We all worked incredibly hard to pass health care reform in 2009 and 2010, and we’re proud to now see millions of Americans accessing high quality, affordable health insurance–many of them for the first time.
But some things haven’t changed. For many Americans, navigating their health insurance is just as complex and frustrating as it was before the Affordable Care Act went into effect. At Working America, we wanted to make sure that information and support before, during, and after enrollment was available to out more than 3 million members–and anyone else who needed it.
That’s why we created Working America Health Care.
By enrolling through Working America Health Care, you have access to licensed professionals that can connect you to almost all the health plan options on the Health Insurance Marketplace (aka Healthcare.gov). But for no additional cost, you also have access to hundreds of benefits available through our partners at Union Plus, including dental and vision discounts.
Most importantly, when you enroll in the Marketplace through Working America Health Care, you have access to a personal Health Advocate: a real person you can call to help navigate the complexities of your health insurance. For no additional cost.
Enrolling through us also makes you a member of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO and the fastest growing organization for working families. Since our creation in 2003, we’ve successfully helped raised the wages of millions of workers, passed paid sick days laws and other worker protections, and helped elect dozens of pro-worker local, state, and federal candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Mark Dayton, and Jeff Merkley.
And yes, this program is open to anyone who does not have a union on the job. That includes folks who are freelancers, unemployed, and retired too.
Want to find out more? Visit our website at workingamericahealthcare.org or call 855-698-2479. We’ll also answer as many questions as possible in the comments.
Bonus: Check out Amy Lynn Smith’s great coverage of Working America Health Care on Eclectablog!
Originally posted on DailyKos
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, Health Care, Jeff Merkley, Mark Dayton, obamacare, Sherrod Brown
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
Tags: aflcio, disability, Health Care, Ohio, secure retirement, Sherrod Brown, social security
If the United States acted forcefully to end currency manipulation by China and other nations—and there is legislation to provide the government the tools to do so—it could create as many as 5.8 million jobs (40% in manufacturing) and reduce the nation’s trade deficit by as much as 72.5%, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Currency manipulation is the largest single cause of the U.S. trade deficit, and the Chinese government is the world’s biggest currency manipulator. It deliberately keeps the value of its currency artificially low and that artificially raises the price of U.S. exports to China and suppresses the price of Chinese imports into the United States. This artificial price advantage is one of many pull factors that encourages U.S. businesses to shut down operations here and manufacture in China instead. Says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:
U.S. workers can compete with anyone in the world, but they cannot compete successfully on a lopsided playing field. [Currency manipulation] is a major contributing factor in our lopsided trade relationship with China. Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing companies and workers bear the brunt of these unfair policies.
The EPI report finds that:
- Eliminating currency manipulation would reduce the U.S. trade deficit by $200 billion in three years under a “low-impact” scenario and $500 billion under a “high-impact scenario.” This would increase annual U.S. GDP by between $288 billion and $720 billion (between 2.0% and 4.9%).
- The reduction of U.S. trade deficits and expansion of U.S. GDP would create 2.3 million to 5.8 million jobs, reducing the U.S. jobs deficit by between 28.8% and 72.5%.
- About 40% of the jobs gained would be in manufacturing, which would gain between 891,500 and 2,337,300 jobs. Agriculture also would gain 246,800 to 486,100 jobs, heavily affecting some rural areas.
Read the full EPI report here.
Bipartisan legislation in Congress (H.R. 1267 and S. 1114) would crack down on currency exchange rate manipulation and hold countries that manipulate their currencies accountable. Trumka says:
We call on Congress to fight on the side of American workers and domestic manufacturers and farmers to put an end to currency manipulation now.
While China is the largest currency manipulator, other nations do so, too. Japan, which is one the 12 TPP nations, (China is not involved) has been accused of weakening the value of the yen to benefit its auto industry.
Currently Japan exports some 130 cars to the United States for every car that U.S. automakers export to Japan. One of the major reason for that imbalance is currency manipulation says the UAW.
As a consequence of Japanese government currency intervention, in a market such as the United States, Japanese imports have seen several thousand dollars in effective subsidies while, at the same time, exports from the United States to Japan have seen several thousand dollars in added costs….The impact of these policies undermines American auto exports and American jobs and the investment they support.
Yesterday, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), both sponsors of S. 1114, said that without currency manipulation rules as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment agreement and other pending trade agreements, Congress is unlikely to approve the trade bills. Says Brown:
The trade agenda is not moving until currency is part of it.
The Obama administration’s is pushing to have the TPP agreement considered under Fast Track rules in Congress.
Under the Fast Track process, Congress can only vote yes or no on the full agreement. It cannot amend or improve the bill.
Sign the petition to Congress to stop bad Fast Track trade deals over the next four years, including the TPP.
Also, if you haven’t signed a letter for a better TPP, do it here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: china, Jobs, Michigan, Ohio, Sandy Levin, Sherrod Brown, tpp, trade, uaw
Today’s jobless workers face new discriminatory barriers to finding work in a broken economy. Some employers won’t consider out-of-work applicants for job openings. And more and more employers run credit checks, leaving long-term jobless workers, who have likely fallen far behind in their bills and seen their credit scores tank, on the streets.
Today Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill to stop employers from requiring prospective employees to disclose their credit history or disqualifying applicants based on a poor credit rating. Says Warren:
Families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs. This is about basic fairness—let people compete on the merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills.
Even as the economy is slowly turning around, the recession and financial crisis continue to take a toll on working families. Many of whom are hardworking, bill-paying people who have seen the credit ratings damaged when they or a family member lost a job or a small business and saw the value of their homes plummet. Savings evaporate and payments get missed. Says Warren:
Most people recognize that bad credit means they will have trouble borrowing money or they will pay more to borrow. But many don’t realize that a damaged credit rating also can block access to a job.
While at one time it was common belief that a credit history could provide insight into a perspective employee’s character, Warren says that recent research has shown that an individual’s credit rating has little or no correlation with his ability to succeed at work. A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected personal crisis or economic downturn than a reflection of someone’s abilities.
She also says, “This is one more way the game is rigged against the middle class.”
A rich person who loses a job or gets divorced or faces a family illness is unlikely to suffer from a drop in his or her credit rating. But for millions of hardworking families, hard personal blow translates into a hard financial blow that will show up for years in a credit report.
People shouldn’t be denied the chance to compete for jobs because of credit reports that bear no relationship to job performance and that, according to recent reports, are often riddled with inaccuracies. Click here to become a citizen co-sponsor of The Equal Employment for All Act.
The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced the bill in the House late last year.
Photo via U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on Facebook
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: banks, Corporate Accountability, credit checks, ed markey, Education, Elizabeth Warren, Jeanne Shaheen, Massachusetts, Patrick Leahy, Richard Blumenthal, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sherrod Brown, unemployment
An overhaul of Cincinnati’s pension system backed by the Tea Party was thoroughly crushed on Tuesday. Cincinnati voters rejected the charter amendment, known as Issue 4, by a 57-point margin.
Issue 4 was placed on the ballot by a private group known as the Cincinnati for Pension Reform Committee. It would have required the city to pay off its $872 million unfunded liability in the current pension system within 10 years, or find cost savings or new revenue elsewhere to make up the difference.
Making up that huge gap, exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis, is nearly impossible in 10 years. That’s the point: Issue 4 was a barely concealed attempt to force cuts to public services in Cincinnati, and generally pit the city’s citizens against the workers who make it run.
The city is already taking steps to address the $872 million liability in a number of ways–and as with most cities, the public workers themselves are bearing the brunt. Issue 4 would have put those changes on steroids, and would have lead to either tax increases or cuts to public safety and city services: closed firehouses, slower emergency response times, and staffing shortages when we need help the most.
It’s no wonder then that opposing Issue 4 united unlikely allies: the Chamber of Commerce, AFSCME, firefighters, and the editorial board of the right-leaning Cincinnati Enquirer. “Today’s vote will be heard beyond Cincinnati and sends a message for those on the ideological extremes who think it is ok to impose their agenda on an entire city,” said Peter Linden of AFSCME Ohio Council 8, “Had this passed, outside money and political extremists would have cost Cincinnati taxpayers more money, with less services.”
It’s been two years since Ohio voters of all political stripes overturned Gov. John Kasich’s Senate Bill 5, which stripped collective bargaining from over 300,000 public workers. It’s been one year since Ohio voters chose pro-worker Senator Sherrod Brown over the Tea Party-affiliated Josh Mandel. Since that time, the effort to get a so-called “right to work” on the 2014 Ohio ballot has faltered, collecting less than a third of the signatures needed in 20 months.
It’s time that the corporate-backed anti-worker forces in Ohio get it through their heads that Ohioans are interested in more jobs and a stronger economy; not fewer rights at work, fewer public services, and attacks on the workers who are already making the most sacrifices.
Tags: afscme, Chamber of Commerce, cincinnati, Josh Mandel, Ohio, public workers, Right to Work, SB5, secure retirement, Sherrod Brown
Working America has strong connections to the state of Ohio. Some of our first pilot programs started in the Buckeye State, and over a million Ohioans call themselves Working America members.
Ohio features some of the closest and most crucial political races in the country. Working America has looked at the candidates and ballot options, and we endorse the following:
Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate
Yes on Issue 2
Betty Sutton for U.S. Congress (OH-16) – Find your district here.
All endorsements after the jump.
Tags: Betty Sutton, Ohio, Sherrod Brown, voting rights
Voters of Ohio’s new 16th District (check here to see if that includes you) have a unique opportunity – return one current Congressperson to Washington and send one home. Both Betty Sutton and Jim Renacci have clear voting records, and when it comes to working families, the overwhelming choice is Democrat Betty Sutton.
Rep. Sutton’s votes reflect an understanding that Rep. Renacci’s votes do not: that government has a limited but crucial role to play in economic recovery. Like U.S. Sherrod Brown, she fought hard for the rescue of the auto industry, as well as the “mini-stimulus” of the “Cash for Clunkers” program. She was recognized with a Distinguished Service Award from the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association (OADA) for her commitment to creating and retaining the jobs of autodealers and workers.
She voted for Obamacare, which has allowed thousands of Ohioans to afford health insurance and saved prescription drug costs for thousands of Ohio seniors. She opposed the “Ryan budget,” which would gut funding for education, cripple Medicaid, and end Medicare as we know it; Jim Renacci voted for it.
Rep. Sutton has also been recognized for her work on behalf of veterans. She worked on the Stop-Loss Compensation Act and the new GI Bill, and was named Legislator of the Year by the Ohio American Veterans Association. When the VA made plans to move their Lorain clinic to a less accessible location, Rep. Sutton was instrumental in making sure it remained at the readily accessible St. Joseph Community Center.
Republicans designed the 16th District especially to give Rep. Renacci a leg up. Yet Sutton has received the endorsements of every newspaper that covers the area, and the race is nearly tied. That is because the choice is abundantly clear: Renacci has fought for obstruction and austerity, while Sutton has fought for jobs, jobs, and jobs.
We endorse Rep. Betty Sutton for Ohio’s 16th Congressional District. Plan your vote now.
Photo by AFL-CIO on Flickr
Tags: Betty Sutton, endorsement, Ohio, Sherrod Brown
There is no one in Washington fighting harder for Ohio working families than Sherrod Brown.
When the economic crisis threatened to topple the auto industry, which supports one of out every eight Ohio jobs, Senator Brown worked with President Bush in 2008 and President Obama in 2009 and 2010 to find the best solution. The bold action by Senator Brown and the Obama Administration, though unpopular at the time, rescued a key American industry from collapse and has done wonders for the recovering Midwest economy.
His work extends far beyond the auto rescue, however. He has been a leading voice against tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. He has been a passionate, unwavering defender of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning, even as big money poured in against it. He is also steadfast in his belief that we must end “corporate personhood.”
For these reasons and others, $26 million of out-of-state, anonymous donations have flooded Ohio this past year, attacking Senator Brown and promoting his Republican opponent, first-term State Treasurer Josh Mandel. Brown faces more spending from his opposition than any other senator or Senate candidate in the country. This is is already the most expensive race in Ohio’s history.
This is no accident. The anonymous donors behind that $26 million – Wall Street, Karl Rove, oil companies, insurance interests, CEO’s who want “corporate personhood” to remain in place – recognize Sherrod Brown as a key obstacle in their efforts to exert control over our pocketbooks, our votes, and our elected officials. They can’t voucherize Medicare, dismantle Social Security, or continue to run the Wall Street casino while Sherrod Brown stands in their path.
While we respect his military service, there’s no doubt that Brown’s opponent, Treasurer Josh Mandel has run an exceedingly dishonest campaign. And when he is pressed on his agenda, what comes out is wholly against the interests of working families: repealing Obamacare, ending Medicare as we know it, keeping subsidies for oil companies and protecting tax breaks for outsourcers. In three debate performances, his conduct has been unbecoming of a Senate candidate but emblematic of today’s anti-worker Republican Party; calling Senator Brown a “liar” with no proof, repeating the debunked statement that Senator Brown “stole from Medicare,” and doubling down on his claim that support of the auto-rescue was “un-American.”
But even when not compared to his opponent, Sherrod Brown is passionate fighter for Ohio jobs, workers’ rights, and solutions that will aid our economic recovery. We urge a vote for Senator Sherrod Brown - plan your vote now.
Photo by USDAgov on Flickr.
Tags: endorsement, Josh Mandel, Ohio, Sherrod Brown
The following is a guest post by Sylvia Bly, a Cleveland Working America member.
Recently, I went to a U.S. Senate field hearing in Cleveland about House Bill 194. I heard arguments for and against HB 194, a bill that’s a real stinker to me. Its main objectives are to make it much harder to cast your vote, count fewer votes and remove local control for each county.
The courtroom was pretty formidable, but once the hearing started, I was transfixed on the due process I was witnessing. This hearing went to the heart of the issue: HB 194 would impede voters from exercising their rights. Listening to Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), our own Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) was inspiring, but it also dredged up some memories of a time of great turmoil in our nation.
I remember when I was a young girl and Jim Crow laws were in place in the Southern states. Jim Crow laws, which existed until 1965, were all about a “separate but equal” status for African-Americans. During the ‘60’s our nation was embroiled with civil unrest between those who wanted to keep minorities “in their place” with all the economic, educational and social inadequacies, while others fought to right these wrongs. I think about how my own mother was born a mere nine years after women won the right to vote. So now in Ohio and across the nation, we’re witnessing new legislation to turn back the clock and erase so much of the progress that’s been made to empower all of us to fully participate in our elections.
HB 194 was supposedly introduced to address voter fraud. But how come, when asked, none of the panelists in support of HB 194 could present a single documented case of such fraud? That reinforced my suspicion that the real reason for HB 194 is voter suppression. If I had my say, any legislator who wants to introduce a bill that restricts my opportunities to vote should have to prove the need for these changes. Otherwise whatever party is in office could finagle legislation in favor of their own party’s agenda. That’s not democracy, people.
Abraham Lincoln said it best in the Gettysburg Address when he wrote that our government is a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Every provision in HB 194 is a huge step backward and undermines the very foundation of our Republic. I’m having such a difficult time comprehending how any legislator who takes an oath of office to ensure their constituents’ inalienable rights would work to get around not just the letter of the law, but more importantly, the spirit of the law. We pay their salaries with our tax dollars; these legislators are supposed to be working for us.
After Ohioans worked hard to gather over 300,000 signatures to put this bill to a vote, House Republicans voted to repeal HB 194. Not only did they prevent the people of our state from having their say, but the GOP also left in place provisions that eliminated voting the weekend before the election. Now it seems to me that if a bill is going to be repealed, it should be repealed in total. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to buy a CD, burn your favorite songs and return it? That’s why return policies were written and are enforced. Meanwhile, our referendum is null and void. It’s amazing to me how our legislators have decided they have no rules and don’t have to answer to their own constituents.
I guess my fellow Working America members and I need to work even harder to make sure our elected officials in Columbus are listening to working families across the state. Join me and become a super activist in Ohio.
Tags: Ohio, Sherrod Brown, voting rights
The following is a guest post from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
This is a big moment for Ohio. On Tuesday you showed the entire country that we won’t accept attacks on Ohio’s middle class.
After months of gathering petition signatures, going door to door, making phone calls, and talking to your friends and neighbors you have defeated the special interests and overturned Senate Bill 5.
You showed shadowy out of state special interest groups who poured millions into Ohio on attack ads against Ohio’s working families that we don’t accept dirty political tricks and misinformation campaigns.
From the emergency room nurse in Cleveland to the firefighter in Zanesville to the teachers in Cincinnati, Akron, and Chillicothe—our public workers deserve a voice. They deserve a seat at the table when it comes to their safety, working conditions, to their benefits, and livelihoods. Thanks to you, they will still have those rights.
I thank you for all your hard work. But I do have an important message: don’t stop now.
Already those same right wing front groups are readying their millions to go after those of us who stood with you during this fight and Ohio will be one of their favorite targets. They’re going to come after us because we want to create jobs, protect Medicare and Social Security, and rebuild Ohio’s manufacturing base by standing up to China.
But let me tell you this. Because of what you did in Ohio, first by gathering 1.3 million signatures and then turning out in huge numbers to vote No on Issue 2, they are starting to listen.
And that’s why I ask you: don’t stop now.
Make your voice heard. Tell your elected officials that in Mansfield, you want good paying jobs. Tell them that in Cincinnati, construction workers shouldn’t wait in unemployment lines while schools and bridges need rebuilding. Tell them that Social Security checks for seniors in Akron are more important than tax loopholes for Wall Street and Big Oil.
And in one loud voice, tell extremists in Columbus to get their hands off your right to vote!
I would like to thank the members of Working America, the largest organization for working people in Ohio, for all that they have done in this fight, and I will continue to stand for all of Ohio workers, as I have done my whole career.
Tags: Issue 2, John Kasich, Ohio, SB5, Sherrod Brown