When Will Senator Ayotte Start Listening To The People On Protecting Our Earned Benefits?

Editor’s Note: Below is a cross-post from the NH Alliance for Retired Americans who have been working over the last year to meet with and talk to Senator Ayotte.  I believe Sen. Ayotte’s office has met with them once, they are obviously not listening to what the people are saying.  When I wrote to Sen. Ayotte about protecting Social Security and Medicare, I got the exact same form letter that Lucy attached below. 

Image and rights from the  NHARA

Image from the NH ARA

Senator Ayotte, You Are Not Listening

Written by Lucy Edwards
President of the NH Alliance for Retired Americans
Posted on the NH ARA Blog

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 Security Trust 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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.

Sincerely,
Kelly A. Ayotte
U. S. Senator

Richard Trumka on Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports

Today’s reports from the Social Security and Medicare Trustees have good news for all Americans: Social Security and Medicare will be there for us and our families if elected leaders listen to the American people and reject calls to cut benefits.  Instead of undermining these crucial programs, we must build on their success and adopt measures to strengthen and expand them.

The Trustees’ reported improvements for Medicare are a positive development for anyone who pays for health care, because they are driven by expected slower growth in health spending in the short run. This reminds us that we have a health care cost problem, not a Medicare problem.  Strengthening Medicare for the long run means bringing health care cost growth under control throughout our economy.

America’s most important retirement program will remain strong for many more years to come, unchanged from last year’s report.  It has become increasingly clear, however, that strengthening Social Security for the future must include improvements in benefits.  Social Security remains the sole retirement income plan that is broadly available and that Americans can count on to provide secure lifetime benefits.

The Social Security Trustees reported once again that the Disability Trust Fund can pay full benefits until 2016, with enough revenue after that time to cover about 80 percent of promised benefits.  Congress should act soon to ensure disabled workers and their families will continue to receive the benefits they have earned.  This can be done by allocating a larger share of current payroll tax contributions to the Disability program, as has been done many times before.  Congress should reject calls to misuse this opportunity to undermine the sole source of disability income protection that is working well for America’s families.

Seniors in New Hampshire have saved $40,381,080 on prescription drugs since 2010

obamacare ApprovedFindings come on eve of Medicare’s 49th anniversary 

On the eve of the 49th anniversary of the signing of Medicare and Medicaid into law, new information released today by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that people with Medicare in New Hampshire have saved $40,381,080 on prescription drugs as a result of the Affordable Care Act.  Nationally, more than 8.2 million seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare continue to enjoy prescription drug savings as a result of the Affordable Care Act, saving $11.5 billion since 2010.

This news comes on the heels of continued historic low levels of growth in Medicare spending.  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, and Part B premiums are expected to stay the same rather than increase for the second year in a row.  Additionally, a new 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.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, seniors and people with disabilities are saving on needed medications,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.  “By making prescription drugs more affordable, we are improving and promoting the best care for people with Medicare.”

The Affordable Care Act makes Medicare prescription drug coverage more affordable by gradually closing the gap in coverage where beneficiaries had to pay the full cost of their prescriptions out of pocket, before catastrophic coverage took effect.  This gap is known as the donut hole.

Since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, out-of-pocket savings on medications for people with Medicare prescription drug coverage continues to grow.  In New Hampshire, people with Medicare have saved $40,381,080 on prescription drugs in the Medicare Part D donut hole since the law was enacted.  Nationally, more than 8.2 million seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare have saved over $11.5 billion since 2010 on prescription drugs as a result of discounts in the donut hole and rebates in 2010, for an average of $1,407.  These figures are higher than last year at this time when over 6.6 million seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare had saved over $7 billion on prescription drugs averaging $1,061 per beneficiary in donut hole discounts.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, in 2010, anyone with a Medicare prescription drug plan who reached the prescription drug donut hole received a $250 rebate.  Beginning in 2011, beneficiaries in the donut hole began receiving discounts on covered brand-name drugs and savings on generic drugs.  These savings and Medicare coverage will gradually increase until 2020, when the donut hole will be closed.  In 2014, people with a Medicare prescription drug plan who fall into the donut hole will save from discounts and increased coverage in the gap about 53 percent on the cost of brand name drugs and save from increased coverage in the gap about 28 percent on the cost of generic drugs.

For state-by-state information on discounts on the donut hole, please visit: http://downloads.cms.gov/files/Medicare-Part-D-Donut-Hole-Savings-Summary-2010-June-2014.pdf.

For more information about Medicare prescription drug benefits, please visit: http://www.medicare.gov/part-d/.

Tell Governor Christie No Social Security or Medicare Cuts

Hands off my social security Rally to Oppose Cuts to Social Security and Medicare earned benefits

As budget hawks once again turn up the pressure to balance the federal budget on the backs of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, activists demanding income security for New Hampshire’s seniors will take their case to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and GOP Leaders. Gov. Christie wants to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. Our rally is to tell Christie and GOP Leaders how important Social Security is to our communities and our lives.  Medicare and Social Security are earned benefits—not welfare—and seniors are counting on our leaders to protect these benefits, not cut them. New Hampshire Seniors deserve better New Hampshire’s economy is threatened by cuts to Social Security benefits which bring $4 billion to our local communities serving 270,000 residents each year.

In New Jersey, Social Security accounts for over $24 billion of spending into the economy for 1.5 million of its residents.Social Security provides a lifeline to beneficiaries, families, and the local businesses which serve them. While some in Washington claim America can’t afford programs like Social Security and Medicare, the truth is states like New Hampshire can’t afford to lose the economic benefits they provide to every community in the state.

WHO:          Volunteers with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Alliance for Retired Americans, the Granite State Organizing Project, and the New Hampshire Citizens Alliance

WHAT:        Rally to Oppose Cuts to Social Security and Medicare

WHEN:        Thursday, July 31 at 5:30pm

WHERE:     Fisher Cats Stadium, 1 Line Dr, Manchester, New Hampshire 03101

With millions of members and supporters across America, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is the nation’s #1 advocacy group fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare for all citizens from younger workers and baby-boomers to the nation’s 40 million seniors. The National Committee informs its members and other citizens about legislative and regulatory proposals, which will affect their working and retirement life. In turn, we take their concerns directly to the White House and the Congress with our staff of professional lobbyists and grassroots advocates.

For more information about the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare call 1-800-966-1935

The National Committee, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization acts in the interests of its membership through advocacy, education, services, grassroots efforts and the leadership of the Board of Directors and professional staff. The work of the National Committee is directed toward developing better-informed citizens and voters.

Sen. Rubio Has A New Plan For Social Security And Medicare, To BREAK IT!

Rubio’s Plans to Dismantle Social Security
and Medicare Intensify Retirement Security Crisis

Advice to Rubio From the Alliance for Retired Americans:
“Respect Your Elders,” That Includes Social Security & Medicare

Senator Marco Rubio at CPAC Convention. (Image by Gage Skidmore)

Senator Marco Rubio at CPAC Convention. (Image by Gage Skidmore)

Written by Laura Markwardt of the Alliance for Retired Americans. 

Today, Senator Marco Rubio insulted the American people by proposing that their most successful earned benefits program, Social Security, should be dismantled. Rubio’s plans to raise the retirement age and to privatize Social Security and Medicare would increase wealth inequality, transferring the only guarantees that most Americans have for a secure retirement to Wall Street bankers and insurance companies.

Rubio alleges his proposal to raise the retirement age would “account for the rise in life expectancy.” His Wall Street friends may be living longer, but life expectancy is powerfully tied to socioeconomic status; raising the retirement age harms minorities and low-wage workers – people who rely on Social Security in great part for their retirement income and contribute steadily through their working years.

Our Social Security system is the foundation of our retirement security and a basic protection for American families in the face of disability or death. Each generation has done its part to maintain its foundation for nearly 80 years, about twice Rubio’s age. Our Social Security system has been meticulously built to deal with population fluctuations of the baby boomers and beyond. Rubio’s calls to dismantle this fundamental program are, unfortunately, for the benefit of his Wall Street friends.

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans said, “If Senator Rubio really cared about strengthening retirement security, he would join the effort to expand Social Security benefits as Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Linda Sanchez have proposed. If he really cared about addressing the retirement security crisis, and there is one, he would get on board with raising the minimum wage. Social Security benefits are based on wages. By calling Social Security ‘outdated,’ Senator Rubio shows how out of touch he is with the needs of current and future retirees.”

Tony Fransetta, President of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans said, “Senator Rubio is once again politically posturing himself while ignoring the real needs of Florida retirees and working families. I am insulted that he is pitting older generations against younger ones and trying to convince my grandkids to settle for less than what they deserve, which is a secure retirement that they earn through their work.”

Rubio holds a 7% lifetime score in Congress according to the Alliance for Retired Americans Congressional Voting Record for 2013.

Shea-Porter Listens to Seniors, Discusses Affordable Care Act and Importance of Social Security & Medicare in Manchester

image001MANCHESTER, NH – Today, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) joined 35 seniors in Manchester to discuss the Affordable Care Act and answer questions about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. During the open forum with residents of Birch Hill Terrace, Congresswoman Shea-Porter answered questions about New Hampshire’s ACA Marketplace, how the Affordable Care Act is strengthening Medicare, and how Congress can work to improve the long-term outlook of Social Security.

“Granite State seniors have earned their Medicare and Social Security benefits through a lifetime of hard work,” Shea-Porter said. “These programs are vital to the retirement security of millions of Americans, and we must protect them for future generations.”

In Congress, Shea-Porter has led the fight against reckless schemes to balance the budget on the backs of New Hampshire seniors. Last February, she wrote to President Obama urging him to reject any proposals to cut benefits to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. She has cosponsored the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, which would improve benefits for current and future Social Security recipients, extend the life of the Social Security trust fund, and ensure greater economic security for America’s seniors. And she has spoken out against chained CPI and other cuts to benefits that seniors have earned through a lifetime of hard work.

As of December 2012, the average monthly benefit for those receiving Social Security was $1,215. Over the course of a year, this averages out to $14,580. As Shea-Porter reiterated, the idea that we should balance the budget on the backs of seniors relying on less than $15,000 is simply wrong.

Shea-Porter was joined at the forum by Helen Mulligan from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Karol Dermon, from the Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Elderly and Adult Services.

 

Scott Brown’s Die Young and Broke Campaign Launch (A Statement By Granite State Progress)

Scott Brown in 2010 Image by Wiki Commons

Scott Brown in 2010
Image by Wiki Commons


Brown wants New Hampshire families to forgo benefits he used himself

CONCORD, NH – Scott Brown will formally announce his campaign bid for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire tonight with a hypocritical ‘Die Young and Broke’ campaign theme – otherwise advertised as Live Free or Log On. Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“Scott Brown had no problem logging on when he was collecting health care from the federal government for his own family. Brown even told his hometown paper the Boston Globe that he was keeping his younger daughter on his health plan through age 26, a popular provision available to all families thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Yet, Brown is encouraging Granite State families to forgo health care coverage with a misleading campaign slogan. He might as well be saying die young and broke from lack of health care coverage or medical bankruptcy because that’s what he’s endorsing.”

“Scott Brown’s failed Massachusetts talking points don’t jive with the real benefits tens of thousands of Granite Staters are experiencing thanks to Obamacare. Like Scott Brown’s daughter, 10,000 New Hampshire young adults have remained on their parent’s health insurance plan thanks to the Affordable Care Act. In the last month New Hampshire exceeded expectations for marketplace enrollment and passed Medicaid expansion with a bi-partisan coalition because true Granite Staters know that access to quality, affordable health care coverage means living free from a lifetime of health care problems or escalating medical debt.”

Scott Brown’s campaign also released a press release earlier this week that stated that health care premiums in New Hampshire have risen 90%. WMUR debunked the number, reporting that the flawed figure was based on the opinion of a single New Hampshire broker and that New Hampshire premiums will actually decrease by 8% this year.

“Perhaps Scott Brown’s formal campaign launch will mean that he’ll finally invest in a campaign researcher instead of just the staff he hired to pick out popular New Hampshire venues for his staged photo ops,” Rice Hawkins said.

 

Sources:

Boston Globe: Brown says daughter, 23, insured under health law, May 1, 2012

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, How the Health Care Law is Making a Difference for the People of New Hampshire, Updated August 1, 2013

Scott Brown: Study Showing Rising Insurance Premiums a Sad Reminder of Obamacare’s Consequences

WMUR: Hear the one about NH health insurance rates going up 90 percent? April 9, 2014

Kuster Rejects Extreme Ryan Budget

Calls for Both Parties to Work Together to Pass Common Sense Budget 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – This afternoon, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement on her vote to reject Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 budget, and calls on Democrats and Republicans to come together to pass a common sense budget that protects the interests of New Hampshire’s middle class:

“Since taking office, I have called on both Democrats and Republicans to work together to pass a common sense budget plan that will cut wasteful spending while also protecting our seniors and middle class families. We must work together to create a smart budget proposal that will help grow our economy and support job creation throughout the nation. This is in the best interest of all our constituents, regardless of their party or where they’re from.

“That’s why I was extremely disappointed by Chairman Paul Ryan’s unflinchingly extreme budget, which would only protect the interests of millionaires and special interests. Among other things, his irresponsible proposal would slash funding for Pell grants, forcing our children to go deeper into debt just to attend college;  it proposes recklessly turning Medicare into a voucher program, which would prove devastating for our nation’s seniors; and it would cut nutrition assistance for low-income families by an astounding $125 billion dollars. This budget proposal lets down the hardworking American families who rely on us to develop a responsible plan for Congressional spending, and I was proud to vote against it this afternoon.

“Moving forward, I call on Democrats and Republicans to come together to develop a  budget proposal that makes sense for our constituents, so we can move our nation forward, protect our middle class, and support the job creation our country needs to revitalize the economy. I look forward to working with members of both parties to realize that goal.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter Votes Against The RYAN Budget

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) released the following statement on the House Republican Ryan Budget, which she voted against today.

“Granite Staters roundly rejected Paul Ryan and his budget in the last election, but instead of working across the aisle on real solutions, Ryan and Washington Republicans doubled down on some of their worst ideas, like turning Medicare into a voucher program, giving millionaires a tax break while raising taxes on the middle class, cutting student aid, Meals on Wheels, and medical research, slashing Medicaid and jeopardizing nursing home care, going after funding that helps children, and undermining investments in job creation.

“Paul Ryan’s priorities are out of touch with average Americans. Instead of strengthening and protecting Medicare, the Ryan budget takes the opposite approach. As AARP said about the Ryan Budget, ‘Removing the Medicare guarantee of affordable health coverage for older Americans by implementing a premium support system and asking seniors and future retirees to pay more is not the right direction.’

“Granite Staters want Congress to invest in the economy, education, manufacturing, and infrastructure. But according to the Economic Policy Institute, the Ryan budget would decrease GDP by 0.9 percent and cost our economy 1.1 million jobs in fiscal year 2015. In New Hampshire, over 1,500 fewer college students would receive financial aid in the form of Pell Grants. Three hundred forty children would be kicked out of Head Start programs. Almost 3,000 fewer Granite Staters would receive Training and Employment services.

“Under the Ryan budget, CEOs and corporations will continue to reap rewards, but the middle class and the most vulnerable will be asked to do more.  If you refuse to close tax loopholes for the rich, while also cutting programs that help the middle class, you negate your claim of responsibly balancing the budget.

“Congress passed a budget through 2015 that alleviates some of the harmful cuts to programs that help seniors, children, and families in New Hampshire. While it was not a perfect bill, it was a responsible step. Instead of building on the bipartisan budget, it’s disappointing to see Congressman Ryan return to the same partisan approach to budgeting that’s a major source of gridlock in Congress.”

Tonight: Rep. Kuster Hears from NH Seniors

 Congresswoman Annie Kuster to Host ‘Telephone Town Hall’ to Hear from New Hampshire Seniors

 On the call, Congresswoman Kuster will discuss her work to protect Social Security and Medicare

Rep Annie Kuster in US HouseWASHINGTON, D.C. – Tonight, March 25th, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) will host a live telephone town hall to hear directly from New Hampshire seniors about the importance of protecting Social Security and Medicare. Seniors from throughout the district will participate in the call, and will also discuss other issues that are important to seniors in the Granite State.

During the call, Congresswoman Kuster will take questions from her constituents, and will discuss her own legislative efforts to protect the programs that New Hampshire seniors rely on like Social Security and Medicare.  Among other topics, the Congresswoman will discuss her opposition to using chained CPI to calculate Social Security, a move which could significantly reduce benefits for our seniors; how closing the Medicare Part D Donut hole has saved New Hampshire seniors thousands of dollars in prescription drug costs; and her ideas to create additional savings for our seniors by allowing the government to negotiate for cheaper prescription drugs for Medicare recipients.