Posts tagged: AARP
One in six Idahoans now receives Social Security benefits, according to the Idaho AARP; the program marks its 77th anniversary tomorrow, amid debate about its future solvency. Idahoans collect $3.6 billion a year from Social Security, with the average monthly benefit check at $1,130, AARP says; for two in three Idaho seniors age 65 or older, Social Security makes up 50 percent or more of their income.
Nationally, AARP has launched a “You've Earned a Say” campaign to mark the 77th anniversary, urging Americans to join in the debate about the future of Social Security and Medicare. “We've enlisted policy experts from the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation to help lay out the pros and cons of the options for the public,” said Idaho AARP spokesman David Irwin, noting that future solvency options for Social Security being examined in the nation's capitol include raising the retirement age; recalculating the cost-of-living adjustment; and increasing or eliminating the payroll tax cap, which now exempts wages over $110,000 a year from Social Security taxes.
Idaho phone companies won't have to fix outages to land-line phone service within 24 hours any more, nor will they have to give credits to customers when they don't meet the new standard, which is doubled to 48 hours, under new rules approved Tuesday by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. The PUC approved the changes on a 2-1 vote. Those opposed to the changes still have until July 24 to ask the panel for reconsideration; click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Idaho's land-line phone providers would no longer have to fix outages within 24 hours or be forced to give customers a month's service credit, under a rule change pending at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. The Idaho AARP is decrying the change as a prime example of why Idaho needs a consumer advocate in its utility regulating process; Idaho is the only state in the west without one. “Had we not had a volunteer of ours bring it to our attention, we would have completely missed it, as have, I believe, the majority of Idaho consumers,” said AARP spokesman David Irwin.
AARP submitted comments protesting the rule change on May 31, the final day of a public comment period, more than a month after the IPUC had convened settlement talks with telephone companies and drafted the rule change. It was prompted by an application from CenturyLink, the state's largest land-line telephone provider, and several related companies, for an exemption from the rule, which the company argued is obsolete. Washington has a somewhat similar 48-hour rule; there's no move on in that state to change it. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
The Idaho AARP now says it'll push for establishing a new state consumer utility advocate during the legislative session that starts in January, after the idea was passed over in revisions to the Idaho Energy Plan recently approved by a joint legislative committee. “It's clear whose voice was heard and whose wasn't,” said Jim Wordelman, state director for AARP in Idaho. “Idaho utility companies were really the only ones opposed to creating a stronger voice and presence for consumers by establishing an office to advocate on their behalf.” The senior citizens group wants a consumer advocate office to advocate for consumers in rate cases before the Public Utilities Commission and the courts; Idaho is the only western state that doesn't have one.
A motion in the Energy, Environment and Technology Interim Committee to explore the concept as part of the state's energy plan revisions failed on an 8-4 vote. “We are disappointed to say the least,” Wordelman said, who noted that numerous AARP members submitted comments to the panel supporting the idea. “AARP will revisit the creation of the consumer advocate office in the upcoming legislative session. We only hope the legislature will be more responsive to the needs of Idaho's residential consumers and small businesses.”
The Idaho AARP has issued a new report on campaign contributions in Idaho, concluding that corporations, businesses and PACS spent $2.7 million on Idaho's winning 2010 campaigns for governor, lieutenant governor and state Legislature; that 35 percent of those contributions came from outside Idaho; and that 34 legislators received 90 percent or more of their campaign contributions from those groups - including seven for whom it was 100 percent. The report also showed that nearly 90 percent of lawmakers got the majority of their campaign funds from corporations, businesses and PACs.
Idaho AARP State Director Jim Wordelman said the group was disappointed with the Legislature's lack of response to AARP members' concerns, including finding new revenues to address the state budget shortfall, such as closing business tax loopholes, rather than cutting programs; and protecting the wishes of dying patients from being overridden by the conscience concerns of medical providers. “The outcomes of this past legislative session left many AARP members believing that Idaho has a golden rule, and that is, those who have the gold make the rules,” Wordelman said. “When the most powerful voting group in Idaho, voters aged 50 and older, feels that their voices and issues are ignored by state lawmakers, we've got an issue of public confidence in the system.”
The seniors group is calling for requiring Idaho candidates to raise the majority of their campaign funds from individuals living in their districts; limiting contributions to and by PACs; and limiting contributions to state political parties. You can see the AARP's full report here, and its statement here.
The Idaho AARP is launching a statewide voter-education effort complete with voter guides for every legislative race in the state along with statewide and congressional races, meetings and discussions with its members throughout the state to bring them up to speed on issues before they vote, and more. Why that matters: The group estimates that 56 percent of Idaho’s votes in November will come from voters age 50 and older, and 30 percent of all ballots will be cast by AARP members. “The 50-plus in Idaho and across the nation is a voting powerhouse,” said AARP volunteer C.J. Petrovsky of Eagle. “We’re going to help them get the facts, learn the candidates’ positions on key issues and raise their voices.”
Petrovsky was among a group of AARP officials and volunteers who gathered on the Statehouse steps today to kick off the effort, which also will include advertising in print, online and on the radio, with the theme, “Your right, your decision, your vote.”
“This is the first time ever we’ve done a voter guide for every single race in the state, and the first time the questions came directly from our members,” said Jim Wordelman, state director for AARP in Idaho. Response from candidates has been strong, he said, with about 100 state candidates responding. For those candidates who didn’t respond, AARP is urging its members to continue to ask them where they stand on the issues. The voter guides for state and legislative races went up online today at www.aarp.org/yourvote, and the congressional guides will be up the first week of October.
For state races, AARP members chose the state budget as their top issue, but the second-top issue is a “conscience” law that Idaho’s Legislature enacted this year. It lets any health care provider refuse to provide end-of-life care that violates the provider’s conscience, and AARP says it threatens Idahoans’ rights to have their living wills and advance care directives honored. “A lot of people are worried about the conscience law,” said David Irwin, AARP spokesman. “Our members are looking for whoever they vote for to fix this thing.” He added, “We went to our members. … These are their issues.”
Education funding, campaign financing and addressing Idaho’s doctor shortage also are issues covered in the guides; the congressional voter guides will focus on the future of Social Security, Medicare fraud, access to doctors for Medicare beneficiaries and how the candidates will help older workers get back to work.
The voter guides are available to anyone; the member meetings will start with a Sept. 27 gathering in Coeur d’Alene and continue around the state.
AARP is denouncing Idaho’s decision to “opt out” of running a high-risk health insurance pool for 34,000 eligible residents; Gov. Butch Otter announced last week that Idaho won’t participate, leaving the federal government to operate the program in Idaho. “Otter’s given up a crucial seat at the table opting-out of establishing a new temporary insurance pool for high risk Idahoans with pre-existing conditions, paid for by the federal government,” said AARP Idaho state director Jim Wordelman. “The cost of the high risk pool will be covered, 100%, by the federal government – coming at a time when Idaho can use the help.” He called the move a “missed opportunity” for Idaho to “be at the table to ensure we take advantage of a new law that can help relieve the stress of Idaho’s worsening health care crisis.” Click below to read Wordelman’s full statement.
Idaho seniors have been hit hard by the recession, their incomes are low, their living costs are rising - and they’re very, very likely to vote. That’s the picture that emerges from a new survey commissioned by the AARP Idaho, which described Idahoans over age 50 as “the most powerful vote in Idaho.”
The seniors group is launching statewide voter education efforts that will include asking its members which issues matter most to them, and laying out the candidates’ positions in voter guides for every congressional, statewide and state legislative race this year. Idaho’s primary election is May 25. “What we’re saying is, look, this is the largest voting demographic in the state - you need to be cognizant of the issues that matter the most to them, ” said David Irwin, AARP Idaho spokesman. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and see the full survey results here.
The AARP of Idaho is criticizing Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s threat to sue to stop federal health care reform legislation if it becomes law, saying it would hurt Idahoans struggling with health care costs; Otter made the threat last week in a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “To simply say ‘no’ to health care reform can only serve to make Idaho’s health care crisis worse, the cost of inaction on this issue is too high,” said Jim Wordelman, state director for the seniors group in Idaho. “We’re calling on Idaho’s elected officials to set partisan politics aside and work to make the final health care reform bill the best it can be – that’s what Idaho deserves.” AARP said 221,000 Idahoans are uninsured, though 88 percent of those uninsured Idahoans are employed. Also, about 27% of Idaho’s Medicare beneficiaries last year fell into the prescription drug coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole”, leading to high out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions; closing that hole has been a top priority for AARP in its work on national health care reform. Click below to read the full statement from AARP Idaho.
The Idaho AARP says the combination of state budget cuts with cutbacks in health coverage for part-time state workers and shifting state retirees off the state health plan onto Medicare is “a combination that spells health care disaster for many Idaho residents,” and the organization is calling on lawmakers to address the issue. “It doesn’t make any sense to pull the rug out from underneath Idaho’s part-time state employees and retirees, while continuing to weaken the programs in the community where people turn in times of crisis,” said Jim Wordelman, AARP Idaho state director. “AARP members in Idaho – half of whom are in the workforce – are looking to their elected officials at the state and federal level to tackle this issue now.” Click below to read AARP Idaho’s full news release.