Category Archives: Healthcare

NCARA Education Fund Comments on Medicaid Expansion

N.C. has not yet accepted Medicaid Expansion. As a result, the state has lost 6 billion in revenue and stands to lose an additional $21 billion by 2020.  This decision has also left hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians without early and consistent access to quality health care. It is well accepted that the earlier medical treatment is provided the more cost effective it is with better outcomes for the patient and provider.

Most seriously impacted are workers at the bottom of the pay scale and those with minimal income. Unfortunately, these folks access emergency rooms far more frequently than those who have access to early diagnosis and better preventative care. Rural medical facilities are straining under the weight of providing emergency room care to the uninsured with no way to recoup the expenditures.

Workers who earn wages that set them at or below the poverty level see quality of life issues for them and their families. In turn they spend a greater percentage of their income on health care or skip it altogether. These workers, many of whom work in the Home Health Care industry or in Fast Food industries, simply will never be able to retire as they are unable to maintain healthy outcomes and are also unable to save.

Recent negative changes in Unemployment Insurance has disrupted the ability of North Carolinians to search for work if laid off or terminated. Employee provided health Care is stripped from these workers and they cannot access Medicaid either

N.C. should:

Accept Medicaid Expansion

Increase the Medicaid rate for home health care

Return unemployment insurance to previous levels

Southern Piedmont Retiree Meeting

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

TO:               Southern Piedmont Retiree Club Members & Guests

FROM:          Bill Dworkin, President of the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans & Shirley Jackson, President of the Southern Piedmont Retiree Club

SUBJECT:      Invitation to meeting of the Southern Piedmont Retiree Club

DATE:           February 18, 2016

Dear Friend,

The Southern Piedmont Retiree Club would like to invite you to attend their February 18th meeting. The meeting is scheduled for February 18, 2016 starting at 11am. The meeting will be held at the IBEW Local 379, 1900 Cross Beam Drive, Charlotte, NC 28217.

A long-term goal of the Southern Piedmont Retiree Club is to become the voice for all retirees by engaging in important battles to protect and preserve programs vital to the health and economic security of older Americans. There is no cost to attend the meeting and refreshments will be available. Please come to the meeting with ideas of how to grow the Club in 2016, speakers of interest to you and any trips that you would be interested in. Please R.S.V.P. to Heather McLaughlin (heathermclaughlin43@gmail.com), 919-522-8996, as soon as possible.

Also, please feel free to bring any one else that is interested in protecting the economic security of themselves and their future generations. Guests can be union or non-union.

Sincerely,

Bill Dworkin, President

North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans

Shirley Jackson, President

Southern Piedmont Retiree Club

 

President

September 2015 Newsletter

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

Summer is upon us and the board and I wish each of you the best for vacation and those precious times with family. We have been busy. We visited affiliates this spring and made 8 lobby visits to our political representatives. Our convention was an interesting opportunity to hear from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who told us of his vision for the future of North Carolina as well as his view of our state’s current situation. MaryBe McMillan, Secretary-Treasurer of the NC AFL-CIO, spoke of the importance of showing up and organizing as well as the harm the General Assembly and the governor have done to seniors and retirees.

Our efforts to become financially independent have been moderately successful. Our spring efforts, which include the golf outing and a major raffle, raised close to $5,000.

In order to become a more effective advocate for seniors and retirees, we must enhance our financial footing.  My fellow officers and I, as well as the board, recognize how important this is and are working on ways to get it done.

I’m optimistic about the future of NCARA and I thank the entire membership for your support and confidence in reelecting me and treasurer Judy Coggins and Secretary Mary Montford.

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“FastTrack” and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

“Fast Track” and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an international trade deal involving negotiations among twelve nations

–the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore,

And Vietnam. The US administration wants “Fast Track “authority, which means that the Executive Branch can

Negotiate, out of the public eye, trade agreements which will be sent to Congress, which may vote only “yea” or “nay, “with no amendments or debate allowed! This is a dangerous proposition, to have no public comment on a deal that will affect millions of American workers and no Congressional hearings or debate on an issue of this magnitude.

When did the idea of a TPP actually begin, and how have other trade deals worked for the United States?  A proposed agreement began in 2005 as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP), but such contentious issues as agriculture, intellectual property, and debates concerning services and investments have caused the agreement to stall for ten years. Now with the possibility of fast tracking, labor organizations and other worker-related groups are pointing to what has happened in the past with international trade deals that were supposed to be for the benefit of the U.S. but did not live up to the hype.  Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has been one of the major voices opposed to the TPP, citing previous deals that have resulted in the loss of millions of American jobs.  For example, she notes that NAFTA, CAFTA, KFTA (Korea Free Trade Agreement), and other trade pacts have been responsible not only for the loss of about six million jobs in the U.S.–among them 3.2 million alone lost due to trade with China, 60,000 lost to Korea, and 70,000 lost to Mexico–but that supporters of past agreements have said that the deals promised strong protections for workers; however, despite the promises, “these trade deals were just another tool to tilt the playing field in favor of multinational corporations and against working families.”

She said in an interview, “This deal would give protections to international corporations that are not available to United States environmental and labor groups.  Multinational corporations are increasingly realizing this is an opportunity to gut U.S. regulations they don’t like. They could make more money if they could beat down

Those regulations,” a reference to the part of the TPP agreement called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process, which allows corporations to sue national governments in international forums to win settlements which cannot be appealed to a higher authority.

We as advocates of decent wages and working conditions for all workers, no matter where they live, cannot support a policy that does not strengthen labor and human rights, does not protect the U.S. from unsafe imports, and is not negotiated publicly. We realize that we must create good, solid markets and foster clean, safe working conditions in all places affected by a trade agreement, and we want future trade deals to create this standard for international trade which will prioritize raising wages and shared prosperity and put human

Beings before corporate profits. We are ready to stand with the President in negotiating not necessarily “free trade” but, more importantly, “fair trade” in the global economy.  We must not make the same mistakes we made in the past, which did not benefit the American worker but rather benefitted the corporate giants of the world.

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Expand state’s Medicaid, group in Greensboro implores McCroryA service is needed to view this article.

NCARA President, Bill Dworkin, spoke at the July 16th Medicaid Expansion Press Conference in GREENSBORO.  The gathering of 100 people at the Beloved Community Center was 1 of 6 events held from Greenville to Asheville calling on Governor McCrory to deliver a Medicaid Expansion plan.

According to NC Child reports that 27% of North Carolinians expect to benefit if the state expands Medicaid eligibility for families with children at home.  Dworkin states that “over 500,000 North Carolinians will benefit from Medicaid Expansion.”

New Health Reform Law Extends Election Period to Change Part D Plan


The new health reform law changes and extends the annual enrollment period for Medicare Part D plans.  Anyone interested in switching plans should keep in mind the new enrollment period is now October 15 – December 7.

Note that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides for a Special Enrollment Period for contract violation if a prescription drug plan (PDP) violated a provision of its contract under Part D in relation to the individual.  Violations include: failure to provide on a timely basis benefits available under the plan; failure to provide benefits in accordance with quality standards; or the PDP sponsor (or its agent) materially misrepresenting the PDP when marketing the PDP.  The enrollment period begins when CMS determines that a violation has occurred.

For other details on the new health reform bill, what it does, especially for seniors, and when provisions go into place, check out fact sheet here: http://bit.ly/ccGLay.

2010 Campaigns Heating Up: Retirees Must Know the Facts
Political developments in three states this week were a reminder of how retirees – expected to be the largest voting bloc this fall – must be well versed on the issues and where the candidates stand. Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling traveled to Arkansas to endorse Lt. Gov. Bill Halter for the U.S. Senate and rebut television ads that falsely claim he supports Social Security privatization.  Noting that Halter ran the Social Security Administration under President Clinton and has consistently worked to help retirees, Easterling said, “Bill Halter is a great friend of Social Security and Medicare.  He is a great friend to seniors.”  Write-up here: http://bit.ly/bA0D7P.

In the first U.S. House election since health reform was signed into law, voters in a heavily-senior Florida congressional district elected Democrat Ted Deutch by a 2-1 margin over his Republican opponent to fill a vacant seat.  In Missouri, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, criticized a provision in the new health law that prohibits adults from being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.  Video here: http://bit.ly/ce5t5S.   In May, both Pennsylvania and Hawaii will be holding closely contested special elections to fill vacant U.S. House seats.  “More than ever, we must be a nation of politically savvy seniors,” Easterling commented.

CEO Pay at the Big Health Insurance Companies: Enough to Make You Sick
According to new data from the AFL-CIO

Health Care Reform: What’s in it for Seniors

The Senate-passed health care reform bill dramatically cleared the House on a 219-212 vote Sunday night, and President Obama signed it into law on Tuesday.  Please see the Alliance’s Special Edition Friday Alert of March 23 at http://bit.ly/dttZ01 for more details of the related votes.  The reform phases out the doughnut hole gap in prescription drug coverage, providing a $250 rebate in 2010 for seniors who fall into the hole.  Beginning in 2011, seniors will receive a 50% percent discount on their prescription drugs when they fall into the doughnut hole, and by 2020 the doughnut hole will be completely eliminated.  To see the Alliance’s one-page write-up listing provisions in the health reform law that will affect seniors, along with the time line for their implementation, go to http://bit.ly/9mja6j.  To summarize that document, the new law also:

  • Covers preventive services; in 2011, seniors in Medicare will receive free annual check-ups with no co-payments for mammograms, colonoscopies and other preventive screenings;
  • Supports early retiree coverage, providing financial assistance to employer health plans that cover early retirees;
  • Encourages doctors to coordinate care and improve quality, creating incentives for providers to work together and reduce wasteful care like repeated tests;
  • Removes obstacles to changing Part D prescription drug plans, allowing Part D enrollees to make a mid-year change in their enrollment if their plan makes an unexpected change;
  • Expands the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy, which will significantly help struggling seniors afford their health care costs;
  • Enacts the CLASS Act, creating a new, voluntary long term care insurance plan;
  • Enacts the Elder Justice Act, authorizing new criminal background checks on long-term care workers who have access to residents or patients; and
  • Eliminates wasteful overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans while creating incentives for coordinated, high quality care across the health care spectrum, extending the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by 9 years and improving Medicare for generations to come.

For a listing of which changes take effect immediately, go to http://bit.ly/ag60lc.  In short – in addition to the doughnut hole changes – within the next six months alone, the new law:

  • Provides a $5 billion reinsurance fund to help employers who provide health benefits to early retirees ages 55 to 64 (goes into effect in 90 days);
  • Eliminates pre-existing conditions for non-dependent children up to age 26;
  • Prohibits insurers from placing lifetime limits on coverage;
  • Restricts new plans’ annual limits on coverage;
  • Provides $5 billion to states to create a high risk insurance pool for those denied insurance due to pre-existing conditions and who have been without insurance for 6 months;
  • Prohibits rescission, or dropping coverage, when individuals become sick;
  • Creates a public health and wellness fund and requires new private insurance plans to offer preventive services without co-payments;
  • Provides up to 35 % tax credits to small business that offer health care coverage; and
  • Creates a new and independent health insurance appeals process for consumers

A USA Today/Gallup poll found that 49% of those polled concluded that the passage was “a good thing,” as compared to 40% who concluded its passage was “a bad thing.”  Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance, urged seniors to thank Members of Congress who helped to pass reform with personal visits to their offices during the spring district work period, March 29 – April 9.  “Thank you again to seniors who worked for decades to pass health reform.  Now, let’s give House Members who voted courageously for health care reform in the face of violence some words of appreciation, in person or in writing,” said Mr. Coyle.  To see the video of Alliance member Bob Meeks of Brandon, FL and Mr. Coyle on the importance of closing the Medicare drug doughnut hole, go to http://bit.ly/a3SPUz.

Misinformation has been spread on how the health care reform will affect veterans’ care.  The health care bill provides protections for veterans and the health care they have earned through their service.  President Obama has strongly supported a 16% budget increase in 2010 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest in over 30 years.  “TRICARE, the U.S. Department of Defense’s military health care program, will continue to be available for all eligible servicemen and women, and their families,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Senate, House Pass Final Health Care Reconciliation Bill
The Senate passed the final piece of the health care package on Thursday, 56-43, and sent it back to the House, after Republicans identified two minor violations of reconciliation rules that forced changes to a provision on student loans.  For a tally of that vote, go to http://bit.ly/aFpCZq.   Three Democrats voted against the bill: Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, both of Arkansas, and Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. In total, 29 Senate amendments were easily rejected, meaning that the health-care package survived essentially intact.  The House approved the Senate’s reconciliation bill later on Thursday, 220-207 ( http://bit.ly/9bDdAG ).

Twelve Days Until the National Convention in Las Vegas
On Monday, April 5, Alliance members will be able to personally thank Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for shepherding health reform through the Senate.  On that day, Reid will address the Alliance’s 2010 national convention in Las Vegas.  Other speakers will include AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), and the Honorable Hilda Solis.  The theme for the April 5-8 convention is “Building Retiree Power.”  To register, go to http://bit.ly/1jIzz2 .

Note: Due to Good Friday, the next Friday Alert will be published on Thursday, April 1, 2010.

Response to President’s Health Care Plan and Summit: Three Things You Can Do

In order to bridge the differences between the U.S. House and Senate-passed health care bills – and continue to move reform forward – President Obama unveiled his Administration’s own health plan on Monday.  The plan contains several major steps toward improving the well-being of current and future retirees.  “President Obama’s plan recognizes the millions of seniors who are struggling to afford to see a doctor or get a prescription filled,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.  “For retirees, continued inaction would be devastating.  Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket costs would soon eat up more than one-third of a retiree’s Social Security benefits.”  For the Alliance’s comparison of Obama’s health reform bill with those passed by the U.S House and Senate, go to http://bit.ly/aMvKTJ.  On Thursday, President Obama led a televised health care reform summit, which focused on discussing ideas and grievances about the proposed health care bill from both parties.  White House officials named 21 lawmakers the president wanted to attend the summit: the top leaders in the House and Senate and of the committees with jurisdiction over the health legislation.  Obama also invited the top four leaders to invite four more lawmakers each, bringing the total to 37; 20 Democrats and 17 Republicans. For a specific list of the attendees, go to http://bit.ly/aTLD6n.  As a follow-up to the summit, concerned senior activists are encouraged to do 3 things:

  1. Contact your U.S. House member and two Senators by calling 202-224-3121.  Tell them that President Obama’s proposal would close the “doughnut hole” coverage gap in Medicare Part D; finally end the $3.60 per month every senior pays in higher premiums to subsidize the big insurance corporations that run Medicare Advantage; and make long-term care more affordable for middle-class families.
  2. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper reiterating the need for reform.  You may find it helpful to use the language at http://bit.ly/8YMsgI as a guide; and
  3. Share Alliance materials like the comparison chart above and the fact sheet at http://bit.ly/a1qtC8 with your friends and neighbors.

Further evidence of the need for reform came last Friday, with the release of a study by a major consulting firm showing that spiraling costs are a problem even for seniors with solid insurance.  The Avalere Health study found that premiums for private Medicare Advantage plans offering medical and prescription drug coverage jumped 14.2% on average for 2010.  Some 8.5 million seniors and disabled Americans who signed up for the private plans will therefore be facing sharp premium increases this year, following an increase of 5.2% last year.

More Debt Commission Appointees Named
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Tuesday appointed Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to serve on the President’s fiscal panel tasked with developing a plan to bring down the $12.3 trillion national debt.  The President said that the commission can consider everything, including new taxes, spending cuts and changes to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, in order to reach his goal of balancing the federal budget except for debt interest payments by 2015.  Obama is asking Congress to consider the panel’s recommendations.  Obama will appoint six people to the 18-member panel and up to four can come from the same party.  Leaders in Congress will choose the other 12 members, with three coming from the Republican and Democratic caucus in each chamber.  Reid is the first congressional leader to announce his picks.  The majority leader said that he would make sure that the panel’s recommendations, which are non-binding, receive votes in the Senate.  Both Baucus and Conrad are noted centrists, a group of lawmakers that has made debt and deficit issues a priority.  Obama last week selected former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) to head the panel.  Today, the president named former Clinton White House budget director Alice Rivlin; Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern; former Young & Rubicam Brands CEO Ann Fudge; and Honeywell CEO and Chairman David Cote to fill remaining slots, an administration official said.  “I would like to say to the panel: Social Security’s long-term solvency can be resolved by relatively modest adjustments, and without cutting benefits,” stressed Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.  To see the Alliance’s latest document on Social Security, which refutes opponents’ charges that today’s budget problems are due to Social Security, go to http://bit.ly/c68Nom.

Requests for Heating Assistance Rise By 15%
As the winter wears on, the number of households applying for home heating assistance has risen to record levels for the third straight year, rising by 15% to include 8.8 million households.  The majority of these applicants are low-income seniors, disabled people, and families living beneath the federal poverty line.  Under LIHEAP (the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program), states provide grants of about $500; however, due to increased demand, many states have had to cut the grants or applications to stretch funds, leaving many in the lurch.  “While several states forbid the cut-off of utilities during the winter, struggling retirees often put off payments and build up debt,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.  “In the spring, seniors may find themselves lacking gas and electricity as companies seek payment.”

Sign Up By March 2 to Get Special Room Rate for the Las Vegas Convention!
As 2010 political campaigns heat up, retirees need to begin learning more about elections that will see the entire U.S. House, one-third of the U.S. Senate, and 36 gubernatorial races on the November ballot.  A great place to start is this year’s Alliance National Convention, April 5-8 in Las Vegas, which will feature noted speakers and training workshops on mobilizing retirees for electoral success.  Alliance members will elect a president and secretary-treasurer, and community members will elect six community-based board members.  Hotel reservations must be made by contacting Bally’s Las Vegas directly at 1-800-358-8777.  To guarantee the low room rate of $89, you must make your hotel reservation by March 2, 2010.  To register for the convention itself, please go to http://bit.ly/1jIzz2.