From the monthly archives: August 2009
We are pleased to present below all posts archived in 'August 2009'. If you still can't find what you are looking for, try using the search box.
America's seniors have a huge stake in the national health care reform debate. Unfortunately, well-financed misinformation campaigns have led many to believe health care reform will destroy Medicare. Nothing could be further from the truth!
The National Committee's Truth Squad is mobilized to arm seniors with the facts
about health care reform's impact on Medicare
. Without health care reform, Medicare will continue to suffer from skyrocketing costs associated with general health care costs, until neither seniors nor the government will be able to afford the program. This inevitably will lead to unprecedented cuts in Medicare-cuts that unlike current health care reform proposals-will directly target Medicare beneficiaries.
National health care reform provides an historic opportunity for us to improve Medicare
by closing the Part D doughnut hole
, allowing government negotiation of drug prices
in Part D and eliminating billions of dollars of wasteful subsidies
to private insurers in Medicare Advantage. Ignoring Health Care Reform is not an option.
The Truth Squad tool kit
is available on our website to anyone who's tired of the misinformation and wants the truth about health care reform and seniors. It includes: links to Health care reform policy analysis, "EntitledtoKnow" health care blog posts, a link where you can download your own myth busters badge and our Truth Squad video
series. We released Part 1 today:
We hope you'll share the Myth Busters badge
with friends and wear it proudly to town halls and meetings with your members of Congress. Because as President Franklin Roosevelt said:
"Repetition does not transform a lie into truth".
The National Committee is mobilized to fight health care reform fiction with fact...we hope you'll join us.
...and there certainly are a lot of them! From death panels to rationing, the health care reform scare campaign has been in overdrive this month. Of course, the problem is it's always easier to sell fear than facts and that couldn't be more evident than seen in many town halls nationwide. Even so, cooler heads and rational discourse might now be making a comeback.
We've participated in plenty of town halls and have seen the gamut but this week's meeting with seniors in Springfield Virginia, hosted by Congressman Gerry Connolly give us hope that we're turning the corner from irrational screaming to legitimate, thoughtful debate. C-Span provides coverage here
We're also happy to see Health and Human Services release a new report clearly engaging seniors on the issues they care about most. America's Seniors and Health Insurance Reform
addresses many critical issues to seniors such as: escalating Health Care Costs, Access to care and Medicare reforms. Here are the reports' key findings:
America's seniors shoulder an increasing financial burden to get the care they need - a burden that could be alleviated.
Medicare now and in the future will not continue to provide needed access to services if reforms are not made.
Too many seniors do not get recommended care, including needed preventive and primary care services to keep seniors healthier, longer.
Health Insurance Reform will Improve Access, Quality, and Affordability for America's Seniors
"Today I am deeply saddened at losing such a loyal friend as Senator Kennedy. I first met Ted in 1956 at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Our families have long personal and political ties which were cemented with the election of President John Kennedy and the appointment of my father as the Chairman of the National Democratic Party. Ted came to campaign for me in Connecticut during my first congressional race-despite having fallen the day before in a skiing accident. During my 17 years in Congress, I did not always agree with Senator Kennedy yet I respected his passion for what he wanted to accomplish. He was totally engaged in using his office to help people living up and down the streets of every state.
Senator Kennedy has championed legislation and reforms that have improved the lives of millions of Americans. America's seniors have counted on him to lead their cause in defense of the nation's two most successful government' programs...Social Security and Medicare. Together, we fought against the privatization of Social Security and Medicare and most recently had been working to ensure health care reform also includes improvements to Medicare. His success in reaching across party lines has been well documented and he became a hero to all of us who care about the future of America."...Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO, The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
The National Committee has been working with Congress to try and find a way to avoid the first-ever zero cost of living increases for seniors. We talked to the Associated Press
about this issue and they provided a nice overview of what's at stake for seniors. We've written about this before and urge you to check out our website
for more information about an issue we'll surely have more to report on once Congress returns this fall.
Social Security Expects No COLAs for 2 Years
Monday, August 24, 2009
Millions of people face shrinking Social Security checks next year, as officials project that benefits will stay flat for the first time in a generation.
The trustees who oversee Social Security are forecasting that there will be no cost-of-living adjustment for the next two years. That has not happened since automatic increases were adopted in 1975.
By law, Social Security benefits cannot decrease. Nevertheless, monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to rise slightly.
"I will promise you, they count on that COLA," said Barbara B. Kennelly, a former Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut who heads the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. "To some people, it might not be a big deal. But to seniors, especially with their health-care costs, it is a big deal."
Cost-of-living adjustments are pegged to inflation, which has been negative this year, largely because energy prices are below 2008 levels.
Advocates say seniors still face higher prices because they spend a disproportionate amount of their income on health care, whose cost is rising faster than inflation. Many also have suffered from declining home values and shrinking stock portfolios as they look to those assets for income.
"For many elderly, they don't feel that inflation is low because their expenses are still going up," said David Certner, director of legislative policy for AARP. "Anyone who has savings and investments has seen some serious losses." About 50 million retired and disabled Americans receive Social Security benefits. The average monthly benefit for retirees is $1,153 this year. All beneficiaries received a 5.8 percent increase in January, the largest since 1982.
More than 32 million people are in the Medicare prescription drug program. Average monthly premiums are set to go from $28 this year to $30 next year, though they vary by plan. About 6 million people in the program have premiums deducted from their Social Security payments, according to the Social Security Administration.
Millions of people with Medicare Part B coverage for doctor visits also have their premiums deducted from Social Security payments. Part B premiums are expected to rise as well. Under the law, however, the increase cannot be larger than the increase in Social Security benefits for most recipients.
There is no such provision for drug premiums.
Kennelly's group wants Congress to increase Social Security benefits next year, even though the formula does not call for it. She would like to see either a 1 percent increase in monthly payments or a one-time payment of $150.
The cost of a one-time payment, a little less than $8 billion, could be covered by increasing the amount of income subjected to Social Security taxes, Kennelly said. Workers pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,800 of income, a limit that rises each year with the average national wage.
But the limit only increases if monthly benefits increase.
Critics say that Social Security recipients should not get an increase when inflation is negative. They note the big increase in January -- after energy prices had started to fall. They also note that Social Security recipients received one-time $250 payments in the spring as part of the government's economic stimulus package.
"Seniors may perceive that they are being hurt because there is no COLA, but they are in fact not getting hurt," said Andrew G. Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. "Congress has to be able to tell people they are not getting everything they want."
Social Security is also facing long-term financial problems. In 2016, the retirement program is projected to start paying out more money than it collects. Without changes, the retirement fund will be depleted in 2037, according to the Social Security trustees' annual report.
Following is the email we delivered to all of our members and supporters today providing the facts about health care reform, Medicare and advance care planning.
A lot of what you're hearing is just not true...
Get the facts from your National Committee
National Committee Member and Supporters:
Some opponents of health care reform are scaring seniors by reporting that Congress is considering
legislation to require Medicare beneficiaries to participate in mandatory consultations on how they want to die. This information is NOT correct.
In fact, H.R. 3200, America's Affordable Health Choices Act, which is being considered in the House of Representatives, includes a provision to improve the Medicare program by authorizing reimbursement of up to one Advance Care Planning Consultation every five years.
The consultation is not mandatory; rather, Medicare would provide reimbursement if beneficiaries voluntarily choose to meet with a health care practitioner for information about advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney; the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, such as palliative care and hospice; and orders regarding life sustaining treatment.
The purpose of Sec. 1233, page 425, of H.R. 3200 - which conservative commentators are misrepresenting to stir up opposition to health care reform legislation - is to help people discuss their views regarding end-of-life care with their families and health care providers before the need for such care arises and to learn what they must do to ensure that their wishes are carried out if they become incapacitated.
The Advance Care Planning Consultation, which would be paid for by Medicare, is intended to improve the quality of end-of-life care provided to beneficiaries. These meetings between patients and their doctors would be completely voluntary and no one would be required to complete an advance care directive or living will.
You can read more
on this subject on our website.
Thank you for your help,
Barbara B. Kennelly
President and CEO
Have a Social Security or Medicare question?