November 12, 2010

Coyle: Proposal from Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs is “Ridiculous”

On Wednesday, the co-chairmen of the White House Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, released their ideas for dealing with the country’s massive debt. The recommendations are from Simpson and Bowles only, and do not represent the opinions of the full commission. The proposals include a reduction in Social Security cost-of-living increases for current retirees; a reduction in Social Security benefits for most future retirees; and a hike in the Social Security retirement age to 69 by 2075. In response,Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance, said, “The Bowles-Simpson proposal is not a package we can support.  In fact, it is a package we will strongly oppose. While seniors are more than willing to pay their fair share to reduce the nation’s debt, we must not turn to them to pay off such a huge portion of what was accumulated by the entire country.”  He also said that raising the retirement age to 69 is not a viable solution, when so many older workers in difficult jobs are already struggling.

He added, “The Social Security cuts would hit current retirees, contrary to what was promised, since the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) seems to take effect immediately. This will lower seniors’ benefits by about 3% after they have been retired for 10 years, and by about 6 % after 20 years.” He said that changing the CPI is an attack on the middle class, since today’s 20-year old workers who retire at age 65 would see their benefits cut by 17% if their wages average $43,000 over their working lives. He also called it “ridiculous” that billionaires pay the same amount into the system as someone earning $106,800, the current cap. He stressed that a better proposal would be requiring employees (and their employers) who make more than $106,800 a year to pay Social Security taxes on all their wages, not the 90% in the proposal. Coyle concluded, “We must not bully seniors into shouldering such a massive percentage of the debt while Wall Street millionaires once again just skate on through scot-free.”  To see the co-chairs’ proposal, go to http://ow.ly/8o7E30iEaSC.

Polling Data Shows Large Discrepancy between Union Retirees, Other Seniors

The 2010 elections exacerbated the growing trend of Democrats losing the senior vote.  In 2006, the parties roughly split this bloc. In 2008, John McCain won seniors by 8 points; in 2010, the GOP won the senior vote by 21 points.  However, 61% of union retirees voted Democratic this year, compared to 38% of seniors as a whole. The 61% union retiree vote was down from the 72% that Barack Obama received in 2008. “The Republicans and their allies in corporate America have recognized the graying of the electorate and have responded by targeting seniors with a sustained barrage of misinformation and scare tactics,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “We must work to make the total senior vote more in line with the numbers for union retirees.”

Alliance Leader Praises Speaker Pelosi

Last week, Nancy Pelosi announced that she would seek the House Minority Leader’s post in the next Congress.  Mr. Coyle supported her action, noting that she has claimed many victories for seniors during her time as Speaker. “Our nation’s retirees have always had a great friend in Nancy Pelosi,” said Mr. Coyle. “Speaker Pelosi took part in the successful passage of the historic health care legislation that will end the denial of coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, close the prescription drug ‘doughnut hole’ coverage gap for seniors, and eliminate co-pays and deductibles for life-saving screenings and tests.”

States to Have Large Say in Future of Health Care Law Implementation

Last week, GOP gains in the U.S. House and Senate grabbed most headlines, but Republicans also took control of many state legislatures and won several governors’ races.  With the GOP in control of so many state capitals, Republicans there will play a major role in deciding how to follow the new national health care rules. According to the Los Angeles Times, Republicans will be in a position to put pressure on the White House to scale back some of the plans. With Democrats still in the majority in the U.S. Senate, and President Obama sure to veto any health care repeal, House Republicans have little power to make many changes from Washington.  “It will be up to the individual states to make sure that the new law is implemented correctly, and with so many GOP take-overs, there is reason for concern,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Medicare Open Enrollment Begins on November 15

It is time for Medicare beneficiaries to review their current health or prescription drug plans and make choices about coverage for 2011.  Medicare’s open enrollment begins on November 15, 2010 and ends on December 31, 2010. The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, for those who chose a private plan that does not meet their needs, will then be from January 1 through February 14. There are new benefits available to Medicare beneficiaries in 2011, including lower prescription costs, wellness checkups, and preventive care.  It is a good idea to review your health care insurance plans even if you are satisfied with your existing coverage, due to changes in premiums. To learn more, visit http://www.medicare.gov, where you can get a personalized comparison of the costs and coverage of the plans available in your area, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Alliance Members Can Participate in an Alzheimer’s Disease Study

Currently, over 5 million individuals age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. This figure is expected to rise to 13.5 million by the year 2030.  As an Alliance member, you can help lower this number by taking part in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative Grand Opportunity study. This study focuses on the sequence and timing of events at the initial onset of mild cognitive symptoms. The data collected will help scientists better identify who is at risk for Alzheimer’s, and discover ways to prevent and treat the disease.  Researchers are seeking volunteers between the ages of 55 and 90 who may be transitioning from normal cognitive aging to an early stage of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that may progress to Alzheimer’s disease. This is one of the first studies to focus on people experiencing the very earliest complaints of memory problems that affect their daily activities.

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