May 07, 2010
New Alliance Voting Record Focuses on Health Care, Medicare, and Economics
On Tuesday, the Alliance marked Older Americans Month by releasing its latest voting record, a new report detailing the 2009 votes of every U.S. Senator and Representative on key issues affecting current and future retirees. The document is available at http://bit.ly/9KfGCU. “Higher scores show a commitment to improve health care, strengthen Medicare, and put seniors ahead of drug and insurance companies,” said Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling. “The 2009 voting record showed a continuation of support for seniors in America, despite a tough economy,” she added. The voting record examines 10 key Senate votes and 10 key House votes, showing the roll calls on issues such as helping pre-Medicare retirees afford health care, as well as Medicare-covered preventive screenings for seniors. Several votes addressed national spending on health care, including historic votes on epic health insurance reform.
One hundred eighty-three U.S. House members achieved perfect scores of 100% in 2009. One hundred and eighty-five received failing grades (60% or lower), with 16 receiving scores of zero. Of the House members appointed to the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010, Reps. John Spratt (D-SC) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) scored 100% with the Alliance; Rep.Xavier Becerra (D-CA) scored 90%; Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) scored 10%, and Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) scored 0%. The panel is considering major changes that would affect the financial future of Social Security and Medicare.
Fifteen members of the U.S. Senate achieved perfect scores of 100% in 2009, while 43 received failing grades of 60 percent or lower. Both Senators from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar (D) and Al Franken(D), received perfect scores in 2009. The same was true for both of the Vermont Senators, Patrick Leahy (D) and Bernie Sanders (I). However, all of the Senators from the states of Georgia, Kansas, Utah and Wyoming scored zero. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has the lowest current lifetime Senate score with the Alliance, 1%.
“America Speaks”: Forums for the Privatizers
The launch of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has renewed the urgency of the Alliance’s mission to protect Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts. Against that backdrop, on June 26, town halls on the budget and economy will be convened across the country by “America Speaks” – supposedly a non-partisan, non-profit – in an effort to “find common ground about the choices necessary to address the nation’s growing deficit and national debt”. The forums will be linked together by satellite and the internet and the resulting recommendations shared with members of Congress and the Fiscal Commission. “America Speaks is funded, in part, by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and the Alliance shares the concern of many of our allied organizations that these town halls will not include our perspective regarding the deficit’s causes and fixes,? said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “It would be extremely helpful to have Alliance members participate in these forums,” he declared. The meeting sites announced so far are in Albuquerque, NM; Augusta, ME; Casper, WY; Chicago, IL; Columbia, SC; Dallas, TX; Des Moines, IA; Detroit, MI; Grand Forks, ND; Jackson, MS; Kansas City, KS; Louisville, KY; Missoula, MT; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; Portsmouth, NH; Redlands, CA; Richmond, VA; and San Jose, CA. Detailed information on the town halls, including the registration process, can be found at: http://usabudgetdiscussion.org/.
Administration Announces $5B for Early Retirees to Save on Health Insurance
The percentage of large firms providing workers with retiree coverage has dropped from 66% in 1988 to 31% in 2008. In order to entice employers to keep providing medical coverage to early retirees, the Obama administration is making $5 billion available until the safety net of the new health care law is in place. Effective next month, federal subsidies will allow employers to recoup a big chunk of the cost of medical claims for early retirees, aged 55 to 64 and not yet eligible for Medicare. The program will end in 2014, when Americans will be able to choose from additional coverage options through the health insurance exchanges. Employers can use the savings to either reduce their own health care costs, provide premium relief to their workers and families or a combination of both. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will begin the Early Retiree Program on June 1, 2010. You can learn more about the program at http://bit.ly/cul1cn.
National Women’s Health Week
Coinciding with Mothers Day, May 8-16 is National Women’s Health Week, a weeklong health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health (OWH). National Women’s Health Week empowers women to make their health a top priority. With the theme “It?s Your Time,” the nationwide initiative encourages women to take simple steps for a longer, healthier, and happier life. For more information, go to HHS’ Office of Women’s Health web site at www.womenshealth.gov/whw.
Two Alliance Members Speak at Capitol Hill Events
Stella Johnson and Caesar Dudley, community-based members from Washington DC, powerfully spoke on behalf of the Alliance at separate events on Capitol Hill this Thursday. Johnson joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka at a Steelworker-sponsored rally to celebrate the passage of the new health reform law. Johnson, who has fallen into the Medicare doughnut hole, said the new law will, “help seniors like me who struggle every day to afford the prescriptions and medical tests that they must have.” Dudley spoke alongside several leading House Democrats to launch a congressional Seniors Task Force and unveil a Seniors Bill of Rights. [www.dems.gov/seniors/bill-of-rights ] “People are living longer and longer, and our government must pay more attention to the needs of this growing population,” he said. For pictures from yesterday, go tohttp://bit.ly/bwc9KC. For video footage of Ms. Easterling’s press conference on reforming Wall Street, held last week with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), andChris Dodd (D-CT), go to http://bit.ly/cKm3pM.