Hillary and Our Allies; Medicare under Attack
June 1, 2011
THE FIGHT FOR MEDICARE: WHAT ARE THE FACTS?
Hearing much about Medicare these days? If you or members of your family are in the Medicare program, you know why it's so important. But whether or not you are directly impacted today, you should be part of the debate about Medicare's future. Here are some facts to keep in mind:
- Medicare has been part of American life since 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill and gave the first Medicare cards to Harry and Bess Truman. Today, Medicare covers 47 million people aged 65 and over and people with disabilities. As health care costs have gone up, and America's population is growing older, the costs of Medicare have risen.
- The health care reform bill (The Affordable Care Act) passed last year includes important steps to strengthen Medicare and bring down the rate of growth in spending; ending subsidies to insurance companies for so called "Medicare advantage" plans; increasing access to preventive services; reducing the need for hospitalization; and establishing an Independent Payment Advisory Board to monitor future increases.
- Most Medicare beneficiaries live on fixed, limited incomes; almost half live on annual incomes of $22,000 or less. More than half – 56% – are women; 62% of beneficiaries over 80 are women; their income is even lower than seniors as a whole. 43% of women on Medicare are living at or near poverty levels.
- Some proposals now under debate would raise costs to beneficiaries. For example, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that the plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan would increase charges to Medicare recipients by thousands of dollars a year: to 68% of health care costs, compared to the current 25%.
The Ryan plan would not go fully into effect for ten years, but it would immediately repeal portions of the health reform act that benefit seniors now, such as increased support for drug costs and preventive care.
HUMAN RIGHTS ARE GAY RIGHTS...
June is LGBT Awareness Month. We have written about LGBT rights, from partner benefits here at home to dangerous policies in Uganda. Today, let's remember what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared last year during this month:
"Just as I was very proud to say the obvious more than 15 years ago in Beijing that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, well, let me say today that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all."
WILL CONGRESS TURN ITS BACK ON DISASTER VICTIMS?
Our thoughts and prayers are with residents in the South and Midwest who have been struck by devastating disasters this year. And we were even more distressed to learn that, at a time when so many communities are struggling with rebuilding and planning for disaster relief, the Congress might actually turn away!
Last week the House Appropriations Committee voted to slash $1.5 billion from the budget for disaster relief and preparedness, including firefighter assistance and grants to FEMA. Their action, said Congressman David Price, "breaks faith with the states and localities that depend on us as partners to secure our communities. These cuts will be doubly disruptive as many of our states and municipalities are being forced to slash their own budgets."
And our ability to predict and warn residents of severe storms like tornadoes is also under attack: the latest Congressional budget cuts the government's tornado forecasting service, including cuts to NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather satellites that could greatly reduce the accuracy of forecasts.
WORKING WITH ALLIES, BUILDING OUR SECURITY - and a BETTER WORLD FOR WOMEN AND GIRLS
In the last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to sessions of the G-8 and the OECD in France to Islamabad, Pakistan, where she was the highest ranking American official to arrive since the death of Osama Bin Laden.
In Pakistan, Secretary Clinton spoke about U.S. goals and our hopes for the future, including an end to the conflict in Afghanistan and a more stable, peaceful future for everyone:
"We have strong interests in the region and we are pursuing them vigorously," she said. "These are not uniquely American aims. We believe that Pakistanis pursue the same goals and share the same hopes. We seek to defeat violent extremism, end the conflict in Afghanistan, and ensure a secure, stable, democratic, prosperous future for Pakistan. And we expect to work closely with the government and the people of Pakistan to achieve those ends."
At the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Secretary Clinton spoke about global development and the new emphasis that the U.S. is placing on accountability, country ownership, and sustainable, broad-based growth. She said that critical issues to be addressed include taxes, transparency and corruption as well as supporting women as drivers of sustainable economic growth. She explained:
"Women and girls are a powerful engine for creating jobs and spurring economic growth. There are more than 200 million entrepreneurs who happen to be women worldwide today. And when a woman prospers, the benefits don’t stop with her."
"When we boost female employment and promote women's entrepreneurship, we drive economic growth," Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer told the meeting. "It is a simple fact that economies are severely shortchanged when we do not tap the economic potential of women – or as Secretary Clinton described the consequences, "Global progress and prosperity will have its own glass ceiling.'"
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"I am committed to human rights and women's rights...And I want everyone to share in a more prosperous, peaceful world where security and opportunity go hand in hand. And so for me, I will continue to advocate as I always have, even before I was in any official position. So I'm sure whatever the future holds, it will hold work like that, and I look forward to it."
- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, responding to a question about her future on France's TF1, May 26, 2011.