Category Archives: Seniors

Lautenberg Stands Up for Everyday Families, Opposes Unfair Budget Deal

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) issued the following statement after voting against a deficit reduction deal that will cut trillions in funding for critical domestic programs:

“This legislation was a shakedown, not a compromise. Tea Party Republicans held our country hostage until their ideological demands were met, with little regard for what it will mean for the average American family. Our debt ceiling had to be raised – as was done 18 times under President Reagan and seven times under President George W. Bush – but it shouldn’t be done in a way that diminishes access to education and health care, a cleaner environment, or homeland security. Our country’s financial future must include a balanced approach of shared sacrifice; taking trillions from programs that help our children, seniors, and middle class, while asking for nothing more from the wealthy or corporations raking in record profits, is not the picture of a fair and democratic society. We must continue to work to reduce our deficits, but countries, like buildings, cannot be built from the top down without injuring the hope and morale of their people and destabilizing the strength of their foundations.”

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Filed under Budget Control Act, debt ceiling, President George W. Bush, Seniors, shared sacrifice, Social Security, spending cuts, Tea Party, US. Sen. Frank Lautenberg

>Join Congressman Rush Holt For Two Town Hall Forums On Medicare

>Congressman Rush Holt will join federal Medicare officials to host two town hall forums in central New Jersey. Please join him to share your thoughts, ideas, and concerns about the future of Medicare.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
1:00-2:30 p.m.
Monroe Township Public Library
4 Municipal Plaza
Monroe Township, NJ 08831

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
6:00-7:30 p.m.
East Brunswick Senior Center
2 Jean Walling Civic Center Drive
East Brunswick, NJ 08816

“Last month, the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives passed, over my objections, a radical and far-reaching national budget for 2012. The proposed budget would end Medicare as we know it. Under this plan, if you are under 55 years of age, when you retire you would receive a voucher from the federal government and then fend for yourself on the private insurance market. The value of these vouchers is designed to shrink, relative to the cost of health care, each year – so seniors would be required to pay ever-growing out-of-pocket costs in order to maintain the same quality of health care.

Fortunately, the Senate has not voted on the Republican Medicare privatization plan, so there is still time to protect Medicare. I firmly believe that we need a national budget that strengthens our middle class, not weakens it, and I look forward to hearing your ideas at this week’s forum on how we can best achieve that goal. “

– Congressman Rush Holt

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Filed under Congressman Rush Holt, Medicare, medicare privatization, Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican budget plans, Seniors, town hall meeting

>Republican Plan To End Medicare And "Privatize" Health Care For American Seniors Is Not A Solution

>By Congressman Steve Rothman(D-NJ9)

We must not end Medicare: Too many American seniors would suffer or die prematurely if we did.

WHAT WOULD you say to someone who told you that in order to save something, you’d have to kill it?

On April 15, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted, 235-193, to end Medicare for Americans who are currently under the age of 55. No Democrat voted in favor of the plan.

For those tens of millions affected, and for all future generations, the Republican plan ends Medicare and “privatizes” health care for American seniors. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the plan, if acted upon, would create a voucher system in place of Medicare. The U.S. government would assign approximately $8,000 to purchase private health insurance for each senior once he or she turned 67 years of age. If they were ill or older, the voucher amount would be slightly higher. But under the Republican plan, the average senior would see their out-of-pocket health care costs double to $12,150 per year, $6,400 more than today — not including co-pays.

Under the Republican plan, there would be no more government lifetime coverage, as we currently have it under Medicare. If you could not afford a private health care premium because you had a preexisting condition (for example, high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer, asthma, lupus, heart condition, hip, back or knee surgery) you’d have to find the money to pay whatever premium the private marketplace would charge. The government, under the Republican plan, would not even limit the amount the private market could charge. And so, if you could not afford to purchase a private health insurance plan at the age of 67 or older, for any reason, you’d be uninsured. An American senior citizen, without any health insurance.

Imagine the suffering, pain and terror for those tens of millions of seniors under those circumstances. Where would they turn? Charity? Family members? Early death? And why?

Yes, the United States has a $1.4 trillion annual deficit and a $14 trillion national debt. But what are the best and fairest ways to deal with those extremely serious problems? Should we rely on shared sacrifice in the American tradition, or put the burden disproportionately on the backs of seniors and the middle class?

To me, the Republican plan is at best a misguided approach to solving our nation’s common problems. At worst, the Republican plan reflects their undiminished zeal to “shrink” government by eliminating programs most Americans rely on, including Medicare. As a result, however, this would hurt the middle class and most Americans, leaving only the rich and super-rich to be assured of a good education for their children and affordable health care for them and their children, when they retire.

Remember that the median income for seniors in America in 2009 was $19,167; with most seniors having at least one chronic condition and many having multiple chronic conditions. Can you imagine the premiums they’d have to pay to get health insurance at age 67 and older?

Medicare was created in 1965 precisely because the private market failed to provide seniors with affordable and quality health care. Before Medicare, nearly half of American seniors had no health insurance, and nearly 35 percent lived in poverty. Thus, for me, leaving U.S. seniors again at the mercy of private health insurance companies is an absolute non-starter. We must not end Medicare. Too many American seniors would suffer or die prematurely if we did.

As for our extremely important deficit and debt problems, I believe that all options should be on the table, with sacrifices shared by all, according to assets owned and annual income. That means that the following items must be considered: making additional cuts in spending, including defense; reducing income and capital gains tax deductions for earnings over $350,000 per year; reforming our tax code to prevent individuals and companies from avoiding all tax liabilities; partially, and in some cases completely, eliminating subsidies to America’s richest families; reducing or eliminating subsidies to agribusiness, big oil and gas; ending or proportionately scaling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; and, additional cost control measures to the health care reform law, including a public option.

House Republicans argue that it is necessary to end Medicare in order to balance the federal budget, albeit with continued tax breaks for individuals and companies making millions and billions of dollars in income per year. Forcing seniors and the middle class to bear a disproportionate burden in solving our nation’s fiscal crisis is, in my opinion, unfair and unnecessary. The better, more typically American way to address our common problems is with shared sacrifice and fairness.

Medicare is an essential and successful American program that has worked extremely well for the past 46 years. It makes possible a longer and healthier life for millions of our seniors. It is, also, often the difference between life and death. We must not end Medicare.

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Filed under Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Republicans, Democrats, Health Care, Medicare, Seniors, US Congressman Steve Rothman

Pallone Announces First Round of $250 Rebate Checks Now Being Sent to Tens of Thousands of Seniors

For Immediate Release –

Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) announced starting June 10, Medicare will begin mailing out to tens of thousands of seniors $250 ‘donut hole’ checks. Under the recently enacted health reform law, seniors who fall in the donut hole coverage gap in 2010 will receive this one-time tax-free $250 rebate check. These checks will continue to be mailed monthly over the next several months as seniors enter the coverage gap.

The checks are just the first benefit from health reform for seniors in the Medicare Prescription Drug program. Beginning in January 2011, seniors in the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs. By 2020, the donut hole will be completely closed.

“This is the first example of how the health care reform law will strengthen Medicare and help seniors,” said Pallone. “In the past, seniors who have fallen into the Medicare donut hole were forced to choose between food and prescriptions. Health reform is fixing these problems. Important reforms like this will continue to phase in throughout the year and make health care more affordable and accessible for millions of New Jersey’s seniors.”

The ‘donut hole’ coverage gap is the period in the prescription drug benefit (once their prescription drug costs exceed $2,830) in which the beneficiary pays 100 percent of the cost of their drugs until they hit the catastrophic coverage threshold.

Last year, roughly 109,000 Medicare beneficiaries in New Jersey fell in the donut hole and received no extra help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs. Now, under health reform, help is on the way.

Medicare recipients don’t have to do anything to get the $250 check – once their drug costs for the year hit $2,830 the one-time check will be issued automatically. But seniors should be on the lookout for fraud. Seniors who want to learn more about this new benefit or how to protect themselves from fraud or scams should call 1-800-Medicare, visit http://www.medicare.gov, or contact the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) 1-800-792-8820 or http://www.state.nj.us/health/senior/ship.shtml.

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Filed under Congressman Frank Pallone, Medicare, prescription drugs, press release, rebate checks, Seniors

NJPP Monday Minute 5/17/10: The Millionaire’s Tax: It’s a Start

The New Jersey state budget is far from settled. In just over a week Treasurer Sidamon-Eristoff and Legislative Budget and Finance Officer David Rosen will appear again before the budget committees to reexamine the state’s financial condition and revenue collections.

A showdown is brewing between the Democrats in the Legislature and Governor Christie. Last week, both the Senate and Assembly passed bills out of committee to raise income taxes on taxpayers with incomes over $1 million. Votes were along partisan lines and a full vote of the legislature is expected shortly. The bills are expected to pass both houses because Democrats are the majority party in both chambers (Senate: 23 Democrats out of 40; Assembly: 47 Democrats out of 80). Gov. Christie has reiterated he will veto all tax increases. A two-thirds majority is needed to override a veto – that might be problematic.

Identical bills (S-10 and A-10) have been introduced to raise income tax rates to 10.75 percent from 8.97 percent on taxpayers with incomes exceeding $1 million. This new rate would be retroactive to January 1, 2010 and is expected to raise about $637 million in FY 2011. Approximately 16,000 taxpayers would be affected.

These tax bills have companion spending bills (S-20 and A-20) that reinstate homestead rebates to certain senior and disabled homeowners and tenants ($563.2 million) and restore cuts the Governor recommended to the prescription assistance programs Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled or PAAD ($55.5 million) and Senior Gold ($55.5 million). These companion spending bills would be inactive until the tax bill is passed.

The provisions of the companion spending bills are as follows:

Homestead Rebates for Senior and Disabled Citizens
The Governor’s proposed budget eliminates homestead rebates for 2010, affecting over 500,000 homeowners and 100,000 tenants. These rebates would be replaced with a tax credit that would be deducted directly from quarterly property tax bills starting in May 2011.

S-20/A-20 would pay property tax rebates to senior and disabled homeowners whose incomes are under $150,000 and to senior and disabled tenants whose incomes are under $100,000. Depending on income, average homeowner rebates would range from $750 to about $1,300 and average tenant rebates would range from $150 to $700.

Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled (PAAD) and Senior Gold
The Governor’s proposed budget increases the PAAD co-payment for brand name drugs to $15 per prescription from $7 and beginning January 1, 2011 requires recipients of both PAAD and Senior Gold to pay an annual $310 deductible before being eligible for low-cost medications. The $310 deductible affects approximately 100,000 senior and disabled PAAD recipients with incomes below $24,432 (single) and $29,956 (married) and another 23,000 Senior Gold participants with incomes between $24,432 and $34,432 (single) and $29,956 and $39,956 (married). The deductible for married couples is $620.

S-20/A-20 would eliminate the co-pay increase for PAAD recipients and the new $310 deductible for both PAAD and Senior Gold recipients.

This could be great news for New Jersey’s senior and disabled residents, but not so much for everyone else:

  • Libraries will close or have shorter hours with limited internet access because the state library budget has been eliminated.
  • Children will pay more for breakfast and lunch or go without.
  • Some after school programs that keep kids safe are eliminated.
  • Tuition Aid Grants to college students are reduced at the same time the state cut more operating funds than ever to the state’s public colleges.
  • Some parents of children enrolled in the state’s FamilyCare program will no longer be eligible for this program themselves.
  • Women who can’t afford health insurance will not get prenatal and ob-gyn care.
  • Working families receiving the state Earned Income Tax Credit will be hit with a tax hike when the credit amount is cut from 25 percent to 20 percent.
  • NJ Transit fare increases up to 45 percent will further strain the budgets of commuters and the state’s mass transit system.

All of the above represent increased costs in one form or another. Cuts to schools, municipalities and libraries will increase class sizes, raise property taxes and eliminate free services like library internet use and inter-library loans. Increased costs to college students may make them defer college or take longer to complete degrees. Cuts in FamilyCare and family planning services will mean more people in emergency rooms and more expensive health care. The highest ever transit increases will put more people in cars, causing greater deterioration of roads and bridges and an increase in air pollution.These cuts will most severely hurt middle and low-income people in the state – those with the fewest choices.

The new revenue and spending bills are a good start but more needs to be done. New Jersey’s budget crisis must be resolved with a balanced approach that includes other taxes and shared sacrifice by all. For other budget options, check out the Better Choices Coalition.

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Filed under disabled residents, homestead rebates, Millionaire'sTax, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Seniors

President Obama’s Weekly Adress: 5/8/10 Health Reform Starts to Kick In

The President goes through the benefits in health insurance reform that are already kicking in for young adults, retirees, and families, and says more benefits are coming down the pike.

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Filed under Breast Cancer, Health Insurance Reform, Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, Patient Bill of Rights, prescription drugs, President Obama, Seniors, weekly address

Health insurance reform: How will it affect YOU this year!

From my friends at Newjerseynewsroom.com:

“Health care reform has been a long time coming – almost 100 years in the making,” said U.S. Rep Rush Holt (NJ-12). “Yet, the benefits will be felt immediately, giving families and small businesses control over their health care.

“Small businesses will soon receive tax credits, patients will no longer lose coverage when they get sick, and seniors will have help paying for prescription drugs and have access to free preventive care. And as it turns out, lawyers combing the legislation have failed to find any death panels.”

The following are key provisions that take effect within a year:

FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

SMALL BUSINESS TAX CREDITS — Offers tax credits to small businesses to make employee coverage more affordable. Tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums will be immediately available. Effective beginning for calendar year 2010. (Beginning in 2014, small business tax credits will cover 50 percent of premiums.)

FOR SENIORS

BEGINS TO CLOSE THE MEDICARE PART D DONUT HOLE — Provides a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the donut hole in 2010. Effective for calendar year 2010. (Beginning in 2011, institutes a 50% discount on brand-name drugs in the donut hole; also completely closes the donut hole by 2020.)

FREE PREVENTIVE CARE UNDER MEDICARE — Eliminates co-payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare program. Effective beginning January 1, 2011.

HELP FOR EARLY RETIREES — Creates a temporary re_insurance program (until the Exchanges are available) to help offset the costs of expensive health claims for employers that provide health benefits for retirees age 55-64. Effective 90 days after enactment

FOR THOSE PRIVATELY INSURED

NO DISCRIMINATON AGAINST CHILDREN WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS — Prohibits health plans from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Effective 6 months after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, this prohibition would apply to adults as well.)

NO RESCISSIONS — Bans health plans from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Effective 6 months after enactment.

NO LIFETIME LIMITS ON COVERAGE — Prohibits health plans from placing lifetime caps on coverage. Effective 6 months after enactment.

TIGHTLY REGULATES ANNUAL LIMITS ON COVERAGE — Tightly restricts new plans’ use of annual limits to ensure access to needed care. These tight restrictions will be defined by HHS. Effective 6 months after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, the use of any annual limits would be prohibited for all plans.)

FREE PREVENTIVE CARE UNDER NEW PLANS — Requires new private plans to cover preventive services with no co-payments and with preventive services being exempt from deductibles. Effective 6 months after enactment.

NEW, INDEPENDENT APPEALS PROCESS FOR NEW PLANS — Ensures consumers in new plans have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal decisions. Effective 6 months after enactment.

MORE FOR YOUR PREMIUM DOLLAR — Requires plans to put more of your premiums into your care, and less into profits, CEO pay, etc. This medical loss ratio requires plans in the individual and small group market to spend 80 percent of premiums on medical services, and plans in the large group market to spend 85 percent. Insurers that don’t meet these thresholds must provide rebates to policyholders. Effective on January 1, 2011.

NO DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SALARY — Prohibits new group health plans from establishing any eligibility rules for health care coverage that have the effect of discriminating in favor of higher wage employees. Effective 6 months after enactment.

FOR THOSE UNINSURED

IMMEDIATE HELP FOR THE UNINSURED WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS (INTERIM HIGH-RISK POOL) — Provides immediate access to insurance for Americans who are uninsured because of a pre- existing condition — through a temporary high-risk pool — until the Exchanges up and running in 2014. Effective 90 days after enactment. (Beginning in 2014, health plans are banned from discriminating against all people with pre-existing conditions, so high_risk pools would phase out).

EXTENDING COVERAGE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE UP TO 26TH BIRTHDAY THROUGH PARENTS’ INSURANCE — Requires health plans to allow young people up to their 26th birthday to remain on their parents’ insurance policy, at the parents’ choice. Effective 6 months after enactment.

GENERAL REFORMS

COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS — Increases funding for Community Health Centers to allow for nearly doubling the number of patients served over the next 5 years. Effective beginning in fiscal year 2010.

MORE PRIMARY CARE DOCTORS — Provides new investment in training programs to increase the number of primary care doctors, nurses, and public health professionals. Effective beginning in fiscal year 2010.

HEALTH INSURANCE CONSUMER ASSISTANCE — Provides aid to states to establish offices of health insurance consumer assistance to help consumers file complaints and appeals. Effective beginning in FY 2010.

CREATES NEW, VOLUNTARY, PUBLIC LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE PROGRAM — Creates a long-term care insurance program to be financed by voluntary payroll deductions to provide benefits to adults who become functionally disabled. Effective on January 1, 2011.

MORE REFORMS THAT BEGIN IN 2014 (WHEN EXCHANGES HAVE FORMED)

NO DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ADULTS WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

BAN ON HIGHER PREMIUMS FOR WOMEN

PREMIUMS BASED ON AGE CAN ONLY VARY BY A MAXIMUM OF 3 -TO -1 RATIO

CAP ON OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSES for private health plans.


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Filed under healthcare reform, New Jersey Newsroom, Seniors, small businesses