July 09, 2010

Social Security: House Minority Leader Raises Renewed Privatization Fears

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) stated this week that he is unsure whether the Republican Party will revive their 2005 movement to privatize Social Security. Recently, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a member of the president’s Fiscal Commission on addressing the national debt, released a budget blueprint that included dramatic cuts to Medicare and Social Security before effectively privatizing both systems. Boehner has distanced himself from Ryan’s blueprint without mentioning where he stands, leaving many advocates for seniors uneasy about the fate of these programs should Republicans return to power. “Representatives Ryan and Boehner must not have seen what I saw when we put unbridled faith in the markets and Wall Street,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “We need to continue our work to protect Social Security.  It is a valuable lifeline which has kept millions of retirees out of poverty.”

President Obama Fills Key Position at HHS

On Wednesday, President Obama made Dr. Donald Berwick, an expert on reducing health care costs, a recess appointee to oversee Medicare and Medicaid. By using his power to make recess appointments while the Senate is on vacation, the president put Dr. Berwick in a position of critical importance in implementing the new reform law. According to The New York Times, “Republican senators had made it clear that they would use confirmation hearings to distort his record and rehash their arguments against the recently enacted health care reforms, mostly to score political points for the November elections.” Berwick’s appointment will run until late 2011, giving him time to put changes in motion before he would have to be re-nominated. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which Dr. Berwick will run, has been without a permanent administrator since 2006. Also on Wednesday, Josh Gotbaum was named as a recess appointee to be the Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.  “President Obama did not want partisan gridlock to delay filling these important positions with the right people,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Alliance Retirees Meet with Members of Congress, Sebelius

Summer has not been a time of mere rest and relaxation for Alliance members!  Florida Alliance President Tony Fransetta and Regional Director Bill Cea met in Boca Raton yesterday with Rep.Ted Deutch about Social Security.  Today, Florida Alliance members are taking the train fromWest Palm Beach to Miami to meet the national presidents of transportation unions and to rally in support of senior transportation.

While Congress is home for recess, Alliance members across the country met this week with members of Congress and staff including: Reps. Brad Miller in North Carolina; Sen. Claire McCaskill and Reps. Russ Carnahan, Emanuel Cleaver, and Lacy Clay in Missouri; Reps. John Boccieri, Mary Jo Kilroy and Steve Driehaus in Ohio; Rep. Patrick Murphy in Pennsylvania; Reps. Gabrielle Giffords and Harry Mitchell in Arizona; Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Martin Heinrich in New Mexico; and Reps. John Spratt and James Clyburn in South Carolina.  In New Hampshire, Alliance members hosted a town hall meeting with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, at a senior center in Manchesteron Thursday.  The Secretary discussed the mailing of the latest round of $250 rebate checks for seniors caught in the doughnut hole, other benefits of health reform, as well as efforts to fight Medicare fraud, with 150-200 retirees.

House Moves to Avoid Deals Between Drugmakers That Prevent Generics

Last week, the U.S. House approved a measure that would restrict the ability of brand-name drug companies to enter into “pay-for-delay” agreements with a generic drugmaker. Companies could be fined under the measure if the Federal Trade Commission and courts find they are involved in settlements that preserve a brand-name pharmaceutical firm’s patent by delaying a generic-drug maker’s introduction of a lower-priced product. The restriction was included in an amendment to the war-funding bill, and was approved on a 239-182 vote; a tally of the vote is available athttp://bit.ly/daDE0f. The measure now goes to the Senate. It is estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that the restriction on drug agreements would save the government $2.4 billion over 10 years by reducing the cost of drugs purchased through Medicare and Medicaid. “We are pleased to see this measure pass. It should help end pharmaceutical companies’ long track record of anti-consumer behavior,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Is Growing National Support for Health Reform Law Killing the Repeal Effort?

Although they’ve called repeatedly for repeal of the new health reform law, some senior Senate Republicans have not endorsed a bill that would actually do it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), GOP Conference Chair Lamar Alexander (TN) and Conference Vice Chair Lisa Murkowski (AK) have all argued that the reforms should be scrapped, but they haven’t signed on to their party’s repeal proposal. That bill has been endorsed by other party leaders, including Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the minority whip, and John Cornyn (Texas), who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In the publication The Hill, Julian Zelizer, a congressional expert at Princeton University, said that divisions like this suggest what pollsters are saying: that there is support for the health care reform law in red America. Political analysts agree that the repeal bill has no chance of moving through Congress with Democrats in charge and President Obama in the White House.

Visit the Alliance’s New Web Site

Our new Alliance web site – www.retiredamericans.org – provides easier access to the latest news on health reform and Social Security, and also our newsletters, policy resolutions, and benefits exclusive to Alliance members.  Visit our web site to join our on-line community through Facebook, browse our growing photo and video collections, and find an Alliance near you.  We’ll be creating new state Alliance web sites over the next few months.  Please visit our new web site and let us know what you think at ARACommunications@retiredamericans.org.

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