September 23, 2011

Alliance Praises the President’s Economic Proposal

On Monday, President Obama outlined a series of spending cuts and tax increases that will result in $4.4 trillion in deficit reduction. The plan calls for comprehensive tax reform, the closing of tax loopholes, and ending special interest tax breaks. Obama also directs Congress to follow the “Buffett Rule” – named for billionaire Warren Buffett – which says that people making more than $1 million a year should not pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families. “The President’s stand on increased revenues will address the nation’s debt in a fair and reasonable manner. Unlike congressional Republicans and presidential candidates, President Obama recognizes the importance of Social Security and will not try to lower federal spending on the backs of current and future retirees. Seniors applaud the President for maintaining the current eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

The plan calls for $320 billion in health care savings, most of which would come from reducing payments to Medicare providers and pharmaceutical companies. The President didn’t propose to change the eligibility age for Medicare or make any benefit changes, but did note the prospect of the Super Committee coming up with recommendations for reforming the program. Obama said no savings that affect beneficiaries can begin until at least 2017 and that he would veto any legislation that takes funds from Medicare benefits for seniors without asking the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share. “We will work closely with Administration and congressional officials to ensure that seniors do not face unfair cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, which help millions of elderly and low-income Americans stay healthy,” said Mr. Coyle. To see Coyle’s full statement, go to

Medicare Advantage Premiums Drop; Medicare Open Enrollment Begins October 15

Last week, the Obama administration announced that Medicare Advantage premiums would decrease by 4% in 2012 as enrollment increased by 1%. Reduced premiums and increased enrollment are the exact opposite of what insurers and Republicans predicted would happen to Medicare Advantage after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The health reform law reduced payments to Medicare Advantage plans — privately-run alternatives to traditional, fee-for-service Medicare — by about $136 billion over the next decade. Right before the law passed, American’s Health Insurance Plans predicted that “millions of seniors in Medicare Advantage will lose their coverage, and millions more will face higher premiums and reduced benefits.” The Washington Post listed three factors that are putting downward pressure on Medicare: First, Medicare costs are growing more slowly. Both in Medicare and in private insurance, the recession has correlated with patients using fewer medical services. This looks to be particularly true in Medicare, where seniors could have more limited resources living on a fixed income. Second, the Medicare risk pool is becoming younger, and collectively healthier, making them a cheaper group to insure. Medicare doesn’t “age-rate” — charge its older subscribers more. Finally, prescription drug prices are going to become less expensive as some big-name drugs come off patent in the next few months. “The free preventive care for seniors brought by the Affordable Care Act will also result in enormous future savings,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare annual open enrollment period changes to Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2011. Last year, it was held Nov. 15 through Dec. 31. All Medicare beneficiaries are allowed this one time each year to make changes to their Medicare coverage for the coming year. This includes anyone using traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage, prescription drug and Medigap supplemental coverage.

Alliance down South: Florida takes on Rick Perry, North Carolina Stays on Message

Republican presidential candidates met in Orlando on Thursday for another big debate. Wednesday night, more than 150 people lined Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach for a peaceful protest outside Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s fundraiser. “The message we’re sending to Gov. Perry is: you better soon figure out how to retract the statement on Social Security being a Ponzi scheme,” protestor and Florida Alliance President Tony Fransetta said. “It isn’t.” For a photo, go to

Heather McLaughlin, Field Organizer for the North Carolina Alliance, educated seniors about Social Security at the Whitaker Glen Retirement Community in Raleigh on Tuesday. Ms. McLaughlin joined representatives from the Triangle Older Women’s League and the Raleigh Chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Alliance Activities out West: California and Spokane, Washington

Shocked to discover there are no restrictions in place to stop retailers from selling expired medications, the California Alliance and other advocacy groups this week joined state lawmakers in support of legislation to ban the sale of outdated medications, as well as baby formula. Consuming expired medication can have serious side effects that could be potentially fatal.  “It is both highly irresponsible and quite dangerous to sell expired medication,” said Nan Brasmer, President of the California Alliance. For more information, please visit

Sarah Byrne, Senior Legislative Representative for the Alliance, spoke to approximately 80 Washington State Alliance members – including some representing event co-sponsor United Steelworkers Local 338 – in Spokane on Tuesday. At an intergenerational event that tied in Social Security’s importance to the youth within our communities, Ms. Byrne spoke of the history of Social Security and gave an overview of current legislative activity surrounding the program.

Other Alliance Activities Take Place in West Virginia, Iowa

Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance, addressed the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women in Huntington, WV on Saturday. “In West Virginia, the average elderly woman’s Social Security check is $954 per month.  Does anyone really think that’s why we have a budget deficit?” she asked the crowd.

On Tuesday, the Iowa Alliance launched the Iowa Elder Economic Security Initiative for senior advocacy. A collaboration with the group “Wider Opportunities for Women,” it was made possible by a grant that the Iowa Alliance received last September. The launch took place in Des Moines with over 50 participants, including representatives from the Iowa Farmers Union and others.

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