August 20, 2010

Obama, Alliance Activists Defend Social Security Against Threats

From the White House to cities and towns across the country, supporters of Social Security honored its 75th birthday this week and pledged to fight benefit cuts, an increase in the retirement age, or a privatized system tied to the volatile stock market.

President Obama devoted his weekly radio address to lauding the success of Social Security and arguing that privatization, which is currently being advocated by some Republican congressional candidates, is “an ill-conceived idea that would add trillions of dollars to our budget deficit while tying your benefits to the whims of Wall Street traders and the ups and downs of the stock market.”  On Thursday he reinforced this point by saying that Social Security “will not be privatized as long as I’m president.”

Alliance activists continued their month-long Social Security event national campaign, this week holding Social Security birthday parties in: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington.  The events served a social role, as well educating area workers and retirees on these emerging threats. Video footage from Seattle’s celebration and rally with Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Jim McDermott on Monday is well-worth a watch here. Photos from events nationwide can be accessed on the Alliance website or here.

Writing in the leading blog Huffington Post, Alliance president Barbara J. Easterling commented on House Minority Leader John Boehner’s support for increasing the retirement age to 70.  “Can you imagine working until 70?  In jobs like construction, manufacturing, and the service sector, I just don’t see how you can,” Easterling wrote.  Also this week, noted Nobel Prize winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman dismissed the argument that the retirement age should increase because of longer life expectancy.  According to Krugman, “that’s only true for affluent, white-collar workers… but much less for lower-income workers.”

More Doughnut Hole Rebate Checks Go out to Seniors
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently announced that the third round of one-time, tax-free $250 rebate checks has been mailed to eligible Medicare beneficiaries whose drug costs are so high they have reached the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole.” Experts estimate that more than a quarter of Part D enrollees fall into the doughnut hole and often stop following their drug regimen as a result of the added cost burden.

Across the country, more than 750,000 Medicare beneficiaries have already received checks this year, and more beneficiaries will be receiving checks in the coming months as they enter the coverage gap. “This is yet another example of how the new health law is good for seniors,” saidRuben Burks, Alliance Secretary-Treasurer.

The doughnut hole will be closed partially in 2010 through the $250 one-time checks for beneficiaries who enter the gap. In 2011, the Affordable Care Act takes an additional step for Medicare beneficiaries in the donut hole by providing them with a 50% discount on their brand name medications.  Every year from 2011 to 2020, the Affordable Care Act will take progressive steps to close the doughnut hole, until ultimately it is closed altogether.

New Health Law Means No-Cost Mammograms, Preventive Services for Seniors
Beginning in January of 2011, seniors enrolled in Medicare can receive no-cost preventive services, including breast cancer screenings and colonoscopies and annual check-ups under the the federal health reform law provisions. Presently, seniors enrolled in traditional Medicare pay 20% of the cost for most preventive care.  More here. According to The Washington Post/Kaiser Health News, cost is a real “stumbling block” for accessing preventive care. A 2008 study found that a $12 mammogram co-payment in Medicare’s managed-care plans resulted in eight to 11 percent fewer women receiving screenings compared to those with no co-payment. Another study found that a co-pay increase of $10 for doctor office visits results in a 20% decline in appointments with seniors.

Vivian Stovall, President of the Colorado Alliance for Retired Americans, said, “There is a lot in this new health law for seniors.  Education definitely needs to be done so that seniors know what is available to them.  Fortunately, the Alliance is 100% dedicated to this. Next week, for example, I will go to a senior facility where many retirees are living on $699 per month, much of it from Social Security – that’s all they have. Many of them don’t know about the new health provisions, but if they do, I think they will benefit greatly.” Informative fact sheets on the new health law can be found at, including a synopsis of when new benefits become available.

Alliance on the Road
Easterling will be in Detroit tomorrow to speak to a national meeting of the American Postal Workers Union.  She will discuss health care, Social Security and seniors’ reliance on a strong postal service, including six-day mail delivery.

Something On Your Mind?  Write Letter, Win Pen.
With all the talk of Social Security cuts these days, have you considered writing a letter to your local newspaper?  Letters to the Editor are widely-read and are a great chance to make your voice heard.  Under the Alliance’s Retirees with the Write Stuff campaign, if you write a letter on any retiree issue and it is published, send us a copy and will we mail you a U.S. union-madeRetirees with the Write Stuff pen.  Recent winners include: Bob Biel, Sam Burnett, Shirley Gauger, Al Hamai, Win Heimer, and Carol Ring.  Click here for more information or email

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