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Alliance For Retired Americans: Activists Stop Graham-Cassidy Health Care Tax On Older Americans

Vulnerable Citizens Dodge another GOP Senate Bullet

The following statement was issued by Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, regarding Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision not to hold a vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy introduced a bill that would have placed an age tax on older Americans, eliminated protections for people with pre-existing conditions and resulted in at least 32 millions of Americans losing affordable health care.

“Fortunately, enough of their fellow Senators recognized the ramifications of a dangerous bill and a warped legislative process, preventing Sen. McConnell from moving forward with his cruel plans.

“Millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief, but not for long. Majority Leader McConnell and Vice President Pence have already promised to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act again, instead of working in a bipartisan manner to improve health care for all.

“The 4.4 million members of the Alliance will not rest. Our members will stand down for the moment, but are ready to speak out for health care for all Americans whenever it is threatened.”

NH Elected Officials, Seniors Group, And Labor Unions Speak Out Against Senate Version Of Trumpcare

By now you have probably heard about the Senate Republicans plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a terrible new bill called the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017“.

The text of the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” was released yesterday and it is worse that we thought it would be.  ThinkProgress laid out some of the details in their post last night.  Here are a couple of the top issues with the new legislation from ThinkProgress.

  • The bill would strip health care coverage from millions of low income Americans by rolling back the expansion of Medicaid — and then making even deeper cuts.
  • The bill would follow the Obamacare subsidy model, but help fewer people.  Subsidies would only be available to those making 350% of poverty instead of the ACA’s 400%
  • The Senate bill is a massive tax cut for the rich. Rolling back taxes on those who make $200,000 a year.
  • The bill will mean higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many people with insurance.
  • The bill will seek to limit the ability of insurers to provide coverage for abortions.
  • The bill will hit older Americans especially hard. Rates for older Americans raise astronomically, making healthcare completely unaffordable.

New Hampshire’s elected leaders are speaking out against this new GOP plan.

“The Senate Republican’s secretive healthcare repeal bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing that would be devastating to the health of Granite Staters,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “If passed, it would mean less coverage for fewer people at higher costs, all while giving a tax cut to the wealthy. It would significantly cut Medicaid and the program’s expansion, hurting our state’s response to the opioid epidemic, place an age tax on New Hampshire seniors, and take aim at women’s health by defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides vital healthcare services to more than 12,000 Granite State women. Taken together, this is a bad deal for New Hampshire and a bad deal for the American people. I will do everything that I can to fight it, which is why I am holding an emergency field hearing in Concord tomorrow with Senator Hassan to hear directly from Granite Staters. I will also continue to urge my Republican colleagues to work across the aisle to make needed fixes to the Affordable Care Act, not repeal it, so that more Americans have affordable, accessible healthcare.”

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans took the House Trumpcare bill, which even President Trump admitted was ‘mean,’ and managed to make it even more heartless,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “Under the Senate Trumpcare bill, if you buy your own insurance, you could have to pay more for your coverage. You could face an age tax, which would be especially harmful if you are between the ages of 50 and 64. And you could see states undermine the requirement that insurance companies must cover the most important services.

“The Senate Trumpcare bill also ends Medicaid expansion and makes even deeper cuts to the Medicaid program than the House bill, jeopardizing care for tens of thousands of Granite Staters including children, people struggling with addiction, seniors in nursing or at-home care, and people who experience disabilities. Trumpcare also fulfills Washington Republicans’ partisan agenda of defunding Planned Parenthood.

“There is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved, but Trumpcare would make things worse for most Americans – whether they currently get their insurance through their employer, buy it privately, buy it through the exchange or have Medicaid. Trumpcare would raise costs, take away coverage, and hurt people across New Hampshire, all to give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. I will do everything in my power to stop this devastating Trumpcare bill from ever becoming law, and I urge all Granite Staters to continue telling your stories and making your voices heard about how harmful this bill would be for you,” concluded Hassan.

Senator Shaheen and Senator Hassan are holding an emergancy field hearing on the Senate version of Trumpcare, today June 23rd, at 2pm, at the UNH School of Law. (More info here)

“Senate Republicans have crafted a cruel healthcare bill behind closed doors that would threaten access to healthcare for thousands of Granite Staters and millions of Americans,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This misguided legislation would be a disaster for hardworking families in New Hampshire and cannot be allowed to become law. I’m eager to work across the aisle to repair, not repeal the Affordable Care Act. There are members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, who want to work in a bipartisan way to make constructive improvements to the Affordable Care Act to expand access to care and lower costs. It’s long past time Republican leadership abandon its single-minded focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act and instead got down to the hard work of actually improving our healthcare delivery system for all Americans.”

“I am appalled by today’s Senate Republican healthcare repeal bill,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “Like the House bill I vehemently opposed, it would kick millions off their coverage, charge older Americans more, and leave people who have pre-existing conditions without coverage for the care they need. The bills don’t stop at repealing the Affordable Care Act – they also end Medicaid expansion and drastically reduce funding for Medicaid. Ending Medicaid as we know it would set our state back in the fight against the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis and put millions of kids, seniors in nursing homes, and people with disabilities at risk of losing their care.

“Senate Republicans know the majority of Americans oppose their plan, so they wrote it in secret sessions and are now trying to rush it to a vote next week. Every person in New Hampshire who gets health coverage through the individual market, Medicaid, or the New Hampshire Health Protection Program will be affected by this bill if it passes. Even people with coverage through their employer aren’t protected because states could strip back requirements that plans cover essential benefits like hospitalization, prescription drugs, or maternity care. Over the coming days, we must all speak out and make our voices heard,” Shea-Porter added.

The Alliance for Retired Americans represents over 4 million older Americans and “stand fervently against this legislation” calling the legislation as “mean” as the House version of Trumpcare.

“We all heard President Trump say he hoped the Senate version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) would be less ‘mean’ than the House version. Today, we finally got to see the secret Senate version, and it is still ‘mean’ by any reasonable test,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “No wonder Majority Leader McConnell hid this dangerous plan for so long. It will cause harm to millions of older Americans, all for the sake of tax breaks for the wealthy.

“The Senate bill decimates Medicaid. In this respect, it is worse than the House bill, enacting even deeper long-term cuts. Medicaid covers long-term care for millions of seniors and health care for people with disabilities, making this bill devastating to older and vulnerable Americans. President Trump promised on the campaign trail that he would not cut Medicaid and Medicare. He should promise to veto a bill that does not keep that promise.”

“The 4.4 million members of the Alliance for Retired Americans stand fervently against this legislation and urge senators to vote ‘no’ for the sake of seniors, the disabled and millions of working families,” Fiesta concluded.

Labor unions were quick to point out how terrible this legislation would be for working people across the country.

“The Senate’s bill follows the same failed approach as the House-passed bill. It would deny health care coverage to millions of Americans in order to lavish huge tax cuts on corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent,” said David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees National, that represents over 700,000 workers. “The Senate may have written its health care bill behind closed doors, but the harmful effects this bill would have on millions of Americans could not be clearer. What Congressional leaders are doing is shameful and disgusting, and anyone with an ounce of compassion for their fellow humans should be outraged.”

“I wouldn’t have believed it possible but the health care proposal released today by Senate Republicans is in many ways worse than the version that House Republicans adopted,” Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America. “This plan, drafted in complete secrecy by a handful of Republican leaders – all men – would leave millions of Americans without health care coverage. It allows states to drop coverage for services like maternity care and emergency services.”

“Many states would be forced to kick low-income and disabled people off their health care coverage once federal funding for the Medicaid program is cut, as this Senate bill would do. The Senate’s attack on Medicaid is even worse than that of the House bill,” Shelton added 

The Communication Workers warned that union members would be punished under this new proposal as well saying “it is a slap in the face to millions of hard-working Americans who need and want access to quality, affordable care.”

“Health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers and of course the wealthiest Americans still would get tax cuts, just like in the House version.  Union members fortunate enough to keep their coverage, however, will be punished with higher costs under the “Cadillac tax” that Republicans left in place. Many Americans will find the cost of health care premiums simply unaffordable.”

The good news is that Democrats in the Senate are united against this horrible piece of legislation, but Republicans should also be outraged at this bill and take a stand for the American people.

“It’s time for those Republican Senators who today are expressing such concern about the impact of this shameful plan on ordinary Americans to show the courage of their convictions,” Shelton concluded.”

Alliance For Retired Americans: Trump’s Promise Not To Cut Social Security Broken

Budget Proposal Includes Deep Cuts to Health Care, Disability Insurance, Food Assistance and Massive Tax Breaks for Billionaires and Corporations 

The following statement was issued by Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, regarding President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal.

“President Trump has betrayed America’s seniors. His White House staff claims that the President’s budget does not cut ‘core’ Social Security benefits, which is a distinction without a difference. Cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are Social Security cuts plain and simple. They will weaken the earned benefits that millions have paid for during decades of work.

“Trump’s budget plan takes health care away from millions of Americans. At a time when 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day, slashing Medicaid funds for elderly health care is wrong-headed and cruel.

“The budget follows through on the Trumpcare health bill passed by House Republicans and cuts more than $800 billion from Medicaid over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that this could end Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people – including millions of seniors, the disabled, veterans and children.

“This budget also decimates the Community Development Block Grant, which provides funding to states and communities to fund home-delivered meals for home-bound seniors, through organizations such as Meals on Wheels.

“Trump’s proposal would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by more than 25 percent, taking benefits away from the 45 million citizens, especially seniors, who need basic nutrition.

“All of this is in addition to slashing the earned pension benefits of current and future federal workers.

“Cutting pensions and other critical programs to fund tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and highly profitable corporations, which pay little to no tax already, is an affront to working families.

“President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget is a terrible mix of warped values and blatant dishonesty. The Alliance for Retired Americans will mobilize our 4.4 million members to see that it never advances.”

Alliance for Retired Americans: House Health Care Vote is Appalling for Retirees, Older Americans

Raid of Medicare, cuts to Medicaid among the most problematic parts of the AHCA

The following statement was issued by Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to the House vote today to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with the American Health Care Act.

“Retirees and older Americans who are not yet eligible for Medicare are simply appalled by today’s American Health Care Act vote.

“This bill decimates Medicaid, with more than $800 billion in cuts. Medicaid pays for the nursing home care of millions of seniors and health care for people with disabilities. The $8 billion that the GOP added to their plan at the last minute is a mere drop in the bucket compared to their cuts.

“It also robs the Medicare Trust Fund to pay for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. That transfer of wealth from the sick to the wealthy is unconscionable.

“The House leadership’s decision to rush the floor action means that lawmakers voted on the bill without even obtaining updated figures from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

“CBO estimated that the original bill would leave 24 million more Americans without health insurance after a decade, due to repeal of the subsidies and the rollback of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in states that adopted it. We cannot rule out the possibility that more than 24 million people would lose coverage under this version of the bill.

“Despite the wheeling and dealing and vote trading, the GOP repeal bill still drops the coverage guarantee for people with pre-existing conditions, strips coverage from millions and drives up costs for millions more.

“Among people ages 55 to 64, 84 percent had at least one pre-existing condition in 2014. That has not changed since the last vote.

“It is difficult to say what the cruelest aspect of this vote is, but raiding Medicare and cutting Medicaid surely remain at the top of the list.”

Trump Reneges On Promise To Reduce Prescription Drug Prices, Retirees Respond

Today, President Trump met with Big Pharma lobbyists and executives. After the meeting Trump was singing a new tune about Medicare negotiating drug prices with Pharmaceutical companies.

“I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare, which is what’s happening. But we can increase competition and bidding wars, big time.

So what I want, we have to get lower prices, we have to get even better innovation and I want you to move your companies back into the United States. And I want you to manufacture in the United States. We’re going to be lowering taxes, we’re going to be getting rid of regulations that are unnecessary,” wrote Herb Jackson, the designated pool reporter for the day.

In typical GOP fashion, Trump plans to cut taxes and reduce regulations on drug manufactures which through some form of GOP magic will mean lower drug prices for seniors.

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, called Trumps move an act of “betrayal.” 

“During his campaign Donald Trump promised that if elected, Medicare would negotiate bulk discounts and reduce the prices Americans pay for prescription drugs. 

“Donald Trump is now accusing Medicare of ‘price-fixing.’ It took just one meeting with global pharmaceutical corporation executives and his promise to older Americans is out the window. Welcome to the chameleon presidency. 

“Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world. President Trump’s reversal will drive those prices even higher. He has sided with drug corporations against older Americans who have to choose between putting food on their table and paying for life-saving medicines. 

“On behalf of the 4.4 million members of the Alliance for Retired Americans, we are outraged but not surprised. We challenge him to meet with retirees who struggle daily to pay for medicine that too many times they can’t afford – and not just listen to multi-millionaire drug corporation executives. The Trump Administration will not be able to use its ‘alternative facts’ to wiggle out of this betrayal.”

This betrayal by President Trump added with the fact that the GOP led Congress is pushing a Medicare voucher plan means that many seniors may not be able to afford their life saving medications any longer.

Alliance For Retired Americans Oppose Confirmation Of Mick Mulvaney And Tom Price

The following statement was issued by Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, as Trump cabinet nominee Tom Price testifies in the Finance Committee and Mick Mulvaney testifies in the Senate Budget and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees. 

“Retirees are rightly terrified by the prospect of Tom Price being the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Mick Mulvaney directing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

“Rep. Mulvaney has earned a lifetime pro-retiree score of just 6% on the Alliance’s Congressional Voting Record.

“In May 2009, Rep. Mulvaney voted in the South Carolina State Senate for an amendment declaring Social Security and Medicaid unconstitutional. In May 2011, he said that Paul Ryan’s plan needed to go farther because it did not cut Social Security and Medicare ‘rapidly enough.’ That same year, Mulvaney told MSNBC that Social Security was a ‘Ponzi scheme’ that might not be able to provide assistance to people in the years to come. He even failed to pay Social Security and Medicare withholding taxes for a domestic worker, violating the law everyone else must follow and disrespecting the very system he wants to oversee. 

“Today he pledged to push President Trump to raise the Social Security retirement age beyond 67. 

“Rep. Price has earned a lifetime pro-retiree score of just 4% on the Alliance’s Congressional Voting Record. He has pledged to replace guaranteed earned Medicare benefits with a system of ‘coupon-care’ and vouchers that will cost retirees more out of pocket.

“Both nominees have made statements about the need to ‘reform’ Medicare and Social Security, including supporting or proposing privatization and raising the retirement age. These are in direct conflict with President Trump’s repeated promises not to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

“These nominees should not be confirmed to these positions. And President Trump must keep his campaign promise and promise to veto any bills that cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Seniors Group And NH Congressional Delegation United Against ACA Repeal

The Alliance for Retired Americans join with Congresswomen Shea-Porter and Kuster in opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

This week, Republicans in the US House took the first bold step to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare by repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Repealing the signature healthcare law would have significant impacts on all working people and seniors. Americans would see a massive jump in prescription drug prices as the ACA closed the “donut hole” in Medicare. People with pre-existing condition could once again be discriminated against leaving them unable to acquire any insurance at all. Families would no longer be able to cover their children up to age 25 and preventative care for women would no longer be covered.

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, released the following:

“With today’s vote, 227 members of the House of Representatives started the process of eliminating many valuable and affordable health care benefits that American retirees rely on.

From free wellness checks and preventive screenings to lowering prescription drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, to eliminating pre-existing conditions and limiting what older Americans not yet eligible for Medicare can be charged for insurance, the ACA has made health care better and more affordable for millions.

Depending on the actions of the House Committees that will take the next steps, all of these benefits are now in jeopardy.

The burden for developing a replacement plan that improves health care and keeps it affordable is on these members. Retirees are watching and will loudly defend the guaranteed Medicare and Medicaid health care benefits they have earned through a lifetime of hard work.

The price for health care in America is likely to rise quickly, to the detriment of millions of workers and retirees.”

The New Hampshire Congressional delegation is united in opposition to repealing the ACA.

“Today’s vote by House Republicans sets in motion a dangerous and irresponsible plan to strip health care coverage from millions of Americans, including 118,000 people in New Hampshire,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “They broke their promise to American families – there is no replacement. New Hampshire families deserve better: Congress should work to build on the progress we’ve made so far, making health care more accessible and more affordable, instead of going back to the days before the ACA, when thousands of Granite Staters were locked out of coverage.”

“I am also profoundly disappointed that the Republican leadership in the House rejected my attempt to protect seniors and those with disabilities. Speaker Ryan is using procedural gimmicks to force repeal legislation through the House and destroy what we have accomplished: coverage for people with preexisting conditions, Medicaid expansion, adequate coverage for women and seniors, and no-cost preventive health care screenings and services. Protections for millions of Americans are being jeopardized for political purposes,” Shea-Porter added.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act would strip coverage from 118,000 people in New Hampshire, and 13,000 people in the state could lose their jobs.

In New Hampshire, the ACA:

  • Requires insurance providers to cover the 600,000 New Hampshire residents with preexisting conditions
  • Lowered the uninsured rate by 43%
  • Saved seniors an average of $1,047 on prescriptions
  • Provided substance abuse treatment services for 7,500 people
  • Covered 9,000 young adults on their parents’ health insurance

Shea-Porter offered her own amendment to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. Shea-Porter’s amendment stated that nothing in the Budget Resolution should allow for the denial of care based on patient age or disability.

Unfortunately, the Rules Committee refused to allow the House to vote on this common-sense proposal to protect our seniors and those with disabilities.

Shea-Porter has been a fierce advocate for keeping and improving the health care law. She successfully led the fight to close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole and save seniors thousands on prescription drug costs. While the House has voted repeatedly to destroy the law’s critical protections for all Americans, Shea-Porter has consistently voted to improve the law instead.

“It’s disappointing that Republicans in Congress have moved ahead with efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act without regard for the negative impact it will have on millions of Americans and thousands of Granite Staters,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “I’ve expressed my willingness to work across the aisle to make improvements to the law and foster a system that works for everyone. In the past, I have joined my Republican colleagues to make changes to the ACA, and I firmly believe that is the course we should follow.

“If the ACA is repealed, seniors on Medicare would see the costs of their prescription drugs increase. The Republican budget would also defund Planned Parenthood, reducing access to healthcare for thousands of Granite State women. In New Hampshire, one-in-ten of our friends and neighbors are benefiting from the ACA, and Medicaid expansion has improved access to mental health and addiction recovery services. Young adults are able to stay on their families’ plans and those with preexisting conditions cannot be denied coverage. We simply can’t jeopardize this progress,” Kuster added.

Kuster joined 30 of her colleagues in a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, offering to be constructive partners in improving the law.

The repeal process is far from over and the fight has only begun.  We must stand united against that assault on working people and the Republicans plan to strip vital healthcare options from millions of Americans.

Retirees Launch Campaign to Protect Medicare from Privatization

Washington, DC – Alarmed by the House Congressional Leadership’s plans to dismantle Medicare, the Alliance for Retired Americans today kicked off a grass roots campaign to block any attempts to cut or convert guaranteed, earned health benefits into a voucher or privatized scheme. Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Tom Price, whom President-elect Trump will nominate to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, both said that they were moving to “reform” Medicare in the next Congress.  

“Alliance members will use all the tools at our disposal to stop any plan to replace our guaranteed earned Medicare benefits with a system of ‘Coupon-care’ vouchers,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance. 

Today the Alliance joined allies in delivering more than one million petitions against the Republican plan to cut and privatize Medicare to House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Before delivering the petitions, Fiesta spoke at a Capitol Hill news conference with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Ted Deutch. Representatives from several other advocacy groups also spoke against cuts to Medicare. 

Alliance members will be directly lobbying members of Congress and Senators in Washington and in their home districts and stating their opposition to efforts to gut Medicare and Medicaid. More than 100 meetings have been planned so far, and the organization expects to reach 200 offices over the next few weeks.

The Alliance will also campaign online and feature dozens of personal stories about why Medicare’s guaranteed benefits are so important on its website, www.retiredamericans.org, and social media.

 “Our members are irate. They paid into the Medicare system for decades, and heard President-elect Trump repeatedly promise to protect their earned health care benefits. We will fight tooth and nail to protect Medicare from all those who try to turn the earned benefits of Medicare into Coupon-care,” said Fiesta. “Medicare must be protected, preserved and expanded for future generations, not dismantled.”

Kuster Receives Endorsement of the Alliance for Retired Americans

Alliance For Retired Americans(Concord, NH) – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) has received the endorsement of the Alliance for Retired Americans, a group that represents more than 4.3 million retirees nationwide, including 11,220 members in New Hampshire. The group endorsed Kuster for reelection to New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District because of her strong commitment to preserving Social Security and Medicare and her dedication to improving the lives of older and retired Americans.

“It’s an honor receive the endorsement of the Alliance for Retired Americans,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Having cared for my mother, who had Alzheimer’s, I understand the importance of ensuring older Americans are able to retire and live their later years in dignity and with security. That’s why I’ll always fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, two of the most successful safety net programs in our nation’s history. As a member of Congress, I’m committed to strengthening these programs and working to increase access to healthcare and improve retirement for seniors in New Hampshire and across the country.” 

In their endorsement, the Alliance for Retired Americans wrote, “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 benefits 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.”

Social Security COLA Falls Short for Seniors

social securty 1Small cost-of-living increase triggers huge Medicare Part B premium hike for many retirees

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. is calling on Congress to pass emergency legislation to prevent massive increases in Medicare Part B premiums for millions of retirees next year.

The government today announced a 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for federal retirees and Social Security recipients. The COLA is based on the year-over-year change in the prices for goods and services purchased by hourly and clerical workers.

This small COLA has inadvertently triggered a massive increase in Medicare Part B premiums for the 30 percent of beneficiaries who do not currently receive Social Security benefits.

Premiums for Medicare Part B are expected to increase 23 percent next year, from $121 a month to $149 a month. A so-called “hold harmless” provision prevents Medicare Part B premiums from increasing by more than the dollar increase in an individual’s Social Security payment. But for the 16 million retirees who don’t receive Social Security, including 1.6 million federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System, the full increase must be paid unless Congress acts.

“Congress must act now to prevent a massive increase in Medicare Part B premiums for this group of retirees,” Cox said. “Although most seniors would be protected, this group will have to pay more solely because of the uniqueness of their pension system.”

Congress last year extended the hold harmless provision to cover all Medicare Part B beneficiaries when there is no cost-of-living adjustment. However, this provision does not apply when there is a small COLA, as there will be in 2017.

Even without the increase in Medicare Part B premiums, retirees will have to tighten their belts to account for next year’s miniscule cost-of-living adjustment. Retirees already are facing a 6.2% increase in their health insurance premiums next year.

“Prices for many items that seniors must purchase are rising faster than the overall inflation rate,” Cox said. “Forcing this group of retirees to shoulder such a huge cost burden will have a devastating impact on their already modest living standards.”

The Alliance for Retired Americans have been pushing to increase Social Security benefits and change the way cost of living is calculated.

“The Alliance for Retired Americans is deeply disappointed by the announcement today that there will be a miniscule 0.3% benefit increase for millions of Social Security beneficiaries in 2017,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “For the average retiree, that means just a $5.00 per month increase, not enough to keep up with the cost of their prescription medications. This follows a 0% COLA in 2016. Most retirees are going to continue to have a hard time paying for basic necessities.”

“That’s why Congress must expand earned Social Security benefits and change the formula used to calculate future COLAs to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).  The CPI-E would base the calculation on what seniors actually spend their money on. That list includes items such as health care and housing, which account for most retirees’ spending,” Fiesta added. 

The AFL-CIO was “disappointed” with this COLA announcement.

“A weak increase that amounts to a mere $5.00 more a month for the average retired worker is a disappointment for the millions who rely on Social Security to stay afloat during retirement,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Protecting our seniors against inflation is one of the many obligations we have to retired Americans. The 2017 adjustment falls short of that goal because it fails to reflect seniors’ extraordinary expenses.”

 “The 2017 COLA not only fails to keep pace with seniors’ high health care and prescription drug costs, it also means millions of retirees, including many retired public employees, will be hit hard because the law fails to protect them against large Medicare Part B premium increases when inflation is low. State Medicaid budgets that cover Medicare premiums for low-income seniors similarly will be affected. We urge Congress to step in and limit the coming financial blow to thousands of vulnerable retirees and state budgets,” Trumka added.

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