April 11, 2008
Obama for America
Hillary Clinton for President
Dear Senator Clinton:
The National Retiree Legislative Network, a coalition of 18 Retiree Associations representing the interests of more than 2 million retirees and future retirees, is requesting your response to the questions below related to your plans and proposed policies on retirement issues should you be elected President. The NRLN will also present these questions to the Democrat candidates for President.
It is the intent of the NRLN Board of Directors to present to our members through emails and posting on the NRLN website (www.nrln.org) a fair and non-partisan presentation of where you stand on issues of utmost concern to retirees and future retirees. These include protection of pensions and benefits earned from employers, addressing the skyrocketing costs of health care and prescription drugs, assistance for retirees who have lost their corporate-sponsored health care insurance or had it severely reduced, providing tax incentives for payment of health care insurance premiums and securing a sound financial foundation for Social Security and Medicare for current participants and future generations.
The NRLN looks forward to receiving written answers to the following questions within 30 days from the date above. If you don’t intend to support retiree issues posed in the questions, please explain why not and what alternative you would support to address the particular retiree issue. In addition to marking a “Yes” or “No” answer, you may add comments or elaborations.
1 - ERISA - To further protect pension plan assets, will you sign a legislative amendment to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to prevent the use of pension assets by employers to pay for lump-sum layoff allowances and / or other corporate downsizing, restructuring or operating costs? Yes… No…
2 - Earned Health Care Benefits - Millions of retirees who were promised retirement health care benefits by their employers are having these benefits eliminated, severely reduced or priced beyond affordability. The establishment of health care insurance caps that a retiree would be entitled to from his/her former employer should the employer eliminate health care benefits would alleviate this problem. The amount of the cap would be fixed at the dollar value of the health care benefits at the time the individual retired or when the employer ended its health care benefits for retirees, whichever is higher. For this to be a win/win for retirees and employers, companies would be entitled to tax credits as an offset against cap dollars paid. Will you sign such legislation?
3 - Federal Agencies’ Rules - Federal agencies have created rules that are harmful to retirees because they circumvent the intent of legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President. Will you take action to reverse the federal agencies in the two examples below?
A - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Rule - allows employers to reduce or eliminate health care benefits to individuals age 65 or older who are eligible for Medicare. The agency is not protecting older Americans as required by the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Will you sign legislation that reverses this ruling? Yes… No…
B - U.S. Treasury Department’s Revenue Ruling 2008-7 allows companies to selectively freeze pension accruals of older workers in certain cases without violating laws that were intended to protect retirement nest eggs. Treasury’s ruling is inconsistent with the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Will you sign legislation that reverses this ruling?
4 – Health
- The National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) proposed five principles; they
are: 1) Health Care Coverage for all; 2) Cost Management; 3) Improvement of
Health Care Quality and Safety; 4) Equitable Financing, and 5) Simplified
Administration. Does your program for national health care reform include all
five (5) of these principals and will you sign legislation that supports these
five (5) principles?
5 – Medicare Reform - Do you support the privatization of Medicare scheduled to begin in 2010 as stated in the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act? Yes… No …
6 - Medicare Buy-In
- Will you support Medicare “buy-in” whereby retirees under the age of 65 are
offered an opportunity to buy into Medicare coverage at Medicare cost levels?
7 - Medicare Part D Company Subsidies
A - Will you support legislation to increase the Medicare Part D subsidy paid to employers to offer better prescription drug coverage than provided in Part D, and who agree to maintain their prescription drug plans at a superior level?
B- Subsidies provided under the Medicare Prescription Drug Act of 2003 are used to pay operating expenses and inflate corporate profits Will you urge Congress to amend the 2003 Act to require that subsidies paid to companies be used only to pay for retiree health care benefits and account for how the subsidies are used? Yes… No…
Medicare Part D Interruptions
- Will you support Medicare legislation preventing in-year interruption of
Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage and formulary changes?
9 - Medicare Part – D Prescription Drug Costs - The prescription drug lobby has compromised judgment and this industry has been coddled long enough. American retirees need a leader who will stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and act in the best interests of retirees and other consumers:
A - Prescription Drug Importation - Will you support legislation allowing American consumers to take advantage of the global marketplace by importing safe, lower-priced FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada, Europe and other countries that have high quality standards? Yes… No…
B - Prescription Drug Bidding - Will you support legislation for Medicare Part D that would allow the Medicare Administration to stipulate formularies and seek competitive bids from drug companies? Yes… No…
C - Generic Drugs - Will you support increasing FDA funding for the purpose of clearing the generic drug approval backlog and to maintain a minimum backlog of no more than three months? (If a three-month backlog is not supported please indicate what length of backlog you would support and be willing to fund?) Yes… No…
10 - Deductibility of Health Care Premiums - Will you urge Congress to pass a bill that grants federal tax deductibility for health care premiums without being limited by or subject to the current 7.5% of AGI limitation imposed on deductibles? Yes… No…
11 - Retirement Account Rollovers - Will you support legislation enabling tax-free and penalty-free rollover
transfers from 401k funds, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), Simplified
Employee Pension (SEP) plans and other individual retirement accounts to
Healthcare Savings Accounts (HSAs) and permit the tax-free use of such accounts
to pay for healthcare premiums and care costs not covered by health care
12- Social Security - Will you support and sign legislation that ensures Social Security will be financially secure and continue to provide the current, or improved, level of retirement income benefits for present and future retirees? Yes… No…
13 – Taxes On Social Security - Will you support and sign legislation that t amends the tax codes to eliminate or reduce federal and state taxes on all Social Security income and / or allow a tax credit for taxes withheld? Yes… No…
The NRLN looks forward to sharing your responses (or lack thereof) with our membership. Please either email your responses to me at bkad@sbcglobal or mail to the NRLN’s Washington address. Your efforts to provide answers to our questions will be greatly appreciated and will be useful in helping members decide which presidential candidate to vote for on November 4th.
Bill Kadereit, President
National Retiree Legislative Network