July 23, 2010

August 6, 2010 Friday Alert

On July 30th, the federal Medicare program turns forty-five, and Alliance members will be celebrating the occasion with events all across the country.  The events will serve to remind lawmakers and the general public how important and efficient the Medicare program has been in providing health coverage to retirees. At the same time, they will inform seniors on improvements to Medicare through the health care reform law.  For specific event information in your area, please e-mail araorganizing@retiredamericans.org.

The 75th anniversary of Social Security is also this year, on August 14.  The Alliance submitted testimony to the Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Ways and Means Committee for the record of a July 15 hearing, “Social Security at 75 Years: More Necessary Now Than Ever.”  In it, the Alliance addressed the incorrect words of deficit hawks who repeatedly claim that Social Security is to blame for the national debt, even though the program has not contributed to the federal deficit and maintains a $2.5 trillion surplus. To see the testimony, go to http://bit.ly/bi7qAJ.  To find a Social Security 75th birthday event near you, go to http://bit.ly/aTIDaP.

Blue Cross Had Billions in Cash Reserves, Despite Rate Increases

Non-profit Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans stockpiled billions of dollars during the past decade, yet continued to hit consumers with double-digit premium increases, Consumers Union found in an analysis of 10 of the plans’ finances.  As USA Today wrote, insurers must keep surplus money to ensure they can pay policyholders’ medical bills if unexpected market conditions develop. Yet seven of the plans examined held more than three times the amount regulators consider the minimum needed to do that, according to a report released Thursday by the non-profit consumer group. “Fortunately, the new health care law would finally reign in the excessive greed of the big insurance companies,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of theAlliance. To view the report, go to http://bit.ly/aHLWSD.

Unemployment Benefits Extended for Those Jobless More Than 6 Months

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) officially secured the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster on the extension of unemployment benefits for those who have been without a job for more than six months. Maine Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe voted with Democrats in favor of ending debate; Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (NE), however, voted with Republicans. When the newly sworn-in Sen. Carte Goodwin (D) of West Virginia voted, members applauded on the floor.  To see the tally of the vote, go to http://bit.ly/cl9eYj. The Senate later voted 59 to 39, on Wednesday, to restore emergency jobless benefits to the millions of people who have been out of work for more than half a year. For a tally on that vote, click onhttp://bit.ly/a5BvSR. The House voted 272-152 to ratify the measure on Thursday –http://bit.ly/bALtYd – and sent it to the White House, where President Obama quickly signed it. “Retirees worry about their family and friends, and are happy that partisan obstructionist tactics are finally over and people can get the help they need,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Poll: Youth Losing Faith in Social Security

A disturbing Gallup poll released this week shows that three-fourths of those 18 to 34 do not expect to receive a Social Security check upon retirement.  “Just like health reform’s so-called ‘death panels,’ this poll shows that when lies and scare tactics are repeated often enough, they take root,” said Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle. Coyle urged Alliance members to tell younger generations that Social Security is on solid financial ground, but to be wary of those who falsely predict Social Security’s demise to advance their agenda of cutting benefits and raising the retirement age.

President Easterling Takes Part in Atlanta Housing Forum

On Thursday, Atlanta-area residents facing foreclosure joined community groups, clergy and labor and government leaders at a hearing to demand that big banks like Wells Fargo/Wachovia reform their policies and protect homeowners facing foreclosure. Residents losing their homes detailed the big banks’ role in the foreclosure crisis and told stories of its impact on their families and communities. Participants pointed to lending practices of the big banks and decried their targeting of minority communities.  The Atlanta Fighting Foreclosure Coalition and the AFL-CIO sponsored the hearing; Ms. Easterling and Arlene Holt-Baker, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, were two of the panelists.  After the hearing, hundreds of residents headed to the Wells Fargo/Wachovia downtown branch in Atlanta for a rally and a meeting with bank executives to discuss the modification of mortgages in suffering communities.

Activist Will Parry Honored in Washington State

On Monday, the Seattle City Council honored Alliance member Will Parry with an official proclamation commending his lifelong commitment and work to achieve social and economic justice for all of the residents of the City of Seattle.  The proclamation noted that Parry, 90, who was lauded for his leadership, optimism, and humility, has had a key leadership role with the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, which it termed “a vibrant and important voice in the city of Seattle.”  For pictures of the day’s events, go to http://bit.ly/c4xh2r.

Obituary: Danny Coyle, Nevada Alliance Board Member

Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans Legislative Vice Chairman Danny Coyle, 74, died of cancer in Carson City last Saturday. A popular and active member of the Nevada Alliance, he also held the position of AFSCME Retiree Chapter 4041 President, and will be missed by all who knew him.  The Alliance sends its heartfelt condolences to his family, who include two sons, Dennis andDanny, a daughter, Hylari Roth; 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Did You Know…

The total number of workers over age 65 who are in the labor force surpassed teenagers for the first time in 2008 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York Times).

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