August 01, 2014
Alliance Kicks Off Medicare Turns 50 Campaign With Events Across the Country
On Wednesday, Alliance members held more than 50 events in cities across the country in honor of Medicare’s 49th anniversary. The celebrations kicked off the Medicare Turns 50 Campaign leading up to next year’s 50th anniversary. The landmark health care program was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30th, 1965. An Alliance-sponsored event on Capitol Hill saw speeches by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) along with Reps. Jan Schakowsky(D-IL), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Marcy Katpur (D-OH), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), and Mike Michaud(D-ME). Diane Fleming, a member of the Maryland/DC Alliance, also spoke at the event. In her remarks, she described the importance of Medicare and Social Security in her life after United Airlines, which had employed her for nearly four decades, declared bankruptcy and she lost much of her pension. To view photos from the event, go to http://bit.ly/1xFTcWq.
State events included celebrations at Social Security field offices in California and protests in Florida at the offices of representatives, such as Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL), who have voted to cut the program. The Medicare celebration in Texas coincided with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s annual meeting in Dallas. ALEC is a corporate funded group that provides state politicians with corporate-authored draft legislation that is then introduced, often verbatim, into state legislatures across the country. As part of an anti-ALEC coalition, the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans staged a protest at the meeting site.
Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance, traveled to Dallas to meet with the Texas Alliance and took part in the protests. “Corporate front groups like ALEC are working behind the scenes to cut and privatize Medicare,” said Mr. Fiesta. “We are here to preserve and protect it, and make sure proposals such as those contained in the Paul Ryan budget – which would cut Medicare funding by turning it into a voucher program – never become law,” he added. To view photos from the protests, go to http://bit.ly/1u4ixZT.
Trustees Report Shows Improved Outlook for Medicare Finances
Earlier this week, the Social Security and Medicare Trustees issued their annual report on the financial health of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds. According to this year’s projections, the Medicare trust fund is fully solvent until 2030, 4 years longer than predicted in last year’s report and 13 years longer than in 2009, the year before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed. Analysts attribute the improvement to efficiency gains resulting from the Affordable Care Act along with slow wage and price growth during the Great Recession. Though average spending per Medicare beneficiary is expected to remain flat for the next few years, it is projected to rise in the coming decade, due in part to rapidly rising prescription drug costs. “The improved financial outlook for the Medicare trust fund is a sign that the Affordable Care Act is doing its job to bring down health costs. Congress can further strengthen Medicare by passing the Medicare Drug Savings Act to stop big drug makers from price gauging and allow Medicare to negotiate the lowest, discounted rate for prescription drugs,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.
The Social Security trust fund ran a $32 billion surplus last year and is on track to remain solvent through 2033, the same as expected last year. The trust fund reserves for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are projected to be exhausted in 2016. While Congress has previously reallocated funds a number of times to extend the life of the program, Republicans are expected to use attacks on SSDI as a tool to undermine support for the entire Social Security system. For more on the report, go to http://nyti.ms/1s6JMT0. Read about GOP plans to attack SSDI athttp://bit.ly/1oeYFhh.
Social Security Nominee Carolyn Colvin Begins Confirmation Process
On Thursday, Carolyn Colvin, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Social Security Administration (SSA), had her confirmation hearing at the Senate Finance Committee. Colvin has served as Acting Commissioner of the SSA since February 14th, 2013 when the term of her predecessor, Bush appointee Michael J. Astrue, expired. Colvin’s nomination begins her confirmation process at a time in which the SSA has faced questions from members of Congress over Social Security field office closures and service cuts. To read Acting Commissioner Colvin’s remarks before the committee, go to http://1.usa.gov/1pugfSi.
Lawmakers Announce VA Deal, Confirm New Secretary
On Monday, House and Senate negotiators announced they had reached an agreement to overhaul the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. The overhaul comes in response to revelations earlier this year of long wait times at VA facilities and efforts by VA administrators to cover up the problems. The bipartisan agreement was brokered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), head of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), head of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The $17 billion agreement scales back separate plans previously passed by the House and the Senate after lawmakers expressed concerns about the $35 billion cost. For more on the overhaul, go to http://on.msnbc.com/1xFLiMw.
The Senate also voted 97-0 this week to confirm Robert McDonald to lead the Veterans Affairs Department. A former US Army Captain, McDonald previously headed the consumer products company Proctor & Gamble. McDonald’s confirmation follows the resignation of former SecretaryEric Shinseki in May. More on the confirmation at http://wapo.st/1pIZ6By.
American Companies Dodging Taxes by Moving Addresses Overseas
In a process known as “inversion”, American corporations are purchasing smaller firms in low tax countries in order to avoid taxes by simply switching to an overseas address. The drug makers Mylan and AbbVie recently began dodging taxes through inversion, and the retailer Walgreens is currently considering following suit. “At a time when families are being hurt by steep budget cuts in Washington, these American corporations are skipping out on their tax responsibilities by simply changing their address. Congress needs to take action to put an end to this practice and make sure American companies pay their fair share,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer for the Alliance. Read more on corporate tax dodging on the AFL-CIO NOW blog athttp://bit.ly/1txUHZ1.