10/13/17 – The Social Security Administration announced Friday that next year’s Social Security cost of living
adjustment (COLA) will be 2.0%. That means an increase of $25 per month for the average
According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation, however, this will not be enough to offset the rise
in Medicare Part B premium costs for 2018.
Coverage for Medicare Part B is optional, but 91 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are signed up
for it. The program covers physicians’ care, outpatient care, certain medical equipment, laboratory
tests, some health home services, and other care for patients. According to a Senior Citizens
League study, retirees have lost one-third of their buying power since 2000 because COLA
increases haven’t been able to catch up with skyrocketing health care and housing costs.
Researchers expect Part B premiums to increase an average of 5.4 percent each year between
2017 and 2024.
House Slashes Medicare to Fund Children’s Health Insurance Program
Separate bills to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expired on October
1, have cleared both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Energy and Commerce
Committee. The House version, known as the HEALTHY KIDS Act, extends CHIP funding until
2022 and temporarily increases Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in
the wake of the recent hurricanes.
But the House bill is drawing particular criticism because it includes a measure that would raid
Medicaid and Medicare in order to offset costs for the rest of the bill. High-income Medicare
beneficiaries would be charged higher premiums for their Parts B and D coverage.
Specifically, individuals making more than $85,000 and couples making more than $170,000
would pay premiums covering 35 to 80 percent of the cost. Individuals making more than
$500,000 and couples making more than $875,000 would pay premiums to cover 100 percent of
the cost. These changes would likely result in these seniors leaving Medicare.
Medicaid beneficiaries would also be hit hard, as there are provisions making it difficult for
mothers and children to obtain prenatal and pediatric care and creating barriers for those who
earned a lump sum.
“This is yet another terrible bill from the Republican-led House of Representatives. It is cruel and
cynical to put the two most vulnerable groups in America against each other,” said Richard Fiesta,
Executive Director of the Alliance. “There is no reason for Congress to gut essential programs for
older Americans in order to pay for essential children’s health programs or disaster relief.”
The House Committee’s bill passed on a party-line vote. Twenty-three representatives, all of them
Democrats, voted against it.
President Trump Signs Health Care Executive Order; Ends Affordable Care Act Subsidies
President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday which expands association health plans
so that small businesses can pool together to buy insurance. The order also changes certain rules
regarding short-term insurance.
Policy experts believe the move will undermine the Affordable Care Act, as associations can offer
skimpier plans that will attract healthier people and destabilize the market. The order’s tweaks for
short-term insurance, such as increasing the maximum time that customers can use short-term
plans, could siphon even more healthy people from ACA plans. As a result, sicker patients will be
left with higher premiums and an unstable market. These changes would not take effect
However, late Thursday the White House confirmed that President Trump will also take immediate
steps to dismantle and sabotage the Affordable Care Act. President Trump will terminate a key
set of Obamacare subsidies that helped lower-income enrollees pay for health care, a dramatic
move that will cause insurance rates to skyrocket and leave millions without health coverage.
The moves are the latest in President Trump’s aggressive push to dismantle aspects of his
predecessor’s signature health law after several failed attempts by Congress to repeal it earlier
“The Trump administration is dead set on sabotaging not just the Affordable Care Act but the
health and well-being of millions of Americans,” said Joseph Peters, Secretary-Treasurer of the
Alliance. “We must hold them accountable for this cynical and cruel behavior.”
CNN: Investigation Finds Drug May Be Inappropriately Prescribed Pill to Nursing Home
CNN reported that physicians may be overzealously prescribing a pill called Nuedexta to elderly
patients. The pill is meant to treat a condition that causes uncontrollable laughing or crying:
pseudobulbar affect (PBA). Less than one percent of Americans have this affliction.
However, since 2012, more than half of all Nuedexta pills went to patients in long-term care
facilities. The number of pills prescribed increased by 400 percent in 2016, exceeding the amount
of actual need that elderly people would have for the drug. The company that manufactures
Nuedexta, Avanir Pharmaceuticals, argues that it helps individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s
disease and dementia. But medical experts say that the disease is very rare among people with
CNN’s investigation found that some physicians received benefits from Avanir in exchange for
prescribing and advocating for use of Nuedexta in nursing homes. In 2016, the company reported
$300 billion in sales. The drug also generates a sizable amount of money from Medicare Part D
prescription drug funding.
“It is shameful that drug companies can make obscene amounts of money by taking advantage of
vulnerable older Americans,” said Robert Roach Jr., President of the Alliance. “We must hold
these individuals and corporations accountable.”
Nebraska Alliance Elects Officers; Wisconsin Alliance Draws Gubernatorial Candidates
Nebraska Alliance members held officer elections at their convention last Saturday, re-electing
several officers and welcoming new member Mike Zgud. The officers are:
- Al Mumm-President, CWA Union;
- Ken Mass-Treasurer, IBEW Union;
- Virginia Busch-Secretary, CWA Union;
- Lavonne Herechski-VP, IBEW Union;
- Ron Oates-VP, IRON Union;
- Scott Salisbury-VP, Laborers’ Union;
- John Jensen-VP, NEA Union;
- Mark McColley-VP, UA Union;
- Ron Milke-VP, IAM Union; and
- Mike Zgud-VP, AFSCME
The Wisconsin Alliance hosted several Democratic candidates for governor at its annual
luncheon Monday. The candidates had two minutes to discuss senior issues and all committed to
working to expand health care for retirees. Republican Governor Scott Walker was invited, but
did not attend.