May 03, 2016

May/June Message from NYS Alliance for Retired Americans President Barry A. Kaufmann

The NYSARA Educational Foundation just completed a very successful founding convention. As a 501 (c) 4 organization we will be much more able to advocate for the needs of our members and to influence the discussion. We will have the opportunity, as never before, to educate our members on issues and candidates that are important to them and to seniors as a whole. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to hear from national ARA President Robert Roach Jr. and from the NYS office for the aging. For more details of the convention see the article in “State News”.

NYSARA has had some successful collaboration’s in the past several months. Our efforts to pass a paid family leave bill in New York State and to pass a minimum wage increase were successfully completed during the budget process. We lobbied the Senate Republicans by standing in front of the door to their caucus room on March 28. We were able to pull about 15 of their members aside and do some “personal” lobbying on behalf of the fight for 15. It was apparent that our efforts resulted in giving the “senior perspective” to why it was important to raise the minimum wage to our elected’s. Also successful was our effort to defeat the current retiree health insurance issue in New York State – Knocking out the Medicare Part B reimbursement for retired state employees having the NYS health plan and increasing retired state employee health premiums.

We still have issues on our agenda that we will be working on with the legislators in New York State. Issues such as safe patient staffing that should be an issue that engenders universal support. SAFE STAFFING SAVES LIVES and Improves OtherPatient Outcomes. New York hospitals perform worse than hospitals nationally on key indicators of quality and patient safety, and most New Yorkers agree hospitals do not have enough nurses. In fact, 86 percent support a minimum number of nurses on duty at any given time. Extensive research shows higher levels of nurse staffing save lives and improve patient outcomes by ensuring that nurses have time to complete necessary nursing tasks. Safe staffing standards are particularly important for the sickest patients requiring constant care.

Saving lives Peer-reviewed studies consistently report that higher RN staffing is related to fewer deaths

  • Adding one full-time RN per patient day was associated with a six percent drop in odds of death for medical patients, a nine percent drop for ICU patients, and a 16 percent drop in failure to rescue in surgical patients, in a 2007 analysis combining data from 28 studies.
  • A patient’s risk of death increased by two percent for every below-target, or short-staffed, shift to which he or she was exposed, according to a four-year study of over 190,000 hospital admissions. Risk was even higher for patients exposed to short staffing in the first five days of hospitalization.

For all of these reasons it seems to be a no brainer to pass the bill. However, hospitals are saying that the costs are prohibitive to accomplish safe staffing levels and NYS Legislators believe this to be true. The truth is, that to save lives and improve the quality of lives is priceless and the overly simplistic cost factor based on multiplying the cost to hire additional nurses by the number of new nurses is at best misleading and does not tell the complete story. Under the affordable care act there are penalties for hospitals that have too high a readmission rate. Currently over 90% of hospitals in NYS do not meet the readmission standards. They are all subject to penalties of between 1% and 3% of their total Medicare reimbursement. Additionally, there is a cost when overworked nurses get sick or leave the profession and the hospital has to retrain new workers. All of these “costs” are significant and able to be mitigated in large measure through safe patient staffing.

To this end there will be a day of action on May 10 in Albany sponsored by Statewide Senior Action. For more information see the article on the web site under announcements.

As many successes as we have had we have significant challenges ahead. There are national threats to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that threaten to turn Medicare into a voucher program, raise retirement age to 70 over the next 30-35 years, Means Test Social Security (that makes the program less popular) and Institute chained CPI (reducing the yearly COLA). There is the threat of a Constitutional Convention in New York State, which has the potential to gut programs for the elderly, change or gut the State pension system and negatively impact the quality of life for seniors. NYSARA will be educating our members about the potential harms that convening a constitutional convention could cause so they are informed and so we can all share with our neighbors and our families what harm this can cause to seniors and grandparents.

We have already posted on our web site, under announcements, the voting records for our representative’s in congress on issues important to seniors. We will be posting a legislative scorecard of senior issues for our NYS Assembly and Senate after the conclusion of the Legislative session. Both of these actions are to educate our members before a VERY IMPORTANT national, state and local election cycle. The future of Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and senior issues on the State and local level might well depend on “voting your self interest” rather than voting the rhetoric.

Despite making record profits — $39 billion in profits over the last three years — Verizon wants to:

  • Offshoring Good Jobs – Verizon has already contracted out work to more than 5,000 employees in the Philippines, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and other overseas locations. These offshore workers handle customer service calls originating in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states. Verizon wants to increase the number of calls — and jobs — that are transferred overseas.
  • Outsourcing Work to Low-Wage Contractors – Verizon is pushing to dramatically expand its outsourcing of work to low-wage non-union contractors. The company wants to sharply expand the amount of contracting out of outside line work, particularly vital work of installation and maintenance.

I am asking that each member of NYSARA consider taking part in regular picketing of Verizon Wireless Corporate stores across New York State to protest the position of Verizon Executives that has caused Verizon workers to declare a strike. Below you will find information about the strike issues, the most egregious are the ones proposed that negatively impact retirees.

WHAT’S AT STAKE For Verizon & Verizon Wireless Workers

Call-Center Closings – Despite the high-demand for customer service, hundreds of Verizon workers are at risk of losing their jobs or being forced to commute as much as three hours more each day because of the company’s plan to close and consolidate call centers.

Freeze Pensions and Cut Sick Days – Despite its massive profitability, Verizon is insisting on freezing pensions at 30 years of service and slashing five sick days. CWA already agreed in 2012 that newly hired workers will not have defined benefit pensions; instead they have a 401(k) plan.

Drastic Increases in Retiree Health Care Costs – Verizon is pushing for retirees on fixed incomes to pay dramatically more for health care. This is perhaps the cruelest cut the company is seeking in negotiations, since retirees who dedicated their lives to the company are now being squeezed to further pad the company’s profits.

Last but certainly not least, we are encouraging both NYS and Federal legislators to address the Retirement Security crisis in its entirety and to address the Retirement Security Pyramid that includes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as its base, Defined Benefit Pensions at its second level and investments as the top (smallest) level. In our April 11 meeting with Congressman Joseph Crowley, we spent significant time on this issue. Congressman Crowley has a comprehensive proposal that addresses the totality of this crisis and creates a program that is as close to a defined benefit pension program for all as I have ever seen. NYSARA will keep you posted on this and other proposals that address the critical problem of retirement with dignity that befits the contributions that seniors have made over their lifetime.

Every place I go I see the same enthusiasm and excitement about our road ahead. Our ability to influence the discussion and make life better for our members is directly proportional to the activism and visibility we can show. Together, we can make the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund a force to be reckoned with in New York State and a driver of the national debate as well. We are poised at the crossroad of a new day for our organization. Thank you for all you do and for all yow will do.

In Solidarity,





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Topics: President's Message