January 02, 2018
From NYSARA President Barry A. Kaufmann 2017 year in review and a look ahead to 2018
The year 2017 will go down as one of the most active and bizarre years for seniors in recent memory. NYSARA and our national affiliate the ARA had an extremely busy year. While not always successful in our efforts we made our voices known and heard. With the national leadership represented by one party and with an executive branch that is less than predictable we face challenges on a plethora of issues that make a huge difference to the quality of life of current seniors and the future senior safety net for our children and grandchildren. While not having the same success with our NYS legislative agenda in 2017 as we did in 2016, when Paid Family leave and the increase in minimum wage were adopted, NYSARA and its partners lobbied on behalf of our legislative agenda including Safe patient staffing and the New York Health act.
On the national level the efforts by the Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care act faced extreme push back by activists and while it passed the House of Representatives, failed in the Senate. All Democrats in the House voted against the repeal, while only Republican Congressional representatives Donovan (Staten Island) and Katko (Syracuse) joined the Democrats in voting against a bill that would have stripped millions of their health care and dramatically increased costs for seniors who could afford coverage. Republican representatives Zeldin, King, Faso, Tenney, Collins, Reed and Stefanik voted for the repeal. The House and Senate budget that cut $1 trillion from Medicaid and $500 billion from Medicare passed and allowed the Tax reform bill to be passed through reconciliation (51 votes required) in the Senate. Again, all democrats voted against this budget that severely negatively impacted seniors. This time Republican Representatives Zeldin, King, Donovan, Faso and Sefanik voted against and Representatives, Tenney, Katko, Reed and Collins voted against a budget that would severely harm New York State with its steep cuts in Medicaid. Finally, the tax reform bill that increases the deficit by $1.5 trillion, gives 85% of the tax cuts to the top 1% and corporations, cuts Medicare by $480 billion, eliminates the tax deduction for state and local taxes that inordinately impacts New York State and relies on trickle down economics, which has NO history of success passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Trump. All Democrats again voted against this bill with Republican representatives Zeldin, Donovan, Faso, Stefanik and King voting against and Representatives Tenney, Katko, Reed and Collins again supporting it.
On the New York State side NYSARA and its allies were unable to pass or bring to a vote the Safe patient staffing bill and were unable to have the NYS Senate bring the New York Health bill to the floor for a vote.
In 2018 seniors in general and NYSARA representing them have an extreme challenge and an extreme opportunity to turn our activism into results and to protect the interests of current and future seniors. Because of the passage of the tax reform bill that created a $1.5 trillion shortfall over 10 years the Republican leadership have already said they intend to save money through taking it from Medicare, Medicaid and through a more difficult process to change Social Security. All the old proposals have been recycled. To institute the “chained CPI” to lower the rate of increase even though this years CPI increase of 2% is the first of over .5% in 4 to 5 years AND will be almost entirely eaten up by the increase in Medicare Part B premiums. To raise the SS retirement age to 69 and the Medicare access age to 67 which denies the sickest access to health care AND increases the cost of Medicare because more people arrive at Medicare sicker. To means test Medicare and Social Security. To voucherize Medicare that won’t keep pace with increases in health care cost and to expand Health Savings accounts that only are used by people who can afford health care. In addition to this there are those who want to diminish and wreck havoc with the Affordable Care act. Remember, the new proposed HHS Secretary, who is in charge of regulations for the ACA, is a former drug executive. Add to this the full court press that we need to exert to insure that the NYS Safe Patient staffing bill and the NY Health bill receive positive action and we have a very busy year ahead.
It is also an election year in 2018. We have the opportunity in New York to help change the leadership in the House of Representatives. There is an energy in activism in many of the house races where republicans are currently in office. Representatives Reed, Faso, Stefanik, Tenney, Zeldin and Katko have formidable opponents. Representatives Tenney, Faso, Zeldin and Stefanik are in their 1st or 2nd terms and live in districts that have had democrats elected in the last 6 years.
We, as NYSARA members and activists, have the opportunity to shape our state and our nation. You have all answered the call this year and I can only see your efforts increase into 2018. I wish you all the happiest and healthiest of New Years for you and your family. Re energize yourselves and prepare for a very important year. Thank you for all you are and all you do.