13 Things You Need to Know About Social Security Disability as Republicans Try to Dismantle It

Earlier today, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) spoke at a Center for American Progress (CAP) event about Republican attempts to use Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as a way to cut and undercut the whole Social Security system. Rather than sticking with the conventional wisdom that Republicans, the media and even some Democrats cling to, Brown argues that what we should be doing now is not just protecting Social Security and SSDI, we should be expanding the programs.

Here are 13 important facts about SSDI you need to know to counter the right-wing spin:

1. SSDI provides protection for 90% of America’s workers and their families if a life-changing disability or illness stops them from being able to work and bring in enough money.

2. SSDI pays modest benefits, averaging just $1,140 per month, less than most workers make before they qualify for the program.

3. For 80% of beneficiaries, SSDI is the primary or only source of income, and it provides a drastic increase in the quality of life of recipients who might otherwise live in poverty.

4. The eligibility criteria for SSDI are among the strictest in the world and fewer than 40% of applicants are approved.

5. Nearly 20% of beneficiaries die within five years of first obtaining benefits.

6. Nearly 9 million workers with disabilities receive SSDI benefits, including more than 1 million veterans. More than 150,000 spouses and nearly 2 million children also receive benefits.

7. Beneficiaries pay into SSDI as a portion of their Social Security payroll tax. The current tax rate is 6.2% on the first $117,000 of earnings a worker makes.  5.3% goes to the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI), the rest goes to the SSDI Trust Fund.

8. Only one-third of private-sector workers has employer-provided long-term disability insurance, and most of those plans often provide less than SSDI. Only 7% of workers who make $12 per hour or less have such insurance. Most private long-term disability insurance plans are too costly for most workers.

9. Most beneficiaries are in their 50s and 60s, with the average age being 53.

10. Fewer than 4% of beneficiaries earned more than $10,000 during the year.

11. The United States ranks 30 out of 34 OECD member countries in terms of replacement benefit payouts for workers with disabilities.

12. A temporary reallocation of how the 6.2% payroll tax is divided between SSDI and OASI would ensure that both trust funds would be able to remain fully solvent until 2033 and would alleviate the shortage in SSDI funds caused by demographic trends.

13. Beneficiaries face a wide range of significant disabilities, with many having multiple impairments, which include:

  • 31.8% have a “primary diagnosis” of a mental impairment, including 4.2% with intellectual disabilities and 27.6% with other types of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or severe depression.
  • 29.8% have a musculoskeletal or connective tissue disorder.
  • 8.7% have a cardiovascular condition such as chronic heart failure.
  • 9.3% have a disorder of the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, or a sensory impairment such as deafness or blindness.
  • 20.4% include workers living with cancers; infectious diseases; injuries; genitourinary impairments such as end stage renal disease; congenital disorders; metabolic and endocrine diseases such as diabetes; diseases of the respiratory system; and diseases of other body systems

Watch the entire event with Sen. Brown and a distinguished panel of experts on Social Security and SSDI. You also can read CAP’s full report on SSDI.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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3 Pieces of Good News for Obamacare You Might Have Missed

Remember Obamacare? Also known as the Affordable Care Act? With news of conflict and tragedy dominating the airwaves, recent news about the sweeping new health care law has been getting swept under the rug.

That’s too bad, because here’s the basic headline: the Affordable Care Act is working, and consumers have a lot to look forward to when the next open enrollment period starts in November.

Here’s the rundown:

1.) More insurance companies are joining the exchanges. The health exchanges set up under the ACA work best when more insurance companies participate. More companies means more competition for your business, which ultimately means lower prices for consumers.

For instance, last year in New Hampshire there was only one company on the state exchange–not a recipe for healthy competition. Even so, signups exceeded expectations, and other companies are diving in to swoop up consumer dollars. For 2015 open enrollment (which begins on November 15, 2014), there will be not one more but four more companies on the New Hampshire exchange.

That’s happening across the country. In Michigan, there will be 18 companies for 2015 open enrollment versus 13 in 2014. In Indiana, consumers will have double the options to choose from. Major carriers like United, Aetna, and Cigna are wading into California’s exchange, which they previously sat out. Again, more competition means more options and lower prices for consumers.

2.) The ACA is massively cutting the rate of uninsured. Between the creation of state exchanges, the expansion of Medicaid in half the country, and the end of disgusting insurance practices (like denying insurance to those with pre-existing conditions), the Affordable Care Act is succeeding at its main goal: reducing the number of uninsured Americans.

Look at where we stand. The rate of uninsured in New Jersey is down 38 percent. In Minnesota, it’s down a whopping 40 percent. And in Kentucky, where Senator Mitch McConnell advocated full repeal of the ACA, the rate of uninsured has been cut in half.

What of predictions that all those consumers signing up wouldn’t pay their premiums? Charles Gaba, who runs ACASignups.net, has crunched the statewide data and estimates 90 percent of those who signed up on the exchanges have paid the first premiums.

3.) A majority of Americans want to keep the ACA. The Koch Brothers, the Republican Party, and the health insurance lobby itself have all spent massive amounts of money on a barrage of misinformation to convince the country that Obamacare is a government takeover, a socialist conspiracy, a massive waste of money, or the “worst thing since slavery,” depending on who you ask.

But as more and more people gain the peace of mind that health coverage brings, the misinformation loses its effectiveness.

A Bloomberg poll released on June 11 shows that 56 percent of Americansthink Obamacare “may need small modifications, but we should see how it works,” vs. 32 percent for repeal and 10 percent for leaving it be. The poll also finds 11 percent oppose the law because it didn’t go far enough.

And as we’ve seen since 2010, support for the actual components of the ACA is much higher: 55 percent support eliminating lifetime caps, 65 percent support changing rules on preexisting conditions, and 75 percent (!) support allowing children to remain on parents’ plans until 26.

As MSNBC’s Simon Maloy put it: “We’re only six days into June, and opponents of the ACA have already had a terrible month.” Which makes it a great month for consumers like you and me.

Visit WorkingAmericaHealthCare.org to find out more information on getting affordable coverage that works for you.

Photo by Obamacare on Facebook

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North Carolina Welcomes Back the Legislature with Pots & Spoons

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Yesterday, we came out to support the NC State AFL-CIO for the second annual Pots and Spoons protest to mark the beginning of the short session for North Carolina’s Legislature.

The last two years have been marked by a regressive voter suppression law, cuts in education spending, and the rejection of Medicaid Expansion that would benefit close to half a million of our most vulnerable workers.

Hundreds of supporters were joined by union members, teachers, and lots of Moral Monday activists who are all calling on the legislature to change course and stop the attacks on North Carolina workers.

This protest was modeled after cacerolazos, protests that are common among peoples’ movements in South America and Spain. People bring a pot and a spoon and bang loudly to get the attention of politicians and decision-makers.

Legislators were entering their chambers with a chorus of clanking metal from the growing coalition of North Carolina progressives who are fighting back against legislators who are determined to roll back a century of progress.

As we gathered across from the legislative building on Wednesday, we were proud to stand with our coalition partners during this legislative session to remind these officials who they are supposed to represent.

Join the Moral Movement for North Carolina’s working families – text VOTENC to 30644.

Photo by NC AFL-CIO ON Flickr

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11 Things Everyone Should Know About Working Women and the Minimum Wage

11 Things Everyone Should Know About Working Women and the Minimum Wage

Women workers are breadwinners. Women workers support their families. Check out 11 facts that show why women would benefit from raising the minimum wage.

1. Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Nearly four in 10 female minimum wage workers are women of color.

2. If the minimum wage were raised to $10.10, 25 million to 28 million workers would get a raise. About 55% of the workers who would benefit, more than 15 million people, are women.

3. Some 24.3% of women workers would benefit from raising the wage.

4. More than three-quarters of women earning the minimum wage are age 20 or older. The image of teenagers making minimum wage while flipping burgers at the neighborhood restaurant is outdated.

5. More than 2.2 million single moms would benefit from raising the minimum wage. One out of four of the workers who would benefit—and 31% of the women workers who would benefit—are parents with children.

6. Some 14 million children, or 18.7% of all kids in America, would benefit from raising the wage.

7. The minimum wage for tipped workers ($2.13 an hour) has not been raised since 1991. About 72% of tipped workers, such as restaurant servers, bartenders and hairstylists, are women.

8. Workers in tipped industries are paid 40% less than other workers on average. They are twice as likely to be poor than other workers, and servers are nearly three times as likely to be poor.

9. About half of all tipped workers would get a raise if the minimum wage bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), was enacted. This includes increasing the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the minimum wage.

10. For every dollar that men earn, women earn just 77 cents. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation could close about 5% of the gender wage gap.

11. The wage gap is even larger for women of color: African American women make only 64% and Latina women make only 54% of their white male counterparts.

Sources: National Women’s Law CenterWhite HouseEconomic Policy Institute

If you think America’s working families need a raise, sign the petition

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Ted Cruz Baits American People on ObamaCare, and Fails Miserably

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In a well-timed but poorly executed effort to attack the Affordable Care Act, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) took to his Facebook to sarcastically ask people whether or not they were better off since the inception of Obamacare.

Unexpectedly – at least for Sen. Cruz – an overwhelming number of people replied with a resounding YES.

One woman noted that her sister, a cancer survivor, will no longer be denied coverage and more than a few people mentioned the positive effects the ACA has had on whole families.

You can view more comments on Senator Cruz’s Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Kent Williams via Flickr.

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New Hampshire Ends Cruel Denial of Medicaid Expansion, Maine May Follow

New Hampshire officially expanded its Medicaid program this week, enabling about 50,000 more people in the Granite State to afford health coverage.

Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan signed the bill into law on Thursday, enacting a bipartisan compromise plan that would use federal Medicaid funds to buy private coverage for adults making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, rather than providing state-funded health insurance.

When the Supreme Court declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional in July 2012, they left the option open for states to reject the federal funds that would be used to expand their Medicaid programs. As of now, 25 states and the District of Columbia have accepted the expansion in full. 21 states, all with Republican governors or Republican-controlled legislatures, have formally rejected Medicaid expansion.

New Hampshire was one of six states where the final call had not yet been made on Medicaid expansion.

On the same day, legislators in Maine granted final passage to a bill that would expand Medicaid to about 70,000 low-income Mainers. The bill now goes to Republican Governor Paul LePage for his signature or veto.

LePage has expressed opposition to Medicaid in the past, calling it “sinful” just a few weeks ago. But many of his fellow Republicans don’t share this view:

Despite the references to different numbers and analyses, many lawmakers have conceded that support or opposition of the bill is as ideological as it is pragmatic.

The bill approved by the Legislature was crafted by moderate Republican Sens. Roger Katz of Augusta and Tom Saviello of Wilton as a compromise, designed to bring more Republicans on board.

Assistant State Majority Leader Anne Haskell (D-Portland) also pointed out that 10 other Republican governors, including Govs. John Kasich (R-OH) and Jan Brewer (R-AZ) have accepted expansion.

The last time a Medicaid expansion bill hit Gov. LePage’s desk in July 2013, he vetoed. Now, with more Republicans on board, we hope he makes a different choice.

Send a message: Tell Gov. LePage to accept federal Medicaid funds.

Photo by Governor Maggie Hassan on Facebook

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Shocker! Workers Don’t Actually Abuse Paid Sick Days

Shocker! Workers Don't Actually Abuse Paid Sick Days

When you hear a conservative argument as to why we can’t pass a policy that helps working families, you are pretty safe in assuming that it won’t stand up to closer examination. In today’s example, the topic is paid sick days. Extremist pro-business groups that oppose requiring that paid sick days be offered to employees often make the cynical argument that if paid sick days are offered, workers will exploit and abuse them and that will hurt businesses. The real-world evidence, not surprisingly, says otherwise.

The largest real-world sample of data we have on paid sick days is the state of Connecticut, which required businesses to provide paid sick days in 2011. A recent examination of what has happened in the state since then shatters numerous right-wing myths about paid sick leave, particularly the claim that the policy will be abused by workers. The new policy in Connecticut made the number of available paid sick days for the average worker rise from 6.9 days to 7.7 days. Of those workers who have taken paid sick leave, the average worker has used only four of those days. And about one-third of workers used no paid sick days at all.

As Alan Barber of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) concludes:

[The evidence] stands in direct opposition to the idea that workers would abuse the policy and take as many days off as possible, even when not sick. This suggests that employees view paid sick days as a form of insurance, to be used only as needed. Even when additional days are available to them, employees, in reality, only take the time off from work that they require when they are ill or need to care for a family member.

Once again, real-world evidence rejects a conservative claim used to oppose a policy to help working families. This has happened so many times now, it’d be safe for us to assume these extremist arguments are faulty, at best, and just go ahead and help workers instead.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Get Health Insurance, Strengthen the Movement for Working Families. At. The. Same. Time.

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It’s exhausting. We know.

Trying to counter the misinformation about the Affordable Care Act AND trying to highlight out the few corporate donors pushing the lies AND holding the media accountable for inadequate coverage AND…

…all of a sudden, there are only a few days left to sign up for coverage for this year.

March 31 is the deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. If you enroll before then, your insurance will start May 1. If not, you may have to wait until January 1, 2015.

Politics aside, this is the point of the new health care law: getting as many Americans as possible from fear and uncertainty of no coverage to the security of health insurance, thereby bringing down costs and making life better for all of us.

And while we’re bringing more people into the “insured” fold, we also have an opportunity to grow the movement that’s fighting to make our lives better in other areas: higher wages, paid sick days, and protections from indignity at the workplace.

That’s why Working America Health Care is working with GoHealth to bring affordable health insurance to uninsured Americans.

Enter your information at WorkingAmericaHealthCare.org and you can compare and contrast plans and enroll in minutes.

We also offer something extra: by signing up for a health plan through GoHealth, you’re invited to join Working America and gain access to added member benefits, like discounted dental and vision benefits and a personal health advocate to help you troubleshoot with your insurance company.

Plus, by becoming a Working America member, you have access to hundreds of benefits through Union Plus including discounts on car insurance, wireless service, legal assistance, and many more. A full list of Union Plus benefits available for Working America members can be viewed here.

But benefits aside, we all win when the movement for working families grows. By signing up for insurance through Working America, you’re also opting in to receive updates and opportunities to pursue goals we all share: raising the minimum wage, gaining rights at the workplace, countering corporate power at the ballot box, and changing the conversation about the value of work in our country.

So don’t delay! Sign up at WorkingAmericaHealthCare.org and find a plan that works for you. And if you’re lucky enough to have insurance, please email, share, tweet – whatever – this blog post to friends and family who might not be covered.

The Koch Brothers, the politicians, the talking heads–they’ll always be making noise. But let’s focus on the real goal: getting America enrolled, covered, and secure with health insurance.

Photo by italintheheart on Flickr

*The relationship with GoHealth does not include MA, RI, VT, WV, HI, WA, OR, and select counties in CO and OH. The personal health advocate service is not available in Hamilton, Lucas, Summit, Stark, Montgomery, and Mahoning counties in Ohio.

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GOP Pushback on Medicaid Expansion Could Lead to Government Shutdown

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Today the Virginia legislature began a special session partially aimed at solving its ongoing Medicaid expansion issue which, despite the numerous positive implications, has received in quite a bit of push-back from the GOP.

A favorable vote on Medicaid expansion could provide more than 190,000 Virginians with health care; unfortunately the GOP doesn’t seem to care as it continues to oppose the much-needed expansion.

Despite GOP push-back, Gov. McAuliffe and the Democratic-controlled Senate support the idea of expansion.

Still, the discord has slowed progress on a new budget, creating a deadlock during the 60-day regular session that ended March 8.

“We’re not going to do Medicaid expansion in the budget,” Kirk Cox, majority leader of the House of Delegates, said last week.

If the GOP doesn’t budge, a government shutdown looms ahead for the state.

The Governor has been campaigning across the state and even proposed a two year pilot expansion of the program, with the option to end it if it’s unsuccessful.

If you live in Virginia, call your representative and help us expand Medicaid for those Virginians who need it.

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey via Flickr. 

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7 Reflections On ACA Enrollment (With A Few Days Left To Sign Up)

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With a few days to go for Ohio’s uninsured to get signed up on the health insurance exchange, I’m poking my head out of the trenches to report back on my experience signing people up, and to let PB readers in Cincinnati and Canton know how they can enroll before the deadline.

I’ve been with Working America since enrollment began. We’re Champions of Coverage, meaning that our role is to identify uninsured Ohioans and make sure they have the information that they need in order to get signed up.

Primarily, we’re setting up enrollment fairs, where people can get help with the application, talk to a licensed insurance agent about the plans that are available, and sign up for coverage on the spot. And by signing up with a licensed agent through the Working America Health Care program, you’re joining thousands of others to advocate to continuously improve the health coverage that you receive.

Here’s a list of our enrollment events: make sure your friends know about them!

But, enough plugging. Here are two lists: one for wonky readers and one for activist readers… 

Four Things I’ve Learned While Signing People Up

1. People are happy with their premium. One of the biggest questions about ACA was whether people would feel like they’re getting a good deal. I’ve only talked to one person that didn’t like his premium, and he was one of the few that didn’t get a subsidy. He was still paying less than he did before, he just wanted it lower.

Almost everybody else feels like they’re getting a good deal.

2. People are not happy with the coverage their job provides. I get an awful lot of sign-ups from people whose job offers them a worse deal than they would get on the exchange. They’re either unhappy with the deductible, the premium, or the network. They want to sign up on the health exchange, but they don’t get a discount because they’re covered through work.

3. Ohioans haven’t heard anything about the law. Part of my rap is “what have you heard about signing up for coverage?” and still most people say “this is the first I’ve heard about the Affordable Care Act”. People are surprised to hear that they have to sign up, and even more surprised that they only have until March 31 to sign up.

4. I’ve stopped calling it Obamacare. People think that “Obamacare” is a plan that you enroll in, like Medicare or Medicaid. Calling it Obamacare makes it harder to explain that they may just be eligible to get a discount on the same private insurance plans that were available a year ago.

When I tell people that “Obamacare” is just potential money that they use to buy private insurance, they all wonder what the big deal was.

And or activists…

Three Things Uninsured People Need To Know Before They Get Penalized

1. After March 31, you can’t sign up. Not only is March 31 the last day to go uninsured without paying a fine, but you also can’t sign up after March 31. The next open enrollment period starts in November for 2015 coverage.

You can enroll in Medicaid at any time, but full time workers likely make too much for Medicaid.

2. You pay for your insurance on a sliding scale. I don’t know why it’s taken so long to get the rap this short, but I describe ACA as “the less you make, the less you have to pay for coverage”.

Most uninsured people have been to a clinic or provider that charges based on income. That’s similar to how the health exchange works when it says “you may be eligible for a tax credit”.

3. Full time + minimum wage = really cheap plans. A full-time minimum wage worker earns $16,536 a year. That person’s Silver plan should be $50 a month, and a Bronze between $1 and $33 a month, depending on age and where she lives. Anything less than 40 hours a week at minimum wage would make her eligible for Medicaid.

Reposted from Plunderbund

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