June 11, 2010

Obama Talks to Seniors, including the Illinois Alliance President, at Tele-Town Hall

The Alliance continues its involvement in the implementation process of the health care reform that President Obama signed into law in March.  On Tuesday, the Alliance, along with several other organizations, helped the White House and President Obama organize a tele-town hall meeting to explain the new health care law to seniors.  The president emphasized that his administration has already started to send out $250 rebate checks for those who fall into the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” prescription drug coverage gap.  Yesterday (Thursday, June 10th – three weeks earlier than initially scheduled), checks from the federal government began to go out to some 80,000 seniors who hit the doughnut hole earlier this year.  The President went on to remind seniors that in 2011, those who fall in the doughnut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs, and that by 2020, the doughnut hole will be eliminated.  Alliance members joined Obama in person at his Wheaton, Maryland forum.  Barbara Franklin, President of the Illinois Alliance, asked Obama a question by phone which highlighted the fact that the new health care law will end the federal government’s practice of distributing unfair, unnecessary subsidies to private insurers under Medicare Advantage.  The question came a day afterKathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, sent a letter warning insurance companies offering Medicare plans that if they don’t keep their costs in check, they will be subject to harsh penalties.  The Alliance also hosted 25 “watch parties” and related events elsewhere across the country.  “Retirees are grateful for President Obama’s strong support for America’s seniors and his personal commitment to help them become better aware of the new law’s many benefits,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.  To see pictures from Tuesday’s event in Maryland, check out the slideshow at http://bit.ly/9gnyFK.

Easterling Joins Three Senators in Announcing Doughnut Hole Rebate Checks
Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling and Stella Johnson, an Alliance member and retired Washington, D.C. school teacher, joined Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (MT), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (NM), and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), at a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday to discuss how America’s seniors will benefit from health care reform.  The event purposely coincided with the day the first wave of rebate checks to help close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole today were being mailed. Almost 3.8 million American seniors are affected by the doughnut hole every year.  Also yesterday, Tim Kaine, Chairman of the DNC; Steve Regenstreif, DNC Seniors Council Chair, AFSCME Retiree Director, and Alliance Executive Board member; andEdward Coyle worked together to make sure that seniors understand their benefits under the new health law, taking part in a conference call with reporters. “It is ironic that we have spent the last couple of years fighting the misinformation that the Republicans have been telling seniors, and now seniors are the first to feel the benefits of the bill,” Mr. Coyle said on the call.  In a third event on Thursday, held in Denver, Colorado State Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak met with Colorado Alliance members, also to promote the mailing of the $250 rebate checks.

Nevada Seniors Publicize Sharron Angle’s Stance on Social Security
On Tuesday, tea party member Sharron Angle captured the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Nevada.  She will face the Democratic nominee, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in November.  “Retirees across Nevada need to know about Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle’s dangerous plans to dismantle Social Security,” said Scotty Watts, President of the Nevada Alliance.  “Angle has said that she wants to eliminate Social Security for future retirees, letting our children and grandchildren fend for themselves in a retirement system completely dependent upon the whims of the free market.  One look at what has happened to our retirement savings because of the collapse of the stock market and declining home values shows just how risky this would be.  Clearly we cannot trust Wall Street gamblers with our retirement security.”

Troubling Reports Leave Hospitals with Some Explaining to Do
With the health reform implementation process under way, some hospitals around the country have come under scrutiny for their cost containment measures and their high infection rates.  For years now, hospitals have been discharging patients after shorter stays in order to save money, but a new study of Medicare heart failure patients seems to suggest that the shorter stays are not even cost-effective.  The study, conducted by a cardiologist at Yale University and set to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that patients who were discharged from the hospital after a short stay were more likely to return to the hospital for additional care within a month of their initial treatment, making the entire process very expensive. The data from the study found that while the length of hospital stays for heart failure patients declined by 26 percent, the readmission rate increased from 17.3 percent to 20.1 percent.  To read the Wall Street Journal story on the study, go to http://bit.ly/a7j4z6.  Early discharges are not the only problem hospitals face, as high infection rates have left many fearful of going to the hospital. A Consumer Reports study of intensive care units at 926 hospitals across the country found that some hospitals have strikingly high infection rates.  Many of the poor performing hospitals were major teaching institutions.  For example, New York University’s Langone Medical Center reported 39 infections in 10,119 central-line days in 2008, approximately twice the national average for hospitals of its kind.  To read more, go to http://bit.ly/bAqfjQ.  “I would expect seniors would receive the highest quality of care at all hospitals,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.  “I hope that the attention drawn to these issues will lead to increased longevity for everyone.”

Alliance Travel
On Sunday and Monday, Mr. Coyle was in Orlando to address Florida Alliance members.

Did You Know…
Nineteen percent of seniors age 65 and older had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education in 2004.  The number of seniors 65 and older who were enrolled in college in October 2004: 47,000 (these are the latest numbers at http://bit.ly/77Agq8, from http://www.about.com/)

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