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Published by Ed Beltram · June 30 at 12:42 PM

Love the dialogue, get ready for full disclosure and NRLN's proposals to save Soc Sec and Medicare the old fashioned way, coming this week and next. "LIKE" OUR POSTS BUT MOST IMPORTANT TO "LIKE OUR PAGE" AT TOP OF NEWS FEED - GET BREAKING NEWS AS IT HAPPENS!


Published by Ed Beltram · June 25 at 1:39 PM

SOCIAL SECURITY CHECK’S REDUCED BUYING POWER

Since 2000, the buying power of the monthly Social Security check has fallen by more than a third, according to an annual report released June 21 by the Senior Citizens League. In other words, the cost of goods and services common among retirees have collectively risen faster than the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

The report stated there was a 4% loss in Social Security buying power from January 2017 to January 2018 and a 34% decrease since 2000.

While COLA increases since 2000 cumulatively have equaled 46%, typical retiree expenses grew by 96.3%, the study shows. Of the 39 costs analyzed in the report, 26 grew faster than the percentage increase in COLAs from 2000 to 2018.

Examples of the health care cost increases since 2000 include:

  • Medicare Part B monthly premium 195%
  • Medicare supplemental plans (Medigap) 158%
  • Prescription drugs annual out-of-pocket 188%

Since 2010, the average COLA has been 1.2%. There was no COLA in 2016, followed by a 0.3% in 2017 and 2% in 2018.


Published by Ed Beltram · June 19 at 10:46 AM

NRLN PRESIDENT’S FORUM: MEDICARE COVERAGE OUTSIDE U.S.

Summer officially begins this Thursday, June 21, and many Americans will be traveling across the nation and to foreign countries. If you will be traveling outside the U.S and have traditional Medicare Part A and B, you need to be aware that in general, health care you receive isn’t covered. Medicare drug plans don't cover prescription drugs you buy outside the U.S.

If you have a Medigap policy supplementing your traditional Medicare it may offer additional coverage for health care services or supplies that you get outside the U.S. Before you travel outside the U.S., talk with your Medigap plan’s insurance agent to get more information about your Medigap coverage while traveling.

If you have a Medicare Advantage health plan (instead of Original Medicare), check with your plan’s insurance agent to see if the plan provides coverage outside the U.S.

Read the entire NRLN President’s Forum message from Bill Kadereit with more details on the NRLN website home page at www.nrln.org.


Published by Ed Beltram – June 6, 2018

FEWER PRESCRIPTIONS BUT SPENDING MORE

A study by the Health and Human Services Inspector General’s Office has revealed that Medicare participants filled fewer prescriptions for brand-name drugs but spent more anyway. The study blames drug manufacturers raising prices for squeezing older Americans and taxpayers.

From 2011 to 2015 (most recent years available), there was a 17% drop in the number of prescriptions for brand-name medications under Medicare Part D, but the cost for Medicare beneficiaries rose by 40%. The most persistent problem for Medicare beneficiaries is the high cost of brand-name maintenance medications for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cholesterol and asthma.

The study found that the average costs for the 200 branded drugs with the most prescriptions in 2015 for Medicare participants rose at nearly double the rate of increase for branded drugs as a whole.

An Associate Press article with details of the study is available at: https://apnews.com/2a4936fd7bc44ba699662c21bd5869a2/Feds:-Skimping-can't-save-seniors-from-rising-med-cost


Published by Ed Beltram · June 18 at 10:26 AM
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URGE YOUR SENATORS TO PASS CREATES ACT

A bill that the NRLN has supported, S. 974, Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act, was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 16 to 5 vote on June 14.

Go to: http://www.congressweb.com/NRLN/72 to email the NRLN’s sample letter urging your Senators to support bringing the bill to the Senate floor and for them to vote yes for the CREATES Act. You may also use the NRLN’s multi-channel features to post on Facebook, send a Tweet and make phone calls to Capitol Hill offices.

The CREATES Act targets abusive delay tactics that are being used by brand-name pharmaceutical companies to block market entry of more affordable generic drugs. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the bill would result in a $3.3 billion net decrease in the federal deficit. The savings to Americans is likely to be far greater.

The first delay tactic addressed by the CREATES Act is when brand-name drug companies prevent potential generic competitors from obtaining samples of the branded product, so the generic company cannot perform the testing necessary to show that its product is equivalent to the brand-name product, a prerequisite for FDA approval. The second delay tactic addressed by the CREATES Act occurs when brand-name manufacturers whose products require a distribution safety protocol refuse to allow generic competitors to participate in that safety protocol, again undermining the generic’s ability to gain FDA approval.


Published by Ed Beltram – June 5, 2018

HAPPENINGS ON THE HILL - MAY 2018

Alyson Parker, NRLN Executive Director, covered a number of important retirement subjects in her Happenings on the Hill report for May. To read the entire text, go to the NRLN website home page at www.nrln.org. Here is a brief summary of the report:

The first subject was on President Trump’s blueprint to rein in the high cost of prescription drugs. She noted the NRLN is disappointed that the President did not embrace two policies advocated by the NRLN - importation from Canada and permitting Medicare to negotiate drug prices. One positive, however, is that the Administration is engaged on this issue, which puts pressure on Congress to act.

The CREATES Act, a bill the NRLN supports to end practices employed by large drug makers to keep generic competitors out of the market, has garnered more supporters on both side of the aisle during the last few months. Many on The Hill believe the bill may be considered early in the fall.

The Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multi-Employer Pension Plans held a May 17th hearing and examined the state of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) with Director Tom Reeder testifying. A report is due from this committee in November. Speculations are there is only a twenty-five percent chance of a multi-employer pension funding fix this year.

The Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions recently held a hearing on ways to update ERISA and giving workers and families tools to save for retirement. Alyson met with Subcommittee staff last week about the NRLN’s proposed legislative solutions and will continue to work with Rep. Tim Walberg’s (MI-07) committee to address protecting retirees’ pension benefits.

The PBGC released its Projections Report on May 31st which showed PBGC’s Multi-Employer Program is likely to become insolvent by the end of FY 2025. While there remain some risks, PBGC’s Single-Employer Program is likely to eliminate its deficit sooner than previously anticipated.


Published by Ed Beltram – June 4, 2018

NRLN PRESIDENT’S FORUM SUMMARY: MAY WAS VERY ACTIVE FOR MESSAGES

May was a very active month for NRLN messages – emails, website and Facebook postings. In case you may have missed one or more of the messages, here is a summary.

The May 2 President’s Forum message was Holes in the Safety Net – Social Security. It focused on how important Social Security is to millions of people who depend on its monthly payments and the funding crisis that Social Security is heading toward. The May 9 Forum message was Holes in the Safety Net – Medicare. It focused on how important Medicare is to millions of people and the funding crisis that Medicare is heading toward.

The May 24 Forum message reported that over 200 Chrysler retirees have received letters that their pensions had been miscalculated and the pension plan sponsor wants the overpayments back in a fairly short time. On May 14, NRLN, NCRO and PRC had two meetings in Washington, DC with federal agencies to present proposals to address the “recoupment” issue. The NRLN is also exploring the potential for legislation to provide fairness for retirees in pay-status whose pensions have a calculation error and owe money back to the pension plan. The entire text of the three forum messages are available at: https://www.nrln.org/archives.htm#pres.

Three other messages were issued in May. On May 14, the NRLN invited members to participate in its 2018 online survey. The link to the survey through June 15 is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NRLN2018. An NRLN Action Alert was issued on May 16. It noted that President Trump’s blueprint to lower the price of prescription drugs, did not call for Congress to pass laws allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices or importing safe, lower priced medicines from Canada. The NRLN’s sample letter urged members of Congress to pass existing bills authorizing these policies to institute real competition. Go to: https://www.nrln.org/SE.html#/71, enter your street address, zip code and click go to access the letter. The NRLN announced on May 23, that data is posted on the NRLN website to identify how much Representatives, Senators and Presidential Candidates received in contributions from the Pharmaceutical and Health Products Industry during four election cycles. Access the information at: https://www.nrln.org/moneyinpharma.html.

Twelve Facebook postings, including brief versions of the six messages noted above, were posted on www.facebook/nrln1 during May. The messages reached over 173,000 Facebook users. All past NRLN Facebook messages are available in the NRLN Archives at: https://www.nrln.org/facebookposts.html. Also, during May the www.nrln.org website experienced over 28,000 visitors and 38,000 sessions, where a visitor made more than one visit a day.

Published by Ed Beltram 5/25/18

NRLN PRESIDENT’S FORUM: PENSION ‘RECOUPMENT’ FROM CHRYSLER RETIREES

Have you ever heard of a retiree who is receiving a pension and years after he/she retired received a letter saying his/her pension benefit had been miscalculated and the pension plan sponsor wants the overpayment back in a very short time? This is the “recoupment” situation being is faced by over 200 members of the National Chrysler Retirement Organization, an NRLN retiree association.

On May 14, Jay Kuhnie, President, NCRO; Karen Ferguson, Director, Pension Rights Center; Alyson Parker, NRLN Executive Director, and I had two meetings in Washington, DC to present common sense proposals to address the “recoupment” issue. Our first meeting was with Employee Benefits Security Administration officials at the Department of Labor. The other meeting was with officials at the Department of Treasury.

We recognize that a pension plan sponsor has the right to recover overpayment of a pension benefit and return the money to the pension trust fund. However, we advocated there should be clearer guidance in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) that does not create an undue hardship for the retiree.

To read the entire NRLN President’s Forum message, go to Archives at www.nrln.org.
Published by Ed Beltram 5/29/18

FINANCIALLY UNPREPARED FOR RETIREMENT

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was established in 1974 to give employees retirement income security. However, according to a study from the Government Accountability Office, "About half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings (such as in a 401(k) plan or an IRA)."

Even those who have saved have saved poorly. Among those households of residents ages 55 to 64 with some retirement savings, the median amount saved is $104,000. For those 65 to 74, the amount is roughly $148,000 per household. And, with 70% of the civilian population having access to a retirement plan and 91% access for government employees, it’s a wonder there is such a lack of retirement readiness.


Published by Ed Beltram · May 16

NRLN ACTION ALERT: CONGRESS MUST ALSO ACT TO CUT DRUG PRICES

President Trump’s blueprint announced May 11 for lowering prescription drug costs did not call on Congress to pass laws allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices or importing safe, lower priced medicines from Canada. Go to the NRLN’s Action Alert at http://www.congressweb.com/NRLN/71 to tell your members of Congress they should pass bills authorizing these policies immediately to institute real competition and provide immediate relief for Americans. Seniors and families don't have time to wait to see if the President’s initiatives lower prices.

For too long many members of Congress have sold out to political contributions and lobbying from the pharmaceutical industry. The Pharmaceutical and Health Products industry contributed $23.6 million to incumbents in Congress during the 2015-16 election cycle, according to the FEC. Through April 30, in the 2017-18 election cycle, incumbents have received from pharma $12.9 million. Pharma’s lobbying expenses surpassed $171 million last year.

Americans should be concerned that these contributions and lobbying pressure creates undue influence on many members of Congress. Billions of dollars in savings are held up without a vote in House and Senate committees and this plays into pharma’s interests are being served.

OpenSecrets.Com reports that chairmen, ranking members and others on key committees such as the House’s Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce and the Senate’s Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions have each received hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. Republicans and Democrats alike stymie bills that could reduce the cost of prescription drugs for their constituents. It is time for Congress to pass competitive bidding and importation bills.


Published by Ed Beltram · May 7 at 11:39am

CBS 60 MINUTES REPORT – THE PROBLEM WITH PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES

CBS 60 Minutes did a report on Sunday, May 6, on “The Problem with Prescription Drug Prices”. If you did not see the report the NRLN suggests you go to https://www.cbsnews.com/…/the-problem-with-prescription-dr…/ and either watch the video or read the text of the report posted below the video.

The report provides insights into how a drug, Acthar, that sold for $40 a vial in 2001 now cost more than $40,000 a vial without any additional research and development. The report also sheds light on how the drug company rewards some doctors for prescribing Acthar. In addition, Express Scripts, a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM), that is suppose to negotiate low drug prices for its clients often benefits when a drug has a high price.

The report notes that in 2015 Medicare spent a half billion dollars on Acthar and Medicare is not allowed to negotiate drug prices due to a law passed by Congress. Also, in Canada and Europe a drug called Synacthen that treats the same condition as Acthar is sold for $33 a vial.

The NRLN advocates passage of bills in Congress that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and import safe and cheaper drugs from Canada. Go to https://www.nrln.org/SE.html#/68 to email the NRLN’s sample letters to your members of Congress to urge the passage of bills on these issues.


Published by Ed Beltram · May 2 at 11:27pm ·

HAPPENINGS ON THE HILL: APRIL 2018

The multiemployer pension plans’ insolvency continues to be the focus of members of Congress. The select committee that was formed to address and suggest a fix for the severe underfunding of the multiemployer plans is well underway. It had their first Congressional hearing on April 18th that focused on the history and structure of the multiemployer pension system since many members do not understand the multiemployer system. This is the first of many hearings before their November deadline to reach a consensus on how to fix the multiemployer pension plans that benefits millions of Americans.

The PBGC held their Participant Stakeholder meeting in late April where they gave an overview of the financial status of the multiemployer and single employer plans. The single employer plan is 11 billion dollars in the hole, but will be solvent within the decade assuming there is not another economic crisis.

Go to www.nrln.org to read the entire report by Alyson Parker, NRLN Executive Director.


Published by Ed Beltram · May 2 at 8:07am ·

NRLN PRESIDENT’S FORUM: HOLES IN THE SAFETY NET – SOCIAL SECURITY

This is the first of two NRLN President’s Forum messages that I’m calling “Holes in the Safety Net” because Social Security and Medicare have long been considered a “safety net” for older Americans. This message focuses on how important Social Security is to millions of people who depend on its monthly payments and the funding crisis that Social Security is heading toward. My follow up message will address Medicare.

When Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security in 1933, the program was designed to be a “safety net” for Americans who had little or no financial support. Now, millions of Americans are relying heavily on Social Security for their retirement income.

Here are a few facts about Social Security from the Social Security Administration.

  • 63 million Americans will receive approximately one trillion dollars in Social Security benefits in 2018.
  • 9 out of 10 individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.
  • 50% of married couples and 71% of unmarried persons receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security.
  • 23% of married couples and about 43% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.
  • $1,326 is the average monthly Social Security retirement benefit--$15,912 a year.
  • 40% of Americans aged 65 and older would have incomes below the poverty line without Social Security.

Go to www.nrln.org to read the entire message.


Holes in the Safety Net – Social Security
May 2,2018

This is the first of two NRLN President’s Forum messages that I’m calling “Holes in the Safety Net” because Social Security and Medicare have long been considered a “safety net” for older Americans. This message focuses on how important Social Security is to millions of people who depend on its monthly payments and the funding crisis that Social Security is heading toward. My follow up message will address Medicare.

When Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Social Security in 1933, the program was designed to be a “safety net” for Americans who had little or no financial support. Now, millions of Americans are relying heavily on Social Security for their retirement income.

Here are a few facts about Social Security from the Social Security Administration.

  • 63 million Americans will receive approximately one trillion dollars in Social Security benefits in 2018.
  • 9 out of 10 individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits.
  • 50% of married couples and 71% of unmarried persons receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security.
  • 23% of married couples and about 43% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.
  • $1,326 is the average monthly Social Security retirement benefit--$15,912 a year.
  • 40% of Americans aged 65 and older would have incomes below the poverty line without Social Security.

An estimated 173 million workers are covered under Social Security.

  • 46% of the workforce in private industry has no private pension coverage.
  • 39% of workers report that they and/or their spouse have not personally saved any money for retirement.

According to the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees' July 2017 report to Congress, Social Security has an unfunded liability of $34 trillion in the 75-year window between now and 2091. Social Security will begin paying out more in benefits than it's generating in revenue by 2022. The program will exhaust the surplus built up over the past 35 years by 2034 when Social Security’s current approximately $3 trillion in asset reserves will be completely depleted. This includes cashing in all of the IOUs the Social Security trust fund holds in lieu of cash Congress took to pay bills.

Workers and employers who equally pay a total of 12.4% payroll tax on earned income up to $127,200, generate the bulk of revenue for the program. This will ensure that Social Security doesn't go totally bankrupt.

To address the completely depleted asset reserves, the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman has proposed a 31% cut in benefits, raising the full retirement age to 69, reducing benefits for above-average earners and eliminating the cost-of-living adjustment for individuals earning more than $85,000 (or $170,000 for married couples).

The Trustees’ report also identified to Congress what needs to be done to sustain Social Security. The report stated that a permanent 2.83% increase in payroll tax would solve the Social Security Trust funding problem for 75 years. This assumes the total 2.83% funding increase began in 2017 and is left in place thereafter.

In an August 18, 2017 petition to President Trump signed by 6,960 NRLN members and during the NRLN’s September 11-13.2017 Fly-In to Washington, DC we advocated negotiating a “Grand Bargain” proposal using the upcoming tax reform legislation to rescue Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years.

Unfortunately, neither the President or Congress paid attention to the Trustees’ report or the NRLN’s proposal and they continue to ignore the political and long-economic consequences that Social Security and Medicare are headed toward.

The NRLN is not giving up on its efforts to preserve Social Security and Medicare for the current beneficiaries, our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We are working on another proposal that I’ll share with you before long.


Published by Bill Kadereit · April 25 at 10:26am ·

DANGER LURKS: REAL FACTS SENIORS OF ALL AGES NEED TO BE AWARE OF!

Please read the list of questions below and decide what your answers might be, then read our assertions (yes, no etc.) and compare them with your views.

Are seniors over age 65 (roughly 63 million today – with 10,000 new every day) aware that privatization of Medicare is underway now and that it will implode Medicare A & B plans, making them prohibitively expensive? Not many!

Can seniors over age 50 and planning for retirement assume that the Medicare and Social Security programs they paid into for 30+ years will be there? No!

Are those over age 40 and others saving enough to compensate for such benefit losses? Not Many!

Is there a plan to deal with personal income and cost issues that people age 49 to 65+ will experience in about 16 years (2034) when there will be 75 million Americans over age 65? No! Will any of them be our kids? You bet!

Is there an economic forecast of GDP for 2060 when 1 of every 4 Americans will be over age 65 (100 million residents), will have lower income, higher healthcare costs and less purchasing power? No! Will any of those affected be our grandkids?

Are current Legislative and Executive branch incumbents worried about 2034 when Social Security and Medicare are unable to pay full benefits or worried about 2060? Not many Republicans or Democrats!

In our next series of postings we will provide you verified facts that combined with prior retiree member’s surveys input have formed the basis for NRLN legislative proposals and our support for or against existing Medicare and Social Security legislation. We call these our proactive whitepapers or position papers.

Following that, in June, we will ask you to also take our bi-annual survey which those currently on the NRLN email database will be asked to take in May.


Published by Bill Kadereit · April 25 at 10:26am ·

DANGER LURKS: REAL FACTS SENIORS OF ALL AGES NEED TO BE AWARE OF!

Please read the list of questions below and decide what your answers might be, then read our assertions (yes, no etc.) and compare them with your views.

Are seniors over age 65 (roughly 63 million today – with 10,000 new every day) aware that privatization of Medicare is underway now and that it will implode Medicare A & B plans, making them prohibitively expensive? Not many!

Can seniors over age 50 and planning for retirement assume that the Medicare and Social Security programs they paid into for 30+ years will be there? No!

Are those over age 40 and others saving enough to compensate for such benefit losses? Not Many!

Is there a plan to deal with personal income and cost issues that people age 49 to 65+ will experience in about 16 years (2034) when there will be 75 million Americans over age 65? No! Will any of them be our kids? You bet!

Is there an economic forecast of GDP for 2060 when 1 of every 4 Americans will be over age 65 (100 million residents), will have lower income, higher healthcare costs and less purchasing power? No! Will any of those affected be our grandkids?

Are current Legislative and Executive branch incumbents worried about 2034 when Social Security and Medicare are unable to pay full benefits or worried about 2060? Not many Republicans or Democrats!

In our next series of postings we will provide you verified facts that combined with prior retiree member’s surveys input have formed the basis for NRLN legislative proposals and our support for or against existing Medicare and Social Security legislation. We call these our proactive whitepapers or position papers.

Following that, in June, we will ask you to also take our bi-annual survey which those currently on the NRLN email database will be asked to take in May.


Published by Ed Beltram · April 16 at 11:31am ·

REAL FACTS SENIORS NEED TO BE AWARE OF!

Over the next few months Ed Beltram, NRLN’s VP of Communications and I will be posting articles on our Facebook/NRLN1 Page that also will be posted on our website at www.nrln.org and that will be used as Action Alerts requesting our fast growing member base to send messages to members of Congress and others.

The NRLN board and member Association and Chapter leaders and our Individual retired and working Members from over 300 U.S. companies (over two million covered by assorted pension plans) will read a non-partisan series of disclosures and be asked to send Action Alerts, letters to editors, letters and petitions to members of the Executive Branch etc.

What you read will be factual, references included, and be very pointed in order to expose what we see as an effort to undermine, or eliminate, not just modify Medicare and Social Security while giving lip service to taking action to cut government waste in these programs or to reduce the real cost of healthcare. Many of you have already responded to Ed’s two postings about Medicare being undermined by CML subsidies authorized to prop up Medicare Advantage plans in 2019.


Published by Ed Beltram · April 11 at 11:16am ·

1st of 2 – CMS DESTROYING TRADITIONAL MEDICARE!

The NRLN has been watching with serious concern the actions of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS is using its “innovation center” to undermine traditional Medicare. It is incentivizing insurance companies that receive billions a year in taxpayer subsidies for their Medicare Advantage plans to compete for beneficiaries in traditional Medicare Part A (hospitals) and Part B (doctors). Last year at least two insurers were sued for cheating to collect $400 million in incentive subsidies. Why do insurers deserve subsidies paid for with our payroll taxes?

The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 gave birth to the Medicare Advantage program with the idea that privatization would cost less than traditional Medicare. However, the federal government pays more for a participant in an insurance company’s Medicare Advantage plan than it does to provide traditional Medicare for a beneficiary. About 21.4 million people are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, with 37.7 million in traditional Medicare.

In its announcement this month CMS is going even further to allow insurance companies to attract Americans turning 65 and lure individuals away from traditional Medicare. CMS expanded how it defines the “primarily health-related” benefits that insurers are allowed to include in their 2019 Medicare Advantage policies. Air conditioners for people with asthma, home modifications, rides to medical appointments, healthy groceries, home-delivered meals, etc. are expected be among the new benefits added only to Medicare Advantage coverage when new federal rules take effect next year. There are no similar new benefits and subsidies for Medicare Part A and B.

Also, CMS has announced that it will increase payments in 2019 to insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans by an average of 3.4% next year, allowing them to offer more benefits. That’s well above the 1.84% bump the CMS initially proposed and higher than the 2.95% increase for 2018.


Published by Ed Beltram · April 10 at 12:55pm ·

CMS CHANGES FALL SHORT:

The Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS) announced on Monday, April 3, plans it said are aimed at increasing competition and reducing drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

CMS will allow insurers to include certain low-cost generic drugs in their approved lists at any point in the year. Also, the agency hopes to broaden beneficiaries' choice of where they get their medications by clarifying that insurers must give all interested pharmacies an opportunity to participate in their networks. CMS will also reduce the maximum amount that low-income beneficiaries have to pay for certain medicines, known as biosimilars.

While the changes will benefit some Americans on Medicare, the NRLN believes that it would have been much more beneficial if the administration worked with Congress on legislation to allow Medicare to do competitive bidding on the price of prescription drugs and allow importation of safe, lower priced drugs from Canada.


Published by Ed Beltram · July 10 at 9:42 AM ·

ARTICLE #3 OF 6: SOCIAL SECURITY FINANCIAL STATUS AND THE 75-YEAR DEFICIT LIABILIITY

The 2018 Social Security (SS) Trustees’ Report for year 2017 disclosed that 174 million workers and their companies paid in $911 billion in payroll taxes. The government paid interest of $85 billion, for a total of $996 billion. Benefit payments of $952 billion were made to 45 million retirees, 6 million survivors of deceased participants and 10 million disabled and dependents of disabled workers; a total of 61 million. One million new benefit recipients were offset by 3 million new taxpayers in 2017, resulting in $45 billion net income Vs $35 billion in 2016. So, how could SS be in financial trouble?

Of the 6.2% payroll tax on earned income (up to $127,400 in 2018), 1.185% goes into the Disability Insurance (DI) trust; 5.015% goes into the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust. Businesses match this 6.2% employee tax, making the total tax 12.4%. Business employee / owners double or 12.4%.

Congress did not steal SS money, they borrowed surplus cash until 2010 (no surplus), but dug a big hole by spending it on other federal programs. Debt owed SS mounted and was $2.892 trillion at end of 2017. Treasury pays interest and will pay back the debt by 2034, when even with the debt repaid, what is called the 75-year deficit must be still be plugged or SS benefits must be cut by 17 to 21%. Why? House and Senate members ignored Trustee annual reports!

Trustees reported every year for 35 years that retirees over age 65 would grow to 75 million by 2035 and 100 million (1 in 4 Americans) by 2060. SS actuaries reported we must pay in more annually to plug the 75-year deficit. CONGRESS KICKED THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD, 35 TIMES IN A ROW! No tax increases or budget cuts.

The 75-year deficit is estimated at 2.84% of 2017 taxable payroll of $911 billion or $25.9 billion. If payroll taxes are not raised, other federal costs must be cut rather than imposing simplistic proposals to cut SS benefits and/or raise the eligibility age.

The NRLN GRAND BARGAIN Will Challenge Congress and Federal Agencies to Fill this $25.87 Billion Deficit Gap.

Watch for Next Article: Medicare financial status and the 75-year deficit liability.


Published by Joseph Sciulli · July 6 at 11:02 AM

Article #2 of 6: Kicking the Can Down the Road

Politicians, who worry mostly about raising their personal and political party campaign contributions appear biased. If conservative and motivated by the need to be reelected, they call Social Security and Medicare entitlements and want to shift money from the Mandatory to Discretionary side of the ledger. If liberal and motivated by the need to be reelected, they call Social Security and Medicare given rights, they want to increase benefits and to shift Discretionary money to the Mandatory side of the ledger.

The addition of Disability Insurance to Social Security and the additions of Medicaid, Medicare Part D, and the introduction of federal subsidies designed to undermine Medicare Part A & B Plans conflict the simplicity of Social Security and Medicare and have required billions more payroll tax and federal income tax revenue. Increased benefits, the costly addition of Medicaid, and federal subsidies paid to health care insurance companies to create and grow Medicare Advantage (MA) plans (that increase Medicare costs) have lit a political firestorm. Should payroll or income taxes be used to subsidize insurers?

Conservatives want to shift more cost of benefits to retirees and would not raise federal income or payroll taxes; liberals would increase benefits and would raise federal income but not payroll taxes. The fight over who pays and how much never ends. Continued Mandatory versus Discretionary spending debates overrule common sense. There are very few if any true problems solvers in Washington, D.C.

It has been 35 years (1983) since payroll tax rates were raised to account for some of the baby boomer growth. Every year since then, Trustees of both programs have sent annual reports to Congress warning them that added benefits, increases in cost of living and rapid growth in over age 65 seniors from under 50 million in 2010 to 75 million by 2034 and 100 million (25% of all Americans) by 2060 require payroll tax increases or reduced benefit costs or cuts in benefits. Senate and House Republicans and Democrats ignored Trustees and chose reelection and party control needs over reason, for 35 years!

These events pushed both Trusts toward insolvency. America’s age 50+ constituents and their kids and grandkids may pay a huge price for this “kicking of the can down the road”. Cutting benefits or raising taxes are not in NRLN’s “Grand Bargain” proposal!

It is time for seniors to rally behind a commonsense plan that will work!

Watch for Next Article: Social Security financial status and the 75-year deficit liability.

Bill Kadereit, NRLN President

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Published by Ed Beltram · July 2, 2018 at 9:47 AM

ARTICLE #1 OF 6: INTRODUCTION TO NRLN’S ‘GRAND BARGAIN’ PROPOSAL

This article sets the framework for NRLN’s “Grand Bargain” proposal to save Social Security and Medicare. It is a nonpartisan proposal that could save Social Security and Medicare for 75 years (to 2093) and significantly reduce the federal budget and deficit.

The Grand Bargain (GB) is based on conclusions reached from an analysis of data published in: the 2000 and 2010 U.S Census Bureau Projections of Population by Sex and Age for years 2015 to 2060; the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) April 9, 2018 Budget and Economic Outlook for 2018-2028; the 2018 Social Security Board of Trustees Annual Report for plan year 2017; the 2018 Medicare Board of Trustees Annual Report for plan year 2017; and finally, the House Budget Committee “Budget for a Brighter American Future”, June 19, 2018.

The Social Security Trust (including the Disability trust) and the Medicare Trust are both headed for insolvency within 15 years. This article and those to come are intended to demystify the political spin and misleading rhetoric about terms like “Welfare”, “Entitlement” and “Mandatory” spending and who is paying for these lifeline programs.

As we see it, both programs are in fact federal contribution plans and both are similar to defined benefit pension plans in that it was intended that each be funded and managed by Trusts overseen by U.S. Executive Branch Cabinet members. Therefore, payments to those eligible for benefits are not entitlement or welfare payments (negative connotation – as in handouts). These benefits are deemed “Mandatory”, not Discretionary expenditures. Paying for federal and state highways and infrastructure, bridges to nowhere, government inefficiency and waste and fraud, all using our income tax revenue, are Discretionary spending programs paid for with income tax revenue and coveted by conservative members of Congress from both parties. Using our Discretionary income tax revenue to support Mandatory benefits is abhorrent to conservative politicians who refer to Mandatory benefit compensation as entitlements.

Employers and employees each pay 7.65% or a total of 15.3% to support Social Security and Medicare combined: 12.4% (6.20% each), subject to the 2018 $127,400 maximum taxable earnings limitation, into the Social Security Trust; and 2.9% (1.45% each) into the Medicare Trust. For that, each program pays benefits according to Social Security credits earned and, in the case of Medicare, in accordance with plan benefit schedules.

Watch for Article #2 of 6: Kicking the can down the road

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Published by Ed Beltram June 20

LET’S TRY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

In our May and early June website and Facebook messages we asked questions and offered some answers about whether or not Medicare privatization was underway today and if privatization could eventually eliminate Medicare. We asked whether or not you were aware that most 40-year-olds were not saving enough to retire at age 65 and pointed out that by 2034 there would be 75 million Americans over age 65, up from 60 million today and that by 2060 there would be nearly 100 million over age 65 (one for every four Americans).

Our kids in their 40s and 50s today and their kids behind them had better start saving more or they will have lower income, higher healthcare costs and less purchasing power to retire on. Through your nrln.org website and Facebook.com/NRLN1 comments, you have told us you are concerned and that there are millions of working people who can’t save very much.

Regarding my predictions on privatization of Medicare, on Tuesday, June 19, the Hill reported that “House Republicans offered a budget proposal that would cut mandatory spending… “including $537 billion in cuts to Medicare and $1.5 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and other health programs.” Privatization of Medicare would replace plans A & B with private plans and was cited as the way to cut benefits!

The NRLN has been very concerned about a Congress that ignores the future and stays focused instead on getting elected and reelected over the future of our economy. Lower retirement income, higher healthcare costs and overall less purchasing power without Medicare will leave 100 million Americans at risk. This is senseless, there is a better way!

We have analyzed Social Security and Medicare Trustee 2017 plan year annual reports issued two weeks ago and your comments. We will be sending you a series of messages about relevant data that we will offer in NRLN’s proposal that could save Medicare and Social Security and reduce the U.S. budget and deficit without raising taxes. We need you to sign others up to receive NRLN emails at nrln.org and Facebook posts and to respond to requests asking you to write to Congress and Executive Branch members. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent you should understand the facts and the consequences your kids, grandkids and to some extent each of us may face.

Let’s don’t be all bark and no bite like our predecessors, let’s try to make a difference we can be proud of.

Bill Kadereit, NRLN President


Published by Ed Beltram · June 13 at 2:19pm

AMERICA’S FUTURE RETIREMENT CRISIS

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report states, the nation’s current retirement system is made up of three main pillars: 1) Social Security. 2) Employer-sponsored pensions or retirement savings plans. 3) individual savings.

Last week the Trustees for Social Security reported the total costs of Social Security will exceed total income this year for the first time since 1982 and, after 2034, Social Security will only be able to cover about three-quarters of benefits.

A study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) reflects there is currently a $28 trillion gap in America’s pension systems.

One in five Americans have no retirement savings at all according to a report from Northwestern Mutual. Nearly two thirds of people with a savings account or plan are certain their money will run out sooner than they hope, which would leave them only with their Social Security.

Policy makers need to consider the financial shortfall facing Social Security; the declining security of employer-provided pension plans, and the lack of many Americans planning for their retirement finances.


Published by Ed Beltram · May 30 at 8:06pm

ASKING PHARMACIST FOR CASH PRICE MAY RESULT IN SAVINGS

As part of President Donald Trump’s blueprint to bring down prescription costs, Medicare officials have warned insurers that “gag orders” keeping pharmacists from alerting seniors that they could save money by paying cash — rather than using their insurance — are “unacceptable and contrary” to the government’s effort to promote price transparency.

However, Kaiser Health News reported on May 30 that Medicare officials stopped short of requiring insurers to lift such restrictions on pharmacists. While a simple question could result in savings for millions of beneficiaries, KHN noted that Medicare’s website and annual handbook doesn’t mention it.


Published by Ed Beltram 5/25/18

PHARMA CONTRIBUTIONS TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

If you responded to the NRLN Action Alert (https://www.nrln.org/SE.html#/71) that was issued last Thursday you read in the letter to your Representative and Senators that some members of Congress have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.

Bob Martina, NRLN Vice President – Grassroots, spent several hours digging through the data in OpenSecrets.Org, Center for Responsible Politics, to identify how much Representatives, Senators and Presidential Candidates received in contributions from the Pharmaceutical and Health Products Industry during election cycles for 2011-2012; 2013-2014; 2015-2016 and 2017 through April 30, 2018.

The information is available for your review on the NRLN website at: https://www.nrln.org/moneyinpharma.html In case your browser has a problem accessing this link, go the NRLN website home page at www.nrln.org and scroll to the bottom of the center column to the link for the contributions information.

If you haven’t sent the NRLN’s sample letter, with your comments edited in, please do so today to urge your members of Congress to support passing bills to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and allow importation of safe, lower priced drugs from Canada. If you are troubled by the dollars your Representative and/or Senators have received from pharma use the NRLN’s website to email your personal letter. Go to www.nrln.org and click on the red flashing icon “Write Personal Email to Your Members of Congress”.


Published by Ed Beltram · 5/16 ·

NRLN PRESIDENT ASKS PRESIDENT TRUMP FOR CLARIFICATION ON Rx COMPETITION

As a follow-up to President Trump announcing his blueprint to lower drug prices, NRLN President Bill Kadereit has sent a letter to the President requesting a clearer understanding of how he and HHS Secretary Alex Azar intend to create competition to gain lower prescription drug prices.

The letter pointed out: “The NRLN has repeatedly noted that whenever two or more Medicare Part D generic prescription drugs or branded and patented drugs solve the same medical problem that Medicare should be authorized by law to issue a “request for quote” for volume-based bids and be able to award business to one or more suppliers; REAL COMPETITION! We have met with Members of Congressional committees, studied CBO and other reports and assert there are no studies to support that billions of dollars could not be saved, annually. The facts are, generics held 20% market share in 2006 but today 90% of prescriptions are filled by generics; their prices are growing at 6-10% annually.”

To read the entire letter, click here


Holes in the Safety Net – Medicare

(Wednesday, May 9, 2018)

This is the second of two NRLN President’s Forum messages that I’m calling “Holes in the Safety Net” because Medicare and Social Security have long been considered a “safety net” for older Americans. This message focuses on how important Medicare is to millions of people and the funding crisis that Medicare is heading toward.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program created in 1965 for people ages 65 and over, regardless of income, medical history, or health status. The program was expanded in 1972 to cover people under age 65 with permanent disabilities. Medicare is administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

Here are a few facts about Medicare based on CMS 2017 data and studies by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Kaiser Family Foundation took a first-ever look earlier this year at how well Social Security payments are keeping up with a beneficiary’s out-of-pocket health and long-term care costs and found they aren’t. Such expenses consume more than 40% of Social Security income. But these are just averages, and older or sicker Americans fare worse.

Trustees for Medicare reported to Congress in July 2017 that by 2029, the Medicare trust fund will be exhausted. Payroll taxes will only cover about 88% of Medicare Part A costs. Unlike Part A, beneficiaries pay premiums for Part B coverage. But these premiums account for only 23% of the program’s costs. The rest comes out of the federal Treasury.

In the July 2017 report, the Trustees stated a permanent 0.64% increase in payroll tax would solve the Medicare Hospital Trust deficit funding problem for 75 years if Congress made the increase effective in 2017.

The August 18, 2017 petition to President Trump signed by 6,960 NRLN members and during the NRLN’s September 11-13.2017 Fly-In to Washington, DC we advocated negotiating a “Grand Bargain” proposal using the upcoming tax reform legislation to rescue Medicare and Social Security for the next 75 years.

Unfortunately, President and Congress paid no attention to the Trustees’ report or the NRLN’s proposal and they continue to ignore the political annihilation that Medicare and Social Security are facing.

The NRLN is not giving up on its efforts to preserve Medicare and Social Security for the current beneficiaries, our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We are working on another proposal that I’ll share with you when it is ready for publication.


Published by Ed Beltram · April 26 at 1:29pm ·

NRLN PRESIDENT’S FORUM: IF YOU DON’T AGREE WITH RESPONSE FROM LEGISLATOR SAY SO

NRLN Members who respond to our Action Alerts and email letters to their members of Congress sometimes share with me the responses they received from a Representative or Senator. Some responses are just a “thank you for your letter” and “I’ll keep your comments in mind”. On the other end of the scale is a response that says “I understand your concerns and I have introduced a bill that would be a solution.”

Last week one of our members had sent letters to his Representative and Senators in response to the NRLN Action Alert on the issue of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) undermining traditional Medicare by incentivizing insurance companies with taxpayer subsidies for Medicare Advantage plans to compete with traditional Medicare Part A and B. CMS’ action amounts to privatizing Medicare, which some members of Congress have been advocating.

The NRLN’s position in the sample letter was if insurers want to use Medicare Advantage plans to compete with traditional Medicare, why do insurers deserve payroll tax subsidies?

Our member shared with me the response he received from one of his Senators that stated in separate paragraphs: “In 2016, the federal government spent more than $3.5 trillion, with Medicare accounting for 15 percent of the entire federal budget” “I support proposals that would inject competition in the Medicare program by allowing private insurance plans to compete with traditional Medicare.”

I want to encourage you to not accept a “canned” response or one that you don’t agree with. (Go to www.nrln.org to read this entire message.)


Published by Ed Beltram · April 19 at 12:44pm ·

In a posting last week I indicated that Senior’s, which includes Americans over age 50, must be leaders for their children and those who follow them. Why?

The NRLN acknowledges that Medicare and Social Security are facing a funding crises. We know that government spending needs to be reined in and the cost of doing business in government and in healthcare must be reduced.

Good people get elected and go to Congress but the system and political greed ruins individual integrity for many. This behavior has led to a failure to live up to funding promises and dedication to long term thinking; the robbing of cash from one pot to fill another, campaign contributions that are in effect huge bribes, etc. I have spent 15 years in retirement watching the deterioration occur. We have a Congressional Leadership and short-term polarized thinking crises on our hands.

Last week over 32,000 people reached our posting about CMS Undermining Medicare. We are determined to present facts and nonpartisan comments about specifics you tell us you are concerned about and to propose common sense solutions. We will be asking you, if you agree, to use our unique Soft Edge system to tell your Senators and Representatives to support bills and proposals.

We need to get their attention, to get them to help us by supporting their constituents, something they do a poor job of now.

A recent Kaiser Foundation survey reveals that 87% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans in the USA have lost faith in Congress. That must change!


Published by Ed Beltram · April 17 at 2:12pm ·

RESPOND TO NRLN ACTION ALERT: STOP UNDERMINING TRADITIONAL MEDICARE

The NRLN has been watching with serious concern the actions of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and a faction in Congress as they undermine traditional Medicare.

CMS is incentivizing insurance companies that receive billions a year in taxpayer subsidies for Medicare Advantage plans to compete for beneficiaries in traditional Medicare Part A (hospitals) and Part B (doctors). The federal government pays more for a participant in insurance company’s Medicare Advantage plan than it does to provide traditional Medicare for a beneficiary. About 21.4 million people are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, with 37.7 million in traditional Medicare.

Last year at least two insurers were sued for cheating to collect $400 million in incentive subsidies. Why do insurers deserve subsidies paid for with our payroll taxes?

CMS has announced it will expand in 2019 how it defines the “primarily health-related” benefits that insurers are allowed to include in their Medicare Advantage policies. Air conditioners for people with asthma, home modifications, rides to medical appointments, healthy groceries, home-delivered meals, etc. are expected be among the new benefits added to Medicare Advantage coverage when new federal rules take effect next year.

Also, CMS has announced that it will increase payments in 2019 to insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans by an average of 3.4% next year. That’s well above the 1.84% bump the CMS initially proposed and higher than the 2.95% increase for 2018.

No action is expected in Congress this year to try to privatize Medicare, but neither has there been any opposition in Congress to CMS paying subsidies to Medicare Advantage insurers and allowing additional benefits to lure those age 65 and older into Medicare Advantage and away from traditional Medicare.

The NRLN believes that members of Congress who advocate the “premium support” plan to privatize Medicare and CMS’ undermining traditional Medicare are wrong.

Go to https://www.nrln.org/SE.html#/70 to email the NRLN’s sample letter, with your thoughts added, to tell President Trump and your Representative and Senators to place a priority on traditional Medicare beneficiaries, not insurance companies who use Medicare Advantage as a “cash cow” and want even larger subsidies offered by a “premium support” plan. Also use the webpage to send a Tweet, post a Facebook message and phone numbers are available.


Published by Ed Beltram · April 12 at 11:43am

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2nd of 2 – CMS SUBSIDIES CREATING A “PREMIUM SUPPORT” PLAN

It is highly possible that the actions of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) described in the April 11 posting is a deliberate act to privatize Medicare! No action is expected in Congress this year to try to privatize Medicare, but neither has there been any opposition in Congress to CVS paying subsidies to Medicare Advantage insurers and allowing additional benefits to lure those age 65 and older into Medicare Advantage and away from traditional Medicare. However, the CMS subsidies of 2.95% in 2018 and 3.4% in 2019 are affectively creating a “premium support” plan and thus privatization.

A faction in Congress has been trying for years to privatize Medicare, first with a “voucher” plan, and recently with a “premium support” plan. The “premium support” plan is insurance companies’ scam to get federal subsidies that would privatize and completely destroy Medicare. The plan is to refund insurers who would lowball premiums but get to take in huge multi-billion subsidies. The result is that traditional Medicare Part A and Part B will appear less competitive when actually they are a better deal for taxpayers. ELIMINATING MEDICARE ADVANTAGE AND MEDICARE PART A AND PART B IS THE PLAN!

The NRLN believes that the faction who advocates the “premium support” plan and CMS’ subsidies undermining traditional Medicare is wrong. Respond to the NRLN Action Alert by emailing the NRLN’s sample letter, with your thoughts added, to tell your Representative, Senators and President Trump to place a priority on traditional Medicare beneficiaries, not insurance companies who use Medicare Advantage as a “cash cow” and want even larger subsidies offered by a “premium support” plan. Go to https://www.nrln.org/SE.html#/70 to email the NRLN’s sample letter on this issue to your members of Congress and the President.


Published by Ed Beltram · April 9 at 1:23pm ·

PRICE $768 PER PILL IN U.S.; $25 PER PILL IN CANADA:

This is an example of why the NRLN supports the importation of safe, lower priced drugs from Canada. Lomustine a cancer treatment drug was approved by the FDA in 1982. The price per pill in the U.S. was $50 in 2013 and now the price is $768 per pill. The current price in Canada is $25 per pill.

Senators Susan Collins (ME), Claire McCaskill (MO) and Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) have sent a letter to the CEO of Tri-Source Pharma asking for information on sales, expenses, profits, communications, projections, etc. related to Lomustine. The Senators will probably receive a response from Tri-Source Pharma and nothing will happen to reduce the cost of Lomustine in the U.S.

The Senators efforts would have been better spent advocating for the passage of bills supported by the NRLN, S. 92, Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act and /or S. 469, Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act. Or, they could have sent a letter to Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, as the NRLN has done, urging him to use the authority in a law enacted in 2003 giving the HHS Secretary the authority to set regulations for the importation prescription drugs from Canada.


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