April 01, 2010

President Obama Signs Health Care Reform into Law One More Time

On Tuesday, President Obama put his final signature on the health reform bill that has been front and center in the news this year and last.  One of the bill’s provisions, the establishment of a federally funded program to cover people turned down by private insurers due to pre-existing conditions, is slated to go into effect in the next 90 days. About 2 million people could be eligible for this new pool, and the process is being watched closely to see how effectively health reform is implemented [ http://bit.ly/aTuicp ].  Those concerned with both the rising costs and importance of long-term care are relieved that the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (The CLASS Act) will be put into effect beginning in 2011 by the new health reform law.  The CLASS Act, a legacy of Sen. Ted Kennedy, sets up a national government-run long-term care insurance program, offered mainly through employers. The CLASS Act does not require screening of participants for health issues, so people unable to qualify for private long-term care insurance will have an option [ http://nyti.ms/dfmf8w ].  For more information on provisions for seniors, please find Alliance Fact Sheets here: http://bit.ly/auzJi7.

Pelosi Appoints Three to the Executive Debt Commission Panel
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appointed House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-SC), Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The panel, created by the President, is designed to bring down the nation’s $12.4 trillion debt, and will consider cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid in doing so.  “These three Members of Congress will use their common sense to take steps to balance our nation’s budget while not sacrificing our nation’s commitment to seniors.  Their backgrounds, proven records, and expertise will assist them in addressing the debt crisis while protecting Social Security and Medicare,” stated Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.  Democratic Leadership Council CEO Bruce Reed will take on the newly-created post of Executive Director of the commission.  The panel’s first meeting will occur on April 27, and the commission is required by the president’s executive order to report its findings and proposals to Congress by December 1.

Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance, had a column in last Friday’s Huffington Post blog, urging retirees and all who care about Social Security to keep a sharp eye on the commission.  “Many in Washington are urging the panel to recommend changes in Social Security as a way to reduce the debt,” Ms. Easterling warned.  To view the entire column, go tohttp://huff.to/bE8Okb.  Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), the panel’s co-chair, said recently, “What we’re interested in is what to do with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. If we don’t get a handle on those three babies, it won’t matter what you love or what you have in mind … the federal budget, it’ll be gone.” On Monday night on CNN, Tea Party organizers joined Larry Kingfor a discussion.  King noted that programs like Social Security are mandatory and asked if the tea partiers would like to “do away with” that program. Both Tea Party organizers enthusiastically said “yes, absolutely” and added that a compromise would be at least privatizing the system.

Alliance Activities: Florida Legislative Conference, FCC Protest
The Florida Alliance (FLARA) recently held its Legislative Conference in Tallahassee.  The week’s events began with a press conference in the State Capitol Rotunda, with over 50 activists in attendance.  FLARA President Tony Fransetta brought together business leaders and elected officials of both parties to advocate for expanded affordable housing for seniors.  Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle is speaking today at a rally in Washington, DC, in front of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) headquarters.  The rally protests the sale of most of Verizon’s landline telephone operations in several states to Frontier, a small Connecticut-based company.  Many are against the deal for several reasons, including the chances that Frontier would be unable to provide services during emergencies and would cut services in rural areas.

New Chapter Presidents in Texas, Maryland/DC
Shane Fox, who has been with the Texas Alliance since its inception, is the new President of the Texas Alliance chapter.  A community-based activist, radio, newspaper, and public relations figure, blog creator, and actor, Mr. Fox has been an Alliance Community Advocacy Network board member the past four years.  He also created the Alliance’s chapter in Tyler, Texas and surrounding communities, the first in the state.  Mike Vivirito, a Communications Worker of America (CWA) retiree from Middle River, Maryland, has taken the reigns as President of the Maryland/DC Alliance.  Mr. Vivirito has had decades of experience as an active union and retiree leader, working on issues including Social Security, health care, and prescription drugs.  He has been recognized by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) for his community involvement.

Dr. Donald Berwick to Run Medicare and Medicaid
President Obama will soon name Dr. Donald M. Berwick, a scholar of health policy, to oversee the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Berwick, a pediatrician, is president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass.  In the past, he was a member of an advisory commission appointed by President Bill Clinton that recommended a patients’ bill of rights and steps to reduce medical mistakes.  “Dr. Berwick is an excellent fit for the job.  I am confident that he will bring efficiencies to the Medicare program without cutting needed benefits to seniors,” said Mr. Coyle.

Alliance’s National Convention in Las Vegas Just 4 Days Away
Alliance members will elect a president and secretary-treasurer, and community members will elect six community-based board members, at the Alliance’s national convention in Las Vegas next week.  The theme for the April 5-8 convention is Building Retiree Power; to register, go tohttp://bit.ly/1jIzz2 .  Guests are welcome to attend the Monday portion of the program – which will feature Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, and the Honorable Hilda Solis – free of charge.

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