Medicare Means Testing Would Harm Middle Class

March 21, 2014

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.

PDF