September 24, 2010
House GOP Agenda Leaves Seniors with Unanswered Questions
House Republicans released their “Pledge to America” on Thursday for the fall elections, calling to “repeal and replace” the new health care law, and offering little in what they would do for seniors. Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance, responded in a statement, “Today’s agenda provides few specifics for voters concerned about Social Security and Medicare. Conspicuously absent from today’s plan are both aspiring-Speaker John Boehner’s pledge to increase the Social Security retirement age to 70, and also the ‘Roadmap’ of the Budget Committee’s Paul Ryan which would let Wall Street run a privatized Social Security and end Medicare as we know it.” To view Mr. Coyle’s full statement, including questions regarding Republican plans to take away seniors’ benefits under the new health law, go tohttp://bit.ly/af1hM8. Rep. Ryan admitted on CNN on Thursday that Republicans are still pursuing the privatization of Social Security, saying that the “Pledge to America” encompasses just the “initial first steps” of the House Republican agenda, and that Social Security privatization would come later on.
Alliance Members are among the Seniors Discussing Health Care with VP Biden
Alliance members joined Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for a conference call on Thursday – the six-month anniversary of President Obama’s signing of the Affordable Care Act into law. In that time, the law has already helped make prescription drugs more affordable by beginning to close the “doughnut hole” gap in coverage; started covering individuals with pre-existing conditions; and helped many early retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare continue to afford quality coverage through their employer. Participants on the call discussed the benefits that the law already provides, as well as how it will help seniors on Medicare in the future; for instance, it will provide free preventive benefits as of January 1st, 2011. “Participants also discussed how the new Patients’ Bill of Rights provisions, which were included in the law, put an end to some of the worst abuses practiced by insurance companies,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. The Administration released state-by-state reports detailing the impact of the Affordable Care Act and a revamped website, www.WhiteHouse.gov/HealthReform, which includes information on the impact of the law and stories from Americans in all 50 states who are benefiting from it.
Medicare Advantage Premiums Going Down in 2011
The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that average premiums paid by individuals for private Medicare Advantage (MA) prescription drug plans would decline slightly next year. On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will be 1 percent lower in 2011 than today. Payment rates for Medicare Advantage plans will generally be frozen next year at 2010 levels, with rates subject to tighter constraints in subsequent years. The cuts are expected to save $136 billion over 10 years. “Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will actually get more benefits from their plans, not less,” Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI) said in a statement. “And the insurers are not suffering because of the changes – they are gaining new enrollees.” The figures fly in the face of reform critics who’d warned that requiring MA plans to cover additional benefits would inevitably cause premiums to jump. Instead, Medicare officials were able to leverage the bulk-purchasing power of more than 11 million MA beneficiaries to negotiate lower costs.
“60 Plus” TV Ads Lie and Scare Seniors
A pharmaceutical industry front group that battled the new health care reform law with scare tactics is using the same techniques in more than a dozen congressional races to try to elect Republicans who have vowed to repeal health care reform. The 60 Plus Association has, according to the Federal Election Commission, spent $5,516,241 on independent campaigning so far this year, with 100 percent benefiting Republican candidates. Click on http://bit.ly/di4Ied forThe Washington Post’s race-by-race breakdown of the spending. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, 60 Plus, which claims it is a “nonpartisan senior advocacy group,” really operates counter to seniors’ best interests by staking out positions that explicitly favor the pharmaceutical industry. Their ads are running in Arizona, Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – states with a high percentage of seniors. “With a drug-money-fueled war chest, they are likely to pop up elsewhere,” according to the AFL-CIO blog. In Pennsylvania, for example, the ad attacks Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D), claiming that Kanjorski’s vote on health care reform legislation threatened Medicare payments to seniors, when, in fact, the new health reform law does not cut Medicare. The new law actually takes money away from the big corporations who were receiving millions in taxpayer subsidies and instead puts that money back into the Medicare Trust Fund to strengthen Medicare for current and future retirees. To learn more, go tohttp://bit.ly/cAeuvZ.
Retirement Income Deficit Plagues Many
At a press conference last week, the Pension Rights Center and Retirement USA revealed the Retirement Income Deficit, a measure of the growing gap between what people will need for retirement versus what they actually have. Using conservative numbers, the magnitude of the Retirement Income Deficit is currently estimated at $6.6 trillion. For more information, visithttp://bit.ly/9QGFyM. “Unfortunately, baby boomers have suffered tremendous losses in the economic recession and will have to work much longer than they ever thought to make ends meet,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. Paradoxically, baby boomers looking for work may not be able to find it in this deficient economy. Are you someone who is working longer anticipated due to the economic crisis? We’d like to hear from you here:http://bit.ly/bMxd3b.
Alliance Events: Florida, New Mexico, California
On Monday, Richard Fiesta, the Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs for the Alliance, attended the quarterly Executive Board Meeting of the Florida Alliance in Tampa, speaking about key issues affecting seniors in the November elections. On Wednesday, the New Mexico Alliance held its triennial convention in Albuquerque. Also, today, members of the California Alliance are outside a lunch-time panel discussion that includes representatives from the conservative Peter G. Peterson Foundation and Concord Coalition in San Jose. Alliance members and their supporters are handing out material that draws attention to their strong opposition to the panelists’ plans to slash Social Security and Medicare in order to reduce the federal deficit.