December 05, 2014
Illinois Pension Reform Law Ruled Unconstitutional
A Sangamon County Circuit Court judge ruled before Thanksgiving that an Illinois law aimed at easing the state’s unfunded pension liability is unconstitutional, handing a victory to labor unions and state retirees who challenged the law. The law decreases cost-of-living adjustments, caps pensionable salaries and raises retirement ages. It also decreases employee contributions by one percentage point, creates a defined contribution plan for a portion of employees and gives the state retirement systems authority to sue the state to compel it to make required pension contributions.
Judge John Belz ruled that the law, passed Dec. 3, 2013, violates the state’s constitutional clause that pension benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired.” In doing so, Belz rejected the state’s argument that its ability to invoke its sovereign powers in an emergency trumps protections in the state constitution for pensions. The state is expected to appeal Mr. Belz’s decision to the Illinois Supreme Court. More at http://tinyurl.com/mnl8tr4.
“This is great news,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Those pensions were promised to Illinois retirees, and that promise should be kept, as the law states.”
Census Reports on Older Americans with Disabilities
The Census reports that between 2008 and 2012, most older people with a disability had more than one type of disability, and they were likely to be women, aged 85 and over, with less than high school education, widowed, living alone, or living in or near poverty. There were also differences by race and Hispanic origin; older African-Americans and Hispanics with a disability had higher rates of poverty, and older African-Americans and Whites with a disability had higher rates of living alone. With the first Baby Boomers having entered the 65-and-older ranks in 2011, the U.S. may experience a rapid expansion in the number of older people with a disability in the next two decades. To read the report, go to http://tinyurl.com/nty3k9h.
Remarriages are on the Rise for Seniors
The Pew Research Center has come out with new data regarding remarriage and seniors, which is rising. An influential factor in the high remarriage rate is a longer life expectancy for partners, particularly among baby boomers. While only 34% of those who were 65 and older (and eligible to remarry) had remarried in 1960, 50% of that same demographic had remarried in 2013. “The older you are, the more likely you are to have ever remarried, because you have more time in your life to have married once, gotten divorced or widowed and found someone else and remarried,” said Gretchen Livingston, the senior researcher at Pew and the author of the study. Another demographic shift that can account for this general surge in remarriage, according to Livingston, is that the divorce rate is higher now than it was in 1960, so the number of people who are “eligible” to remarry has also risen. Read more from Huffington Post athttp://tinyurl.com/qdgemlm.
Growth in U.S. Health Care Spending In 2013 is Lowest Since 1960
According to the journal Health Affairs, national health spending grew 3.6 percent in 2013, the lowest annual increase since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began tracking the statistic in 1960. Spending slowed for private health insurance, Medicare, hospitals, physicians and clinical services and out-of-pocket spending by consumers. However, it accelerated for Medicaid and for prescription drugs, according to the report. The study found that overall, health care spending rose to $2.9 trillion, or $9,255 per person, in 2013.
Health care spending has grown at historically low rates for the past five years, which is consistent with declines generally seen during economic downturns, such as the Great Recession that crippled the U.S. economy at the end of 2007. Looking ahead, “the key question is whether health spending growth will accelerate once economic conditions improve significantly; historical evidence suggest that it will,” noted the authors, who are from the CMS Office of the Actuary. The full report is at http://tinyurl.com/leob68z.
Senate GOP Agenda on Health Law May Hinge on Supreme Court Decision
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who will lead the Senate, told CNN that getting the votes needed from Democrats to meet the GOP’s goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act will be very difficult. During his Senate re-election campaign, McConnell vowed to repeal Obamacare if he were to become Senate Majority Leader, saying the law should be pulled out “root and branch.” Now, however, McConnell’s words and tone are different. “We may have that vote,” McConnell said on Fox News Thursday, adding that Republicans alone would not have the votes to pass it. Instead, McConnell suggested that an upcoming Supreme Court ruling may be the best way to undermine the law to the point of collapse.
“Attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the Senate will be blocked,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Just as the U.S. House leadership tried to do that dozens of times in the past, it simply will not work.”
Wyoming’s GOP Governor Flips for Medicaid Expansion
According to The Washington Post, one year after rejecting federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) is urging the state’s Republican legislature to approve a new plan set forth by the state Department of Health last week (http://tinyurl.com/nuh2xuw). The ACA’s Medicaid provisions guarantee coverage for eligible low-income residents without cost-sharing, so the Obama administration would still have to approve Wyoming’s modified Medicaid expansion design. The plan would also have to clear the state legislature, which has recently rejected several Medicaid-related bills.
“Twenty seven states plus the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid. We applaud Gov. Mead for his efforts to help his state,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.