The Concord Monitor reports on feisty NH retirees confronting presidential candidates and House Reps during the primary season here in New Hampshire. Follow this link to the full article.
As the U.S. Congress discusses cutting Social Security, you're invited to join us for "Social Security: The Myths And The Facts" on Monday, March 21, 2011 at 5 pm.
Red River Theatres, Stoneyfield Culture Cinema, 11 S. Main Street, Lower Level, Concord, NHOne of the nation's foremost experts on Social Security, Nancy Altman will dispel popular myths and misconceptions about the nation's most successful anti-poverty program.
Assistant to Alan Greenspan when he chaired the Greenspan Commission to amend Social Security, Altman is also the author of The Battle For Social Security.Sponsors:
American Friends Service Commitee
Granite State Organizing Project
NH Alliance For Retired Americans
NH Citizens Alliance
SEA/SEIU Local 1984
Working Families Win
Open to all - No charge
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) recently introduced the Strengthen Social Security Act, S.567. Instead of offering a cold, calculated benefit cut like the chained CPI, this bill would actually increase Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA’s) by an average of $800! On Monday, May 20th at 3:30 EST, the Alliance is holding a special tele-town hall briefing with Sen. Harkin. On the call, he will talk about the Strengthen Social Security Act and other efforts to protect retirement security. In addition, we will talk about Alliance activities happening in your state and how you can get involved to protect retirement security. For more information, and to participate on Monday, go to http://tinyurl.com/a9ctrzm. Click on http://tinyurl.com/a2gxhtl for more on the chained CPI. For the Alliance letter in support of Harkin’s bill, go to http://tinyurl.com/cnpnxaa.
“With the help of Alliance activists , we can build the public support for strengthening Social Security and make sure we are not part of the last generation to retire,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.
Mr. Coyle represented the Alliance at a “Kitchen Cabinet” meeting this week with another U.S. Senator, Bernie Sanders (I-VT), regarding the safeguarding of Social Security for current and future retirees. The Alliance joined with other leading seniors groups in a robust strategy discussion.
Affordable Care Act Repeal Votes Have Cost More than $52 Million
The House voted 229-195 on Thursday to pass H.R. 45, legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act. Thursday was at least the 43rd day since Republicans took over the House that they have devoted time to vote on bills to repeal or defund the 2010 legislation designed to provide health coverage for the uninsured. Since 2011, Republicans have spent no less than 15 percent of their time on the House floor on repeal in some way. Based on time spend to operate the Capitol, the GOP anti-health crusade has so far cost American taxpayers a total of $52.4 million (source: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office). To read more, see the New York Times article at http://tinyurl.com/aqwqthj. For a tally of the Thursday vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/ahxedgp.
“This issue has already been considered and decided. Despite yesterday’s House vote, it is the law of the land. It is time to move on,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.
Obituary: Washington State’s Will Parry, a Giant in the Seniors Political Movement
Beloved President Emeritus and Editor of the Retiree Advocate in Washington State, Will Parry, died peacefully on Monday afternoon after an extended period of illness. Will was a warrior for economic and social justice for more than seven decades and was widely known, loved and respected. He was with the Washington State Alliance since its inception, and had been with the National Council of Senior Citizens before that. Labor, community and religious leaders considered him the heart, soul, and intellectual leader of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA), and he will be sorely missed. A memorial will take place at the Labor Temple in Seattle at the end of June. Donations in his name may be made to Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action at 2800 1st Ave. #262, Seattle, WA 98121 to continue his work.
Fees for Medical Procedures Vary Inexplicably from Hospital to Hospital
There are often huge, discrepancies in fees hospitals charge for the same procedure. Count Jonathan Blum, Medicare’s deputy administrator, among those who don’t understand the logic the hospitals use to arrive at those fees.
‘’It doesn’t make sense,” Blum said when asked to explain the reason. He noted that the higher charges don’t necessarily reflect better care. Even the American Hospital Association calls the current billing system, “complex and bewildering,” says USA Today.
To bring some clarity to the pricing, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services published the costs for 100 common procedures at 3,337 hospitals (whttp:///www.cms.gov). The government hopes publishing comparative costs will promote competition and lower prices, especially as the Affordable Care Act begins taking effect.
“Geographical location; the complexity of the ailment; the length of the hospital stay; and the cost of running a teaching hospital are all factors,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer-of the Alliance. “But even if all the known factors are taken into account, the numbers are mystifying.”
According to the Associated Press (http://tinyurl.com/aqu9ubb ), the wide discrepancy in prices also cannot be totally explained by factoring in the cost of treating older, sicker or indigent patients. AP found that, exclusive of the doctors’ fees, the average charge for a joint replacement ranged from about $5,300 in Ada, Okla., to $223,000 in Monterey Park, Calif.
Private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid negotiate their own reimbursement rates with hospitals and doctors. The uninsured are often carried on the hospital’s books as being charged the full rate, but that amount is negotiated based on the patient’s ability to pay, and the truly indigent don’t pay at all.
Alliance Activists Lobby in Connecticut, Illinois, California
Alliance chapters in Connecticut, Illinois, and California have had Lobby Days this week. In Hartford on Tuesday, the Connecticut Alliance held its second annual “Senior Day at the Capitol.” Over 130 activists, their families and allies were in Hartford to meet with their elect officials. Participants then disbursed throughout the Capitol to address seniors' issues. The day ended with a well-attended press event. Speakers included Ms. Easterling; Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman; Speaker of the House Brendon Sharkey; House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz; and a host of other government officials and labor leaders.
Alliance activists in Illinois also lobbied their legislators at their State Capitol in Springfield on Tuesday. The local ABC affiliate covered the seniors’ quest for home health care funding - as well as their advocacy on other issues, such as Medicare – at http://tinyurl.com/anarvz8.
In addition, hundreds of California Alliance (CARA) members will be meeting with their State Assembly members and Senators in their district offices around the state today.
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On Wednesday, over a hundred Alliance activists joined with several leading members of the U.S. Senate and House for an energetic press event on Capitol Hill. The event was headlined by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and also featured remarks by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Al Franken (D-MN); as well as Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and David Cicilline (D-RI). All of the lawmakers strongly denounced the idea of cutting Social Security benefits by switching to the Chained CPI cost-of-living adjustment formula. They made it clear that they will protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from any cuts, so that the programs remain strong for both the current generation of retirees and also our children and grandchildren. They also drove home the point that the wealthiest among us and corporations need to pay their fair share.
Three Alliance members spoke at the event, explaining the heartbreaking consequences that cuts to Social Security would mean for them. “I would like to extend special thank-you’s to the Alliance members who spoke on Wednesday,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Regional Board member Marty Alvarado of Dallas, Texas, who worked in the electronics industry; Jody Weinreich of Allentown, Penn., who worked in the garment industry; and Marty Walsh of Glendale, Missouri, who worked in the insurance industry, were all quite eloquent in their remarks. They brought tears to the eyes of many who were in attendance. I was very proud to stand strong against earned benefit cuts alongside Senator Sanders and so many of our stalwart allies.”
To watch a video of the event, go to http://tinyurl.com/dxknfbd. For Facebook photos, go to http://tinyurl.com/cmevp9e. To see the updated Nevada Alliance state web site – featuring Nevada Alliance leaders and Alliance staff with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday, go to www.nevadaretiredamericans.org.
The day before the event, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addressed Alliance activists, thanking them for their role in the 2012 elections and for their work to stop the Chained CPI.
Moderate Democratic Senators Come Out Against Chained CPI
Several Democratic Senators from swing states, who are running for reelection in 2014, have declared their opposition to the Chained CPI. Sens. Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Begich (AK), and Mark Pryor (AR) have co-sponsored a Senate resolution against the Chained CPI (S.Con.Res. 15). Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH) also opposes the benefit cut. Currently, eight of the fourteen Democrats running for reelection in 2014 have stated that they will not support the Chained CPI. To read a Huffington Post write up of the story, go to http://tinyurl.com/cuxmu7q.
“This is clear evidence that politicians all over the country are getting the message that voters across the political spectrum overwhelmingly oppose Chained CPI,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “We urge our members to keep hammering that message home. Call your members of Congress and urge them to come out against Chained CPI. If they have already done the right thing, call to thank them for their support.”
Senate Passes Older Americans Month Resolution
The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution to designate May 2013 as Older Americans Month. The resolution, which was sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Christopher Coons (D-MA), and Sen. Sanders, passed by unanimous consent on May 9th. The resolution points out that seniors rely on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid for financial security and high quality healthcare. It also stresses the important role that seniors play within their communities by being sources of experience and knowledge. The resolution encourages the people of the United States to emphasize the importance of seniors and provide them with opportunities to share their wisdom and skills with the community. To view the resolution, go to http://tinyurl.com/ca4rfed.
Big Pharma Gives $1.57 billion to CEOs, Charges Medicare Exorbitant Drug Costs
Over the last ten years, the 11 largest pharmaceutical companies have given their CEOs a combined $1.57 billion in compensation, according to a new report from Health Care for American Now (HCAN.) The report found that the pay of the CEOs has increased considerably over the course of those ten years, particularly after the Medicare prescription drug program went into effect in 2006. Under the drug program, Medicare is not allowed to negotiate the prices of the medications it buys, which has led to a windfall for pharmaceutical companies. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. To read the HCAN report, go to http://tinyurl.com/buoxjdu.
“This is a disgrace,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “Medicare is supposed to be an earned benefit program to provide seniors with health care, not a program to further enrich the overflowing pockets of wealthy CEOs. Yet the same politicians who will not allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices have the audacity to claim Medicare is costing too much money and wrongly insist we need to cut benefits. It is time to close the prescription drug loophole and allow Medicare to negotiate for cheaper prices.”
“Observational” Hospital Stays Continue to Leave Seniors with Big Bills
Medicare recipients who need more time to recuperate after a hospital visit are entitled to a 20-day stay in a nursing home, as long as their hospitalization lasted at least 3 days. However, many seniors in this situation are being forced to pay for their own nursing home care because one or more days of their hospital stay were classified as “observational.” Medicare officials say that recipients must be “admitted patients” at the hospital for at least three days to qualify for nursing home care. Since hospitals are not required to tell patients when they are classified as “under observation,” seniors and their families often have no idea that Medicare will not be covering their nursing home costs. Since we last wrote about the issue in February, 14 seniors represented by the Center for Medicare Advocacy have filed a lawsuit for Medicare to eliminate the “observational” label. To read a USA Today write up of the story, go to http://tinyurl.com/cozpdpa
“Medicare must swiftly end this unfair practice,” said Mr. Coyle. “Seniors and their families, who are already under a lot of emotional and financial stress, should not be faced with crippling nursing home bills because of a technicality that hospitals are not even required to inform them about.”
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