May 06, 2011

May is Older Americans Month

Honoring the contributions of older Americans across the nation, President Obama proclaimed the Older Americans Month theme this year is “Connecting the Community.” The President acknowledges how social media and new technology allow seniors to remain actively engaged in their communities and connected to their far-away friends and families well into their later years. The proclamation also relates to seniors’ health care. “America’s seniors are pleased to be honored by the President during Older Americans Month,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “As the President noted in his own proclamation, the Administration’s focus on health care for seniors is best exemplified by the free preventive tests for seniors now available due to the Affordable Care Act.” To see the President’s full proclamation, visithttp://1.usa.gov/iNFHDa.

Americans Aged 45 and Older Now the Majority of the U.S. Electorate

New data is showing that Americans aged 45 and above now account for 119 million Americans, and over 51% of the voting-age population. This number has risen from 46% in 2000, and highlights an overall trend of an America that is getting older. The preliminary figures are based on the Census Bureau’s 2009 population estimates as well as the 2009 American Community Survey, which samples 3 million U.S. households. Broken down by subgroups, older boomers ages 55-64 were the fastest-growing group since 2000, jumping 43 percent to approximately 35 million. They were followed by seniors 85 and older, who increased 33 percent to more than 5.5 million, due largely to medical advances that have increased life spans. Based on actual election turnout, which is higher for older Americans, census data show that baby boomers and seniors ages 45 and older represent about 60 percent of voters in national races, judging by the 2008 presidential race. Nearly 1 out of 2 voters is 50 or older. “These numbers should give pause to elected officials who want to dismantle Medicare, or turn it over to private insurance companies,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. To see the full AP story, go tohttp://bit.ly/mw5Ymc.

Under 55-Year-Olds Need an Extra $182,000 to Pay for Republican Medicare Plan

A 54-year-old today will have to save an additional $182,000 in their IRA or 401(k) before he or she retires to pay for the House Republican plan to dismantle Medicare, an analysis released Thursday by U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) found.  The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) estimated that individuals born in 1957 would need $182,000 by the time they retire at 65 to pay the additional costs imposed by the Republican plan if they live to 84.  The analysis was included in a letter to Rep. Miller. “Under the Republican plan, seniors will go into debt. They will be forced to sell their homes that they spent a lifetime paying off. And they will have to rely on their children just to pay for basic medical care,” said Miller. Last month, House Republicans voted to end the guaranteed benefits of Medicare, and replace them with a plan that would force seniors to find private insurance with the assistance of a voucher. Since the voucher’s value relative to health care costs would decrease over time, and private insurance costs are higher than traditional Medicare, seniors retiring in 2022 under the Republican plan would be forced to pay much higher costs than under current law. As a result, CEPR found that the average senior beginning in 2022 would have to save $182,000 to cover these additional costs.  The data assumes a return of 3% in real interest during the retirement years. To view the letter from CEPR to Rep. Miller, go to http://bit.ly/jQpFVN.

Sen. Sherrod Brown Leads 50 Senators in Opposing Privatization of Medicare

Following House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) insistence that Medicare privatization is still on the table, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has led a group of 50 Senators in signing a letter to President Obama expressing opposition to the plan. Brown forwarded a copy of the letter to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) on Thursday to confirm that the Republican Medicare privatization plan is dead on arrival in the Senate. Referring to a Washington Post interview with Rep. Cantor, Sen. Brown wrote to the Majority Leader, “Your conclusion was correct that House Republicans ‘need to look elsewhere’ after President Obama ‘excoriated’ the proposal you and your Republican colleagues adopted to privatize Medicare through a voucher system.”

“So-called ‘premium support’ – giving seniors a voucher of approximately $8,000 as proposed by the Republican budget,” the group of 50 Senators wrote to the President, “is a reckless and irresponsible way to address the health care needs of older Americans. And it is an unacceptable means by which to finance tax cuts for those who are earning ten times or more than the retirement income of the average Medicare recipient.” To see the letter to Rep. Cantor, along with the original letter from the fifty senators to President Obama, go to http://bit.ly/jlA9iI.

The End of Paper Social Security Checks

As of May 1st, the federal government is no longer issuing paper checks to new Social Security beneficiaries. The change is part of a program to switch all federal payments from paper checks to electronic payments. Beneficiaries can choose to receive their payments by direct deposit to their checking or savings account, or to a Direct Express debit card that will be provided by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Electronic benefits are widely considered safer, more environmentally friendly, and more reliable, and they are cheaper for the federal government to distribute.

Current beneficiaries have until March 1, 2013 to choose how they want to receive their benefits. If you currently receive Social Security benefits and you do not choose an electronic payment option by Mach 1, 2013, you will automatically begin to receive your benefits on the Direct Express card. To learn more about paperless benefits, visit www.GoDirect.org, or call the toll-free helpline at 1-800-333-1795.

Washington State Alliance Hosts Forum on Social Security

On Saturday, the Washington Alliance for Retired Americans held a forum at Evergreen State College in Olympia to discuss the past, present, and future of Social Security. The event featured remarks from Richard Fiesta, Director of Government Affairs for the national Alliance; Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council; Andy Landis, author of the bookSocial Security: The Inside Story; and others. The presentation raised awareness and triggered conversation about often-misunderstood aspects of Social Security, including proposed changes.The event was made possible by a grant from the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI).

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