036 projection. In response to the bill, Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance, stated, “Rep. Sessions’ proposal is no better than previous attempts to cut Social Security.” Recently, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means for further analysis and debate.


Appeals Court Upholds Key Affordable Care Act Provision

Despite opposition, the Obama administration continues to receive positive legal and statistical feedback of the health reform law. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the individual mandate to buy health insurance is constitutional. The decision was not based on party lines, as a Republican-appointed judge teamed-up with a Democrat to write the majority opinion. The judges clarified that Congress does have a ‘rational basis’ to regulate the health insurance market because of its undeniable effects on interstate commerce. “My hope is that the legal legitimacy gained from this ruling will help to silence the critics and expedite the law’s implementation process,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. Two more appellate courts around the country are set to rule on this issue, but many legal scholars believe the Supreme Court will ultimately decide this case. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced on Tuesday that close to half a million Medicare beneficiaries have saved a combined $260 million on their prescription medications due to the Affordable Care Act.

 

State Round-up: Alliance Events in Ohio, New York, Illinois, and Iowa

Hundreds of Hoover Co. retirees crowded into a senior center last Thursday, expressing concern and outrage that they will have to pay significantly more for health care. Appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corp., which owned the former North Canton-based Hoover before selling off the brand in 2007, told retirees last month that it plans to cut back on retiree health care benefits, with the changes taking effect in 2013. Allen Schulman, a lawyer and Canton City Council member, told the retirees at the Mayfield Senior Center that his firm wants to represent retirees in an action against Whirlpool Corp., which assumed the Hoover obligations. For photos, go to http://bit.ly/l0V9OL.

 

As negotiations over the federal debt ceiling go down to the wire, a coalition of New York organizations announced plans to mobilize their supporters this summer.  They are holding their state’s members of Congress accountable for attacks on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and domestic programs while preserving tax cuts for corporations and the rich, but not creating jobs. This past Wednesday, New York State Alliance (NYSARA) President Dennis Tracey represented New York Alliance members on a press conference call that kicked off the “Restoring the American Promise” campaign statewide. The coalition includes, among other groups, NYSARA; the New York State AFL-CIO; and 1199 SEIU, Fight for a Fair Economy. The campaign plans to attend Congressional town halls and rallies and operate a statewide caravan, among other actions. Also on Wednesday, President Easterling addressed approximately 300 National Education Association retirees at their annual meeting in Chicago. Next door in Iowa, members of the Iowa Alliance and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement held an event that same day highlighting the importance of Social Security, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, to veterans. Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA), himself a veteran, emceed and spoke at the Des Moines event.

 

Rep. Wasserman Schultz to Speak at Alliance Convention in September

Help us mark our 10-year Anniversary at our upcoming Legislative Conference, Celebrating Our Past, Fighting for Your Future, on September 6 - 9, 2011 in Washington, D.C.! Information and registration forms were mailed last month. You may also register online at http://bit.ly/hQro1V. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) has been added to the program as a speaker. Questions? Please contact Event Coordinator Joni Jones at jjones@retiredamericans.org or 202-637-5377.

 

Alliance Staffer Mary Johnson Retires After More than a Decade of Service

This week, Mary Johnson of the Alliance’s DC headquarters retired from the position of Senior Field Support for Communications and Training, Department of Field Mobilization. “Mary Johnson has provided boundless energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the growth of local and state Alliance chapters,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “We wish her the best as she embarks on this next phase of her life.” On Monday, the Executive Board of the Alliance formally recognized Ms. Johnson for the many ways she has helped build and grow a progressive, grassroots retiree movement.


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