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Posts Tagged 'Barbara B. Kennelly'

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Medicare and the Affordable Care Act: Keep Moving Forward

Barbara B. Kennelly
NCPSSM President/CEO
When the Affordable Care Act became law last March, critics predicted doom for the seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare. They said that coverage would disappear, benefits would be cut, and death panels were on their way – none of which was true. But these lies scared many seniors about the law before it was explained to them.   Now, one year later, as the implementation of the law moves forward, Medicare is still sound – it’s stronger than it was before the law was passed – and millions of people with Medicare are benefitting from the law.   Medicare has gotten serious about cracking down on waste, fraud, and abuse. Last year, the Obama administration announced it had recovered $4 billion in Medicare fraud. And the Affordable Care Act provides tools to crack down even further.   The Affordable Care Act specifically says that Medicare’s guaranteed benefits – hospital care, doctors’ services, home health services, drug coverage, and more – are protected.  Benefits are as good as ever – better, in fact. Prescription drugs are more affordable. This year the nearly 4 million beneficiaries who fall into the prescription drug “doughnut hole” will receive discounts on their drugs. These discounts will increase over the next few years until the doughnut hole is closed.   The Affordable Care Act encourages beneficiaries to get the care they need before they get sick. Now, the more than 44 million people with Medicare can get an annual wellness visit or needed screenings for diabetes or cancers without having to pay a co-pay. Early detection and treatment not only saves money but it saves lives.      The new law ends Medicare overpayments to insurance companies and rewards those that provide high quality care. But as these changes are phasing in starting this year, beneficiaries still have a wide range of plans to choose from.   States have new options to let seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes rather than having to move to a nursing home when they need help. And in the coming years, thanks to the new law, Medicare will lead the way to better coordinated patient care that should improve the quality of care while reducing costs.   But there is a threat out there. The new leadership of the House of Representatives has dedicated itself to repealing the Affordable Care Act. This would undo all of these improvements. Fraud-fighting tools, coverage in the doughnut hole, free preventive care, better coordinated care, and the chance to stay in your own home would all be gone.   Even worse is their alternative. Some proposals call for increasing out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries – something the Affordable Care Act does not do. Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, has a more detailed plan he calls a “roadmap.” He calls for jaw-dropping cuts to the program, including raising the eligibility age to 69, slashing Medicare over time by 76 percent, and replacing the program with a cash voucher that would shift most of the cost of health care to individuals. This plan would be devastating both to current beneficiaries and to today’s working families who are counting on the Medicare program they pay into to protect them from unaffordable health care costs when they retire.   Representative Ryan leads the House committee responsible for producing a budget. But his roadmap leads us backwards to a period when our most vulnerable were forced to choose between health care costs and other necessities like food and shelter. We reject this vision, and we hope Congress does too. A year ago, we passed the Affordable Care Act to strengthen and improve Medicare for current and future generations. Let’s keep moving forward on that path.

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Will Washington Keep it's Promise to Generations of Working Americans?

“Now that this tax cut deal has passed Congress, and $112 billion in Social Security funds will be diverted from the program, seniors and their families will be watching Washington closely to ensure lawmakers keep their promise that this really is just a one year ‘holiday’.   The American people have made it clear they do not support trading the long-term prospects of our nation’s premier retirement income program for short-term gains.  Promises that the diversion of $112 billion in Social Security contributions will be temporary are promises that must be kept.  This debate has shown  working Americans do not want Social Security to be used as a bargaining chip in yet another Let’s Make a Deal style ‘negotiation’ in Washington.   American seniors want fiscal sanity returned to our federal government but they also understand, Social Security is not to blame for our economic crisis and beneficiaries shouldn’t foot the bill for a prosperity party they didn’t attend. Congress and the White House should not mistake passage of this bill as support for undermining Social Security’s long-term financing.” …Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO

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$250 Payments to Seniors Stimulates the Economy

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation and the Economic Policy Institute today released a report, Down Payment on Economic Recovery,” that finds that the $250 lump-sum payments that went to recipients of Social Security and Supplemental Security (SSI) benefits were effective economic stimulus. The report’s authors, EPI researchers Josh Bivens and Kathryn Anne Edwards, argue that further job-creation efforts should include another such payment.  According to the report, lump-sum payments to Social Security and SSI recipients are an extremely effective job creator: 

            “While its share of the overall Recovery Act spending was very small, this lump-sum payment was one of the quickest-acting components of the overall package—the majority of payments were received just months after the Act was passed (by the end of May 2009). This Social Security and SSI payment by itself likely boosted GDP by roughly 0.5% in the second quarter of 2009, which would roughly translate to about 125,000 jobs created or saved due to these payments.”-- “Downpayment on Economic Recovery,” September 2010
2011 is expected to be the second year in a row in which Social Security beneficiaries will not receive a cost of living allowance (COLA).  However, despite a relatively low rate of general inflation, seniors' costs are going up.  Health care costs especially are rising rapidly, and the elderly on fixed incomes spend a significantly larger share of their income on health care. Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have introduced legislation that would provide an additional one-time $250 payment if there is no inflation adjustment again next year.
“This report confirms that one-time payments to Social Security beneficiaries benefit more than just the individuals who receive them, they also provide real stimulus to our weakened economy. This type of stimulus is a win-win for our nation. It provides COLA relief for millions of seniors suffering in this economy who have already see a third of their Social Security eaten up by health care costs, while also boosting our economy and saving jobs.”  Barbara B. Kennelly, President/CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare  
The full analysis, “Down-Payment on Economic Recovery,” is provided online here.

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What Will a Billion Dollars Buy You?

Money & PoliticsFor multi-billionaire businessman Pete Peterson it buys you a foundation in your name devoted to cutting so-called “entitlements”, a movie crafted to scare Americans into believing we can’t afford Social Security and Medicare (IOUSA), an online “news service”  to pass off your anti-entitlement views as news and even the Washington Post to run these advocacy pieces as A section articles without disclosing to its readers who actually paid to produce this propaganda posing as legitimate coverage.  At issue is a Washington Post article  on the proposed creation of an entitlement commission, written by the Peterson financed Fiscal Times “news service”.     Our President/CEO, Barbara Kennelly, wrote to the Post calling them out on their shameless lack of journalistic integrity.   Here’s her letter -- since chances are better than excellent you’ll never see it in print: 

Dear Editor:  It is a sad day indeed when a respectable news source such as the Washington Post relinquishes its control of investigative and balanced reporting to a propaganda machine funded by a super-wealthy Wall Street tycoon.  On first read, the article entitled “Support Grows for tackling nation’s debt” (Dec. 31) appears as a straight news piece.  However, closer scrutiny reveals this to be nothing more than a gratis publication of biased writing funded by the Peterson Foundation, a formidable foe of Social Security and Medicare.  This deception does a grave disservice to all of your readers.    That the Washington Post shares the ill-conceived views of groups like Peterson’s has not gone unnoticed, but at least on previous occasions your publication made it clear that the views were from your editorial writers as opposed to providing a balanced, factual analysis of the debt issue.    This disturbing trend toward parroting the biased views of a right-wing conservative who is using his vast wealth to buy public opinion on an issue critical to millions of Americans is yet another indication of the advancing deterioration of credible and trustworthy news reporting.     Sincerely, Barbara B. Kennelly, President and CEO National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare  
Social Security advocates have also written to the Post’s Ombudsman and Board Chairman urging them to reconsider this ill-considered relationship with a so-called “news service” created and funded by an advocacy organization.  We understand fiscal times are tough at newspapers all over the nation but surely, the Post still realizes you can’t be an advocate and a journalist.   This commission article isn’t news but instead advocacy masquerading as news.  It’s also an example of what a billion dollars buys you these days in Washington. 
Donald E. Graham, Chairman of the Board The Washington Post Company Washington, D.C.  Dear Mr Graham:  On January 1, we contacted the Ombudsman to express our dismay at a slanted piece of journalism that ran in your newspaper and our deep concern about the Post’s decision to partner in the future with the Fiscal Times, which produced the article.  The Fiscal Times was created and is funded by Peter G. Peterson, who has engaged in a decades-long effort to have changes to Social Security considered under a fast-track commission which shields members of Congress from political accountability.    Consistent with Mr. Peterson’s longstanding objective, the article the Post published is rife with factual errors, important omissions and significant distortions, which lead the reader to see a fast-tracked commission as sound policy and without opposition – indeed, virtually inevitable.  Representative of the errors, omissions, and distortions are the following:  
  • The Administration has not taken a public position on a so-called fast-track commission, and we have talked to high-level advisers in the White House who have told us privately that they oppose the fast-tracking, yet the first sentence of the second full paragraph states, “President Obama has voiced support for such a plan.”
  •   Speaker Pelosi and her staff have been clear about her opposition to a commission whose recommendations are fast tracked, yet the article implies that she has changed her position.  A close reading suggests that the article seeks the reader to draw that inference, though her position, in reality, remains unchanged. 
  • The article fails to report that the powerful Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, is strongly opposed to the proposal.  The article obviously fails to note that Senator Baucus delivered an impassioned speech in opposition, in which he described the proposal as a plan under which Congress would “outsource its core fiscal responsibilities,” and warned that “this commission and its new fast track process are truly dangerous… we would risk setting in motion some truly terrible policy…it is clear from their press release that Senators Conrad and Gregg have painted a big red target on Social Security and Medicare.  That’s what this commission is all about.”
  • The article omits the fact that the AARP is on the public record in opposition of the fast-track commission, but rather implies otherwise by including at the conclusion of the lengthy story some tepid, relatively-narrow concerns of a spokesman for the AARP .
  • The article omits the fact that the AARP sent a letter to Congressional leaders stating the AARP’s unequivocal opposition.  It also omits the fact that the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations sent a letter representing 27 national aging organizations.  The article further omits that a letter signed by over 40 national organizations, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Common Cause, NAACP, NOW, and SEIU, was sent in opposition.  Also, omitted was the fact of a letter from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, an organization representing millions of members.  Obviously the article provided no quotes from the letters, all of which are posted online. 
  • No academics or policy analysts are quoted in the story with the exception of the executive director of the Concord Coalition.  The story fails to disclose that the founding President of the Concord Coalition is Mr. Peterson, a longtime advocate of the commission that was the focus of the story (and to repeat, the founder and financial backer of the Fiscal Times, which produced the story). 
Every error, commission and omission in the article is in support of the objectives of Mr. Peterson.  By printing the article, the Washington Post has let itself be used by that powerful individual who is now able to influence policy not just through opinion pieces but through what purports to be objective news.  Of greater concern to us than the one story is the Post’s announced partnership with Mr. Peterson’s enterprise and the plans to publish other articles, as objective news stories, from that biased source.  The Post’s highly respected imprimatur is likely to cause local papers to print these biased pieces, as well.  We respectfully request that you meet with a delegation of the undersigned so that we can further discuss our concerns in person.  To facilitate the arrangement of the meeting, the contact information of the first signatory appears at the end of this letter  Sincerely,  Nancy  J. Altman, Co-Director of Project to Protect and improve America’s Economic Security Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research Merton C. Bernstein, Coles Professor of Law Emeritus, Washington University Robert H. Binstock, Professor of Aging, Health, and Society, Case Western Reserve University Suzanne Blouin, retired, Office of Communications, Social Security Administration Barbara Burt, Executive Director, Frances Perkins Center Dale Coberly, co-author of the Northwest Plan to restore Social Security to balance Nancy Dapper, Executive Director, Western & Central WA Chapter, Alzheimer's Association Patricia E. Dilley, Professor of Law, University of Florida Stephen Gorin Professor, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH Lori L. Hansen, former member, Social Security Advisory Board Roger Hickey, Co-Director, Campaign for America’s Future Karen Holden, Emeritus Professor, La Follette School of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Madison Eric Kingson Professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work Robert Kuttner, Founding Co-Editor, American Prospect Theodore Marmor, Professor Emeritus, Yale University Gerald A. McIntyre, National Senior Citizens Law Center Lawrence Mishel, President,   Economic Policy Institute Maya Rockeymoore, President, Global Policy Solutions Max J. Skidmore, University of Missouri Curators' Professor of Political Science, Thomas Jefferson Fellow, University of Missouri-Kansas City

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What's Next on Health Care Reform?

The Senate is expected to wrap up it's health care debate tomorrow morning and then it's off to conference committee. Some lawmakers, particularly those who feel too much has been given away in the Senate health care bill, hope there might be changes in the conference version of the health care bill. That certainly doesn't appear likely. Our President/CEO, Barbara Kennelly, was among many interviewed in this good summary by McClatchy Newspapers. The Associated Press also has a detailed description of the differences between the House and Senate bills as they go into conference. Lastly, just for fun we recommend Politifact's Lie of the Year post.  Drum roll please.... It's Sarah Palin's continuing lie about death panels.  And given the year we've had...that's one heck of an accomplishment.

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