May 27, 2011
Republicans Gamble with Medicare, Lose Big
The GOP’s desire to privatize Medicare and turn it into voucher program has not only hit a speed bump, it has completely backfired. Their proposal, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), passed the House on April 15, but is becoming increasingly unpopular amongst a wide array of voters. After weeks of angry town hall meetings, this week saw two specific political consequences of the wildly unpopular plan. First, Democrat Kathy Hochul, who was outspoken in her opposition to the plan, won a special election to fill a vacant congressional seat in upstate New York. Hochul’s victory would have been hard to predict months ago, as it is one the most conservative House districts in the state and is a seat the Republicans had held for 40 years. Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by 30,000 in the district. Many political analysts viewed the race as referendum on the Ryan Medicare plan.
Under the Ryan plan, the average 65 year old will be expected to pay an additional $6,359 a year in out-of-pocket health care costs by 2022. “This election is a precursor to what the 2012 elections will look like if Republicans continue to support such extreme positions. Supporters of this plan owe an explanation to current and future retirees about why they chose the big insurance companies over seniors who need help affording their medical bills,” said Edward F. Coyle, the Alliance’s Executive Director.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate rejected privatizing Medicare by a 57-40 vote. All Democrats voted against the Ryan plan, and were joined by five Republican Senators – Susan Collins andOlympia Snowe of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, andRand Paul of Kentucky. In contrast to the other four, Senator Paul said he voted no because the spending cuts were not drastic enough.
Alliance Educates Retiree Groups on Threats to Social Security
Also on Wednesday, Coyle spoke in Las Vegas to a national meeting of Coalition of Black Trade Unionists on the retirement security issues facing their community. In conjunction with this speech the Alliance released a new fact sheet on how Social Security impacts African Americans. Based on the data, African Americans will have a huge stake in any debate over cutting Social Security benefits, as Social Security is the primary income for 40% of African American retirees. In addition one of every five (nearly 21 percent) who receive Social Security disability benefits is African American and more than one of every eight (13 percent) African Americans who receive Social security benefits gets survivor benefits. For a copy of the fact sheet, click http://bit.ly/kr0Vip.
Working with our partner organization, the Strengthen Social Security campaign, the Alliance will help spotlight the importance of Social Security for our nation’s veterans. The campaign joined with Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mark Begich (D-AK) this week to release a report onveterans and Social Security. The report details the role Social Security plays for veterans and to the families of service members who have been injured or killed in the line of duty. The report also shows that over 9 million veterans receive Social Security. “Social Security is a promise that should not be broken, especially for those who have who served our nation with such pride and dedication,” said Ruben J. Burks, Alliance Secretary-Treasurer. For a copy of the report, clickhttp://bit.ly/iil5On. To view a brief video of the event, click http://bit.ly/jjQHsT.
Retiree and community leaders in Colorado held a press conference on Thursday to release the results of a new poll of Colorado residents’ attitudes toward Social Security. The poll shows that 71% of likely voters in Colorado oppose cuts to Social Security in order to reduce the deficit. “More than 630,000 Coloradans receive Social Security and nearly half of them are lifted out of poverty by the program’s modest benefits,” Coloradan and Alliance for Retired Americans activistVivian Stovall said, “Social Security is based on a promise that if you pay in then you earn the right to guaranteed benefits. Our elected officials in Washington need to be sure that promise is kept.”
Also this week, Rich Fiesta, the Alliance’s Director of Government and Political Affairs, provided a legislative update on Social Security and Medicare for members of the New York State Alliance at the group’s convention.
North Carolina Alliance Members Meet with HHS Secretary Sebelius
On Tuesday retiree activists from the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans got the opportunity to speak one-on-one about their health care concerns with a member of President Obama’s cabinet, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius led a Raleigh forum with seniors that was co-hosted by the Alliance and AARP.
Alliance members Jim Moore and Mary Montford joined the discussion with Sebelius. Montford told the Secretary, “The new health care law has brought many new benefits to people who rely on Medicare. I do worry that not enough people know about how the new health law affects them. I hope that we can continue to spread the word.” Sebelius told the seniors in attendance that she was opposed to Paul Ryan’s plan to change Medicare and went on to say that, “I think the Medicaid budget that is being proposed in Congress will have huge impact on North Carolina. House Republicans have proposed a drastic slashing of the Medicaid program.”
Support Transportation Security Officers
Please help bring a strong union voice to over 45,000 airport Transportation Security Officers (TSO) across the country. Beginning this week, TSOs will be voting to be represented by a union for the first time. The Alliance for Retired Americans is proud to support the American Federation of Government Employees in this historic campaign. “Union retirees know firsthand just how important it is to have a voice on the job to speak up on behalf of safety, security, and customer service. And we know how collective bargaining helps workers improve their wages, benefits, and prospects for a secure retirement,” said Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling.