August 31, 2012

Republican Platform Calls for Sweeping Changes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid

Delegates to this week’s Republican National Convention approved a party platform calling for sweeping changes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Pledging to “save Medicare by modernizing it,” the platform supports vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s plan to push seniors toward vouchers to buy health coverage from private insurance companies.  The platform would also raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67.  Medicaid, which is the only way that 70 percent of seniors can afford long-term and nursing home care, would be cut under the GOP plan, with much of the program turned over to individual states.

Social Security, the platform contends, “is long overdue for major change… to restore trust in the system.” While the actual platform language on Social Security is vague, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have long supported lowering benefits, raising the retirement age, and moving toward a privatized system tied to the stock market.  Also this week, television commentator Pat Robertson said in an interview that the retirement age should be raised to 72, saying that such an idea “would not hurt anybody because people really like to work.”  To see a video of this interview: “This platform is a raw deal for current and future retirees.  Seniors would take all the risks, while Wall Street and health insurers would get all the rewards,” said Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling.  The Alliance’s web site,, has a number of fact sheets current on the debates over the future of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Romney-Ryan Medicare Proposal Would Shift Costs to Patients
Mitt Romney’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act – removing over $700 billion in Medicare savings – would hasten Medicare’s insolvency by eight years and immediately add hundreds of dollars of out-of-pocket expenses to current enrollees, The New York Times recently reported (  The newspaper reported that repeal would raise out-of-pocket costs for seniors by an average of $342 per year.

Mr. Romney’s plan would eliminate several new, popular Medicare services, including free preventive screenings and expanded prescription drug coverage.  While Romney claims that he wants to restore funds to Medicare, his proposals do not increase coverage or care, but instead increase costs through higher payments to hospitals and big insurance companies.  In accepting his party’s vice presidential nomination this week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said, “the greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it.”  For a detailed fact-check of Mr. Ryan’s speech, visit

“The Romney-Ryan plan would result in higher payments for less care, while shortening Medicare’s projected lifespan,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.  “President Obama’s Affordable Care Act lowers costs, increases access to care for Medicare beneficiaries and extends Medicare’s solvency by eight years.  It is good for seniors.”

Obama Touts Success of Health Reform for Seniors
In his weekly radio address, President Obama announced on August 25 that, because of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, nearly 5.4 million seniors with Medicare have saved over $4.1 billion on prescription drugs, an average of more than $700 per person.  In 2012, Mr. Obama said, 18 million seniors with Medicare have received free preventive care benefits such as mammograms and colonoscopies.  Medicare, the President said, is “a promise this country made to our seniors that says if you put in a lifetime of hard work, you shouldn’t lose your home or your life savings just because you get sick.”

Alliance Mourns Loss of Stu Leibowitz
The Alliance is mourning the recent death of Stu Leibowitz, an AFSCME retiree leader who was President of the Alliance’s New York City chapter.  Leibowitz was a tireless defender of the retiree benefits that public sector workers fought for and earned.  “Stu was a cornerstone of the Alliance’s national and regional conferences, frequently speaking up to educate and inspire his fellow retirees.  He will be sorely missed,” said Edward F. Coyle, the Alliance’s Executive Director.

Commentary: On Labor Day, Educate Younger People About Unions
As we near Labor Day, I want to encourage you to help younger generations better understand why labor unions are so important.  Too many people either know very little about unions, or only know what politicians and Fox News tell them.

I joined a union on my very first day on the job as a telephone operator in Akron, Ohio.  It was one of the best decisions I ever made.  Our generation – and those who came before us – used our rights at work and in the community to create good jobs and good wages.  We helped build strong neighborhoods where you could raise a family. In my experience, a union is the only way workers can earn good pay and be treated with respect and fairness on the job.  It’s just too tough any other way.  When you look at the powerful interests that workers are up against – whether it is right-wing politicians or cold-hearted corporations – you see how badly the deck is stacked against you if you don’t have a union.

As union retiree, you can speak firsthand how collective bargaining helps earn the wages and benefits that support families and build strong, stable communities.  Collective bargaining directly affects retirement – the better you work, the better you retire.  I worry that decades of low wages, little or no health insurance, and inadequate savings are sowing the seeds for a serious retirement security crisis that will affect everyone in our country.

While some politicians mock unions as a cheap way to score political points, we all know the truth – collective bargaining is a backbone of the American middle class.   We have a lot to be proud of – so let’s get out there and spread the word!  –Barbara J. Easterling, President Alliance for Retired Americans

Please share Ms. Easterling’s Labor Day column with others in your community by visiting

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