The mission of the Alliance for Retired Americans is to strive for social and economic justice, and civil rights for all citizens to enjoy lives with dignity, personal and family fulfillment, and security. The Alliance believes that all older and retired persons have a responsibility to strive to create a society that incorporates these goals and rights and that retirement provides them with opportunities to pursue new and expanded activities with their unions, civic organizations and their communities.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Senator Ayotte, you are not listening

I received an e-mail letter from Senator Ayotte on the subject of Social Security and Medicare (or as she calls them, "entitlements.") I would like to suggest to her that if she REALLY is interested in making sure that these earned benefit programs are available into the future, she consider some really simple solutions.

First, to fund the Social SecurityTrust Fund so that it can pay benefits indefinitely, we could do some combination of the following:

  • Raise the minimum wage.  If incomes are higher, payments into the trust fund are higher.
  • Raise the income cap.  If higher earners have to pay on more of their earnings, the payments into the trust fund will be higher.
  • Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. If women earn more, their payments into the trust fund will be higher.
  • Vote for infrastructure funding and other stimulus programs to raise the number of jobs and the pay for workers.  If more people are working, and making decent incomes, the payments into the trust fund will be higher.  AND life both today and in retirement will be much better for ALL Americans.
I would also remind her that the Affordable Care Act is already lowering the rate of growth of healthcare costs, including Medicare.  More preventative care, less spending on high cost procedures, correcting the overpayments for Medicare Advantage policies, and reining in fraud will help keep costs under control.  Don't repeal the ACA!

We could also discuss the use of the national debt (for which Republican presidents are mostly responsible) as a straw man ( but we will leave that for another discussion. 

Here is her letter: 

Thank you for contacting me regarding entitlement reform, particularly as it relates to Medicare and Social Security.  I appreciate hearing from you.
Our $17 trillion national debt threatens not only our economic prosperity but also our security and sovereignty.  I believe that it is my responsibility to analyze the underlying problems perpetuating the unsustainable growth in our federal debt and to make a real effort to solve them.  This includes evaluating all areas of the federal budget to determine where appropriate reductions can be made and making the necessary reforms to entitlement programs to ensure they are solvent for current and future generations.
Spending for major health and retirement programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, will increase in coming decades, putting greater pressure on the rest of the federal budget.  According to the Office of Management and Budget, in fiscal year (FY) 2013, 66 percent of all federal spending was on entitlement programs, net interest, and other social safety net programs.  Unless significant actions are taken to address these programs' structural problems, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will grow to consume every dollar of revenue raised by the government.
I also understand the importance of these programs and am aware of how many Americans rely on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  As baby boomers continue to retire, health care costs and Social Security outlays will rise.  According to the most recent Medicare Trustees report, the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund has been running cash flow deficits since 2008.  The only thing keeping the program afloat financially is the sale of Treasury bonds in the Medicare Trust Fund - deficit spending.  According to the report, the Medicare HI Trust Fund will be insolvent by 2030.
In addition, the Social Security Trustees report that the Social Security program is now in a permanent cash flow deficit, meaning that as baby boomers retire, the Trust Funds are obligated to pay out more benefits than there are incoming payroll taxes.  This means that to pay benefits, the government must cut spending, raise taxes, or borrow more money from overseas to finance payments.  The Trustees estimate that the Social Security Trust Funds will have a shortfall of $9.6 trillion over the next 75 years and will be exhausted in 2033.  This means that in just 20 years beneficiaries would have to see a 23 percent benefit cut.
I believe we need to ensure the long-term viability of entitlement programs.  In strengthening entitlements, we should ensure that those in or near retirement will not be negatively impacted by any reforms.  However, the longer we put off reforming entitlements, the more difficult changes will be on those nearing retirement.  In order to strengthen entitlements, members of both parties will need to muster the political courage to stop putting off the tough decisions that need to be made in order to preserve these programs and protect the economic strength of our country.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.  As your Senator, it is important for me to hear from you regarding the current issues affecting New Hampshire and our nation.  Please do not hesitate to be in touch again if I may be of further assistance.
Kelly A. Ayotte
U. S. Senator

Friday, August 15, 2014

Endorsing Senator Jeanne Shaheen for Re-Election on Social Security's Birthday!

L to R: Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans; Lucy Edwards, President of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans; Senator Jeanne Shaheen 

Remarks by Lucy Edwards, President of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans:
Welcome to all of you, and thank you for coming!  My name is Lucy Edwards, and I serve as the President of the Executive Board of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans.
At this 79th anniversary for Social Security, I’ve been thinking a lot about this wonderful program and our New Hampshire retirees. It often seems that New Hampshire runs on volunteers, and like so many other of our seniors, I am a volunteer, not only for our Alliance but also on my town’s planning board. This year most of our board went to a conference put on by the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning, and heard the latest statistics on our population and our economy. We knew that New Hampshire had one of the oldest populations in the country but now it seems we are getting older even faster than previous thought.  As the board charged with planning our land use in the future we are asking ourselves, “How will we help our town deal with this changing demographic?”
One thing I am very sure of is that we will need Social Security and Medicare to be flourishing programs, so that we all can retire with dignity and security. I cannot think of a better champion for our senior safety net than Senator Jeanne Shaheen. We know we can count on her to support Social Security and Medicare. We also know that her deep understanding of our state’s economy and culture, and her ability to bring people together will be an enormous asset to us as we move into a challenging future.
Senator Shaheen needs no introduction to those of us who live here. She has served as a State Senator, as our Governor for three terms, and now as our senior Senator in Congress. She knows this state inside out, and in Washington DC, even in these troubled times, we know that she understands our issues and will work to deal with them in thoughtful and caring ways.
At this time I would like to introduce Richard Fiesta, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans since December 2013. He has traveled from our nation’s capitol to join us today.  Mr. Fiesta has previously been the Alliance Director of Government and Political Affairs since 2001.  He served in the Clinton Administration in congressional and public affairs positions at the Departments of Labor and the Interior and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. He has spent his career working in the public and private sectors on issues that affect retirees from in health care and retirement security.
Welcome, Mr. Fiesta, to New Hampshire!

Text of the endorsement letter:

August 14, 2014

Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Jeanne Shaheen for Senate
PO Box 1510
Manchester, NH  03105

Dear Senator Shaheen,

The Alliance for Retired Americans, representing more than 4.3 million retirees, older Americans, and community activists including more than 13,135 members in New Hampshire endorses your candidacy for the United States Senate.

Your positions demonstrate a strong commitment to improve the quality of life for older Americans.  Your leadership on issues such as preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare from privatization and benefit cuts ensures these programs will be around for current and future generations.  In addition, our members support your candidacy because of your belief in the need to provide more affordable health care for older Americans, as well as the need for stronger retirement and pension security, and quality long term care.
The Alliance for Retired Americans believes that your election to the Senate will enhance the quality of life for older Americans.  If we can be of assistance, please contact Eva Dominguez, Government and Political Affairs, at the Alliance.  We congratulate you on earning our endorsement.

Barbara Easterling                        Ruben Burks                                       Richard J. Fiesta
President                                 Secretary-Treasurer        Executive Director

Monday, August 4, 2014

Medicare D Premiums projected to remain low

On the heels of the 49th anniversary of the signing of Medicare and Medicaid into law, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) projected today that the average premium for a basic Medicare Part D prescription drug plan in 2015 will increase by about $1, to an estimated $32 per month, continuing its historically low growth rate.
This news comes after the announcements this week of continued unprecedented low levels of growth in Medicare spending and continued savings by seniors and people with disabilities on out of pocket drug costs.  According to the recent Medicare Trustees report, the life of the Trust Fund has been extended to 2030, up from its projection of 2017 in 2009.  The report also shows that Part B premiums are expected to stay the same rather than increase for the second year in a row.  Additionally, an HHS report found that per capita Medicare spending growth has averaged 2 percent over 2009 – 2012, and nearly 0 percent in 2013, one-third of the growth rate over the 2000-2008 period.  The Administration also recently announced that more than 8.2 million people with Medicare have saved over $11.5 billion since 2010 on prescription drugs as a result of the Affordable Care Act, an average of $1,407 per beneficiary.  The Affordable Care Act closes the donut hole over time.[*]
*It was New Hampshire's Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter who insisted this provision be including in the ACA.

Message to Young People: Social Security Will Be There For You, Unless You Let Wall Street Take It Away From You

The New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans, along with their coalition partners, are working hard to make sure that Social Security will be here for all Americans, including all our children and grandchildren.
Therefore, it is important that young people learn the truth, which is that Social Security will be there for them, and it will give them a foundation for living a dignified retirement. It is, of course, always a good idea for each person to save additional amounts for the future, but younger Americans should not fear that they will be denied Social Security benefits when they are ready to retire.
There is, however, a huge caveat to that calming advice. Social Security will be there only if people continue to support it politically. It is essential not to allow anti-government ideologues and Wall Street banks to use their disinformation campaigns (supported and amplified by Republican politicians, as well as many so-called centrist Democrats) to hoodwink young people into harming themselves by abandoning Social Security.
If you would like to help preserve our senior safety net, join us!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Statement by Retiree Leader Richard Fiesta on the 2014 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports

The following statement was issued by Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to Trustees reports issued today on the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds:

Washington, DC - “The most important lesson from the 2014 Social Security Trustees Report is that Social Security has a large and growing surplus. Today's report projects Social Security’s cumulative surplus to be roughly $2.8 trillion in 2014, growing to about $2.9 trillion around 2020. The report reaffirms that, without any changes, Social Security can pay full benefits until 2033 and three-quarters of benefits after that, unchanged from last year’s report.

“The Medicare Trustees report reminds us once again that the Affordable Care Act is controlling health care costs. It is great news that the life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by another four years to 2030. Attempts to repeal health care reform would only undo the progress we have made in controlling health care costs.

“Current and future retirees must be wary of those politicians who will use today’s Social Security and Medicare Trustees reports as political cover for radical changes that would put seniors, the disabled, and the families of deceased workers at risk. For instance, we do not need to cut Social Security to address the projected shortfall in the disability trust fund. Rather, we just need a technical adjustment. Congress should, as it has done multiple times before, simply reallocate income across these funds.”

“More and more politicians are actually advancing proposals to expand Social Security. One example, the Strengthen Social Security Act (S.567 and H.R. 3118), introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), would increase annual Social Security benefits by an average of $800. That is an improvement to our retiree system, and we support it.

“The 49th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson signing Medicare into law will be this Wednesday, July 30. That means next year, Medicare turns 50 – and the Alliance for Retired Americans intends to make sure Medicare is still strong then, and for our children, and for our grandchildren.”

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A chart with good news for Medicare

Read the whole article, some good news, some projections, lots of information.
And because much of this revision affected Part A (hospital insurance) – largely because of increases in projected productivity growth and decreases in projected inflation growth, both of which hold down non-physician provider payment updates – the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is now expected to last 5 more years before exhaustion, until about 2030. This is the first major change in the esimate of the HI Trust Fund's exhaustion date since the ACA was passed, largely because most of the remaining Medicare slowdown in the preceding years occurred in Part D of the program, and revenue had come in lower to offset the slowdown that did occur.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Action at Senator Ayotte's office, July 11, 2014

Here we are, with other coalition members, back at Senator Ayotte's office again.  She won't meet with any of us, even though the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans, Granite State Organizing Project and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare represent over 100,000 New Hampshire citizens.  Why?!