Senators Collins and Casey Bill “Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act” Signed Into Law

Earlier this month, President Trump signed into law the  Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act  sponsored by Senators Susan Collins and Bob Casey in the Senate and Rep. James McGovern in the House.    The law recognizes the unique difficulties of 2.6 million grandparents caring for their grandchildren, many of whom doing so because of opioid and drug abuse by the children’s parents.   The bill creates a task force that will come up with a one stop clearinghouse to provide information for grandparents on legal and custody issues, mental health and other social services which can assist the grandparents.

“With so many parents struggling with addiction, grandparents are increasingly coming to the rescue and assuming this role,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. “It is essential that we do all that we can to help these families.”

“I am pleased that the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act has been signed into law. This law will provide grandparents in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, with easy access to helpful resources,” said Senator Casey. “These grandparents, some of which have stepped in to raise their grandchildren due to the opioid crisis, are faced with unique challenges such as delaying retirement, bridging the generational divide, and working through the court system to secure custody. I look forward to the Administration swiftly convening the advisory council created under this legislation so grandparents can access the supports they need.”

Older White Women – Retired Teachers, Librarians, Health Workers, Businesswomen -Are Key Political Organizers Against Trump in Key States

Even though Donald Trump got 52% of the vote among white women in 2016 and he won the senior 60+ vote, older white women are taking the lead in local political organizing activities against him and his agenda, according to research done by Harvard professor Theda Skocpol.    Soon after the election, she began visiting counties where Trump won in key midwestern states and she found that in every one there were women taking the lead in local groups.  Specifically she found the women were “older, college-educated white women: retired teachers, librarians, health care people, some businesswomen.”  The same activism has also been seen among local activists in New York State as well, including in upstate regions with Republican members of Congress.

The women who are retired obviously had time for these political activities and they also had the motivation.  The first big battle of the Trump Administration was about repealing the Affordable Care Act and many of these women may had involvement with health issues.  Of course, the day after Trump was inaugurated there was the Women’s March in Washington and in hundreds of local areas.  These marches  created the framework for nationwide activism for women.   In addition, Trump’s comments about women and news reports of alleged sexual harassment have fueled women’s activism.

While the research focused on these white women in states Trump won, African American women have also been some of the strongest supporters of Democratic candidates and they have played key roles in opposition to Trump.  Their activism was noted in the victory of Alabama Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore.

Click the link below to the story in the Huffington Post,  “The Political Re-Awakening of the Middle Aged Suburban White Woman.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-political-re-awakening-of-the-middle-aged-suburban-white-woman_us_5b4fa4f1e4b0b15aba8b38ea

 

 

 

Village Movement Grows in Albany Area as Research Shows “Positive Friendships” Are Key Characteristic of “Blue Zones”

The Albany Guardian Society has organized a Capital Region Villages Collaborative to promote the development and networking of “villages” in the region.  Last fall, the Guardian Society sponsored a conference that attracted about 200 persons to discuss the village concept and aging in place or the community of your choice.    The Guardian Society also submitted a proposal that was funded by the New York State Office for the Aging to provide a small amount of money to support organizations promoting villages.  Community Caregivers which serves most of Albany County received funding as well as a group in Shenendehowa, Saratoga County, another group in northern Columbia County, southeast of Albany and to Westchester Center for Aging in Place.

Community Caregivers will partner with local residents in the City of Albany and the adjacent Town of Bethlehem to develop villages there.  Preliminary meetings were held in the spring with follow up planning meetings set to take place in August and September.  The goal is to try and create a framework for the villages by the end of the year.

The New York Times reported in an article on July 17, “The Power of Positive People,” that “friends can exert a measurable and on-going influence on your health behaviors in a way that a diet never can,” according to Daniel Buettner, a National Geographic author.  Developing positive social networks like villages can be a big part of giving older persons a sense of security by being in a caring and supportive community.    Positive friendships are a prominent characteristic of the “blue zones,” those communities of the world where residents live far longer than the average lifespan.

To read more about the blue zones, go to http://www.bluezones.com

In the initial meeting in the Town of Bethlehem, one of the seniors noted she had been meeting with a group of six persons called the “Conscious Aging” group.  She said they get together to discuss issues of concern about getting older that are on their minds, including death and dying.  This type of small group of friends can be an important idea of the village to promote for its members.

Senator Marco Rubio Proposes Eroding Social Security Benefit by Allowing it to be Used for Family Leave

the following information was prepared by the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans

Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) will introduce legislation that would supposedly create national paid parental leave, but in fact would mean cuts in future earned Social Security benefits. While the United States is the only developed nation that does not offer paid leave, Sen. Rubio’s plan forces families to choose between caring for a new child and risking their financial security in retirement.

The proposal would allow parents of newborns or newly adopted children to take twelve weeks from their Social Security benefits early, later reducing or delaying that person’s benefits at retirement age to make up the difference. Retirees would have to delay their Social Security benefits by approximately twenty five weeks per each paid leave, more than twice as long as the initial time off.

Carrie Lukas of the Koch brothers’ funded group Independent Women’s Forum developed the plan on which Rubio’s bill is modeled. Lukas specifically said that the plan will speed the privatization of Social Security by changing public perception of the system from a social  insurance program to a system of personal accounts — and make it easier to raise the retirement age. She wrote, “Once people become used to the ideal of people opting to push back their retirement age, it may become less difficult to gradually raise the normal retirement age to reflect increases in longevity.”

The legislation would also harm the long-term financial outlook for Social Security. A recent study by the right-leaning American Action Forum found that Rubio’s legislation would cause the program to face a shortfall at least least six months sooner than it otherwise would.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) has introduced broader legislation granting paid leave to new parents and workers taking time off to care for a sick family member. Sen. Gillibrand’s proposal would have both workers and employers pay into a newly created fund that reaches every worker regardless of their job or industry.

Dr. Atul Gawande to Lead New Insurance Company for Amazon, JP MorganChase and Berkshire Hathaway

Dr. Atul Gawande, the well respected and well known author of Being Mortal, a bestseller which pushed for a more patient centered approach to health care has been appointed as CEO to lead the new insurance company announced by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase.  The company is a new effort to reform health care and the hiring of Dr. Gawande is a sign of the direction they want to take.

Dr. Gawande does not have business experience but has been in the trenches on health care especially for those with serious illnesses.  In his book, Being Mortal, which was at the top of the bestsellers list,  Dr. Gawande has supported providing more person-centered care,  with a better quality of life especially at the end of life.  He supports hospice and palliative care at the end of life rather than expensive over treatment which does not extend life by much and could provide less than comfort.  He write

The three large companies wanted to establish an insurance company to “operate as an independent entity that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”  The companies have 1.2 million workers so as large employers they may be able to steer health care coverage for those employees in a new way.

Many Democrats Push Medicare for All as Trump Efforts to Harm ACA Hurt Medicare Too

In Congressional campaigns across the country, many incumbent Democrats and challengers in Republican districts are rebelling against problems in the health care system and are pushing a Medicare for All plan that would be simpler and cut out private insurance costs.   The plan would also allow for negotiations on prescription drug prices.  The failure to allow negotiation of drug costs for Medicare is a reflection of the campaign contributions of pharmaceutical companies.

In recent days the Trump Administration has indicated it will seek to further de-stabilize  health coverage under the Affordable Care Act  (ACA) by refusing to defend in court provisions that protect patients with pre-existing from being denied coverage.    Previously Trump rejected the individual mandate to have coverage which has led to increases in insurance premiums in the ACA.

While Trump as a candidate said he was not going to cut Medicare, his actions with the ACA harm Medicare because some uncompensated hospital costs will come from Medicare since there may be more people without health insurance.   The recent report in early June by the Medicare Trustees reported that Medicare is now likely to not be able to pay its full costs in 2026, three years earlier than last year’s report.  Higher payments to Medicare Advantage plans and for ever increasing drug costs also are stretching Medicare finances.

The Trump economic plan says that the major tax cut enacted will increase employment and lead to higher wages that will benefit Social Security and Medicare.  In other words, the program’s finances will be resolved by increased economic growth.  That has not happened so far and a huge federal budget deficit will likely result instead, increasing political pressure to cut both programs.

So, the fall election pits two diametrically opposed ideas:  Medicare for All vs. the Republican House plan to turn Medicare into a fixed voucher plan, shifting more costs to beneficiaries.    Candidates for Congress need to be challenged on where they stand on the future of Medicare and Social Security.   They are the two pillars which stand against income inequality in older age especially, and it is critical that they be preserved and strengthened for beneficiaries.