Soaring Costs Shifting Burdens
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50+ Washington News www.aarp.org/wa WA of respondents said that if cost trends continue, employees will have to pay more for premiums, deductibles and co-pays. Tom Weber of North Bend has provided coverage for his workers for 30 years. But with his costs now topping more than $50,000 a year for 30 employees, he’s had to make some tough decisions. “I’ve always felt that providing insurance was the right thing to do. It didn’t used to be a big deal, but with costs the way they are I’ve had to cut back,” he said. AARP released the survey as part of “Divided We Fail,” a nationwide initiative by AARP, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the Service Employees Summer 2008 Calendar ‘VOTE 2008: The Governor’s Debate’ Oct. 1, 7 – 8 p.m. KCTS-TV will air a live debate between Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) and challenger Dino Rossi (R), sponsored by AARP, from the Capitol Theatre in Yakima. Visit www.aarp.org/wa. Senior Citizens’ Foundation Conference Oct. 17, 9:00 a.m. – 3:15 p.m., DoubleTree Hotel at SeaTac. Visit www.waseniorlobby.org or call 360-754-0207 for details. Washington Health Legislative Conference Nov. 18, Hilton Conference Center at SeaTac. The University of Washington Resource Center for Health Policy hosts “Envisioning the Future: Tools to Make It Happen.” Visit http://depts. washington.edu/rchpol. Soaring Costs, Shifting Burdens Workers in Washington can expect t to pay more for their health care as businesses strain to cover costs. A new AARP survey finds Washington employers buckling under the rising pressure of health care costs. Most plan to shift more of the cost to employees; others have reduced or eliminated benefits. The survey probed the experiences and views of over 400 businesses. “The findings paint a troubling picture for businesses and workers alike,” said AARP State Director Doug Shadel. “Our state’s employers have their backs against the wall.” Washington businesses have seen costs increase by about 32 percent overall in the past three years. The outlook is particularly troubling for small businesses: their costs increased by 91 percent in that time. The majority AARP Washington 9750 3rd Ave. NE, Suite 450 Seattle, WA 98115 Tom Weber, left, owner of Weber Construction in Snoqualmie, is among the many business owners in Washington struggling to cover rising health care costs for employees. With Weber is employee Budd Totten. International Union and the Business Roundtable. “Small business owners, their employees and dependents make up the largest segment of the uninsured population,” said NFIB State Director Troy Nichols. “We simply can’t be content with the stalemate over health care reform.” To learn how you can help, visit www.dividedwefail.org. Non-Proﬁt Org. U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 43 Long Beach, CA Volunteer Good at math? Become an AARP Tax-Aide volunteer and help older and disabled Washingtonians file their taxes next spring. Training is provided. For more information, visit www. aarp.org/taxaide. Support law enforcement. The state attorney general is looking for volunteers. For more information visit www.atg.wa.gov or call 1-800-551-4636. In This Issue Putting the Freeze On ........... 2 New law aims to protect consumers from ID theft. Q&A ........................................ 3 Gubernatorial candidates Chris Gregoire and Dino Rossi discuss health care. Divided We Fail ......................4 Join AARP’s “millions of voices for change” by signing the pledge. Forbes magazine lists Washington as the ﬁfth-best state in the U.S. for business, seven spots above its previous ranking. To read the AARP survey report on health care costs for Washington businesses, visit www.aarp.org/research/work/beneﬁts. Stay Upright, Stay Safe Voices on the Street Washingtonians are speaking out about their struggles to afford health care. Here’s what they’re saying: As a Boeing employee from 1979 to 1984, Bainbridge Island resident Dave Henry received full medical benefits. But in the mid-1980s he lost his job and his coverage when Boeing implemented a companywide downsizing. Unable to find affordable insurance, Henry has gone without for years. “As [residents of] the world’s most prosperous nation, it’s sad that so many of us are forced to gamble with our own health, well-being and financial future,” he said. Within an eightmonth period, Jeannie Barber of Spokane underwent a mastectomy, gall bladder surgery and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, it all happened while she was between jobs and without insurance. “What I went through could happen to anybody,” says Barber. “It’s not because you’re lazy or careless — any one of us can become a victim of our nation’s broken health care system.” When health problems forced Larry Olsen of Richland to retire at age 61, he found himself where he had never been — without health insurance. “Now I’ve got to scrounge for the $70 to see my doctor,” said Olsen. Fortunately, his doctor has agreed to accept cash and give Olsen a generous discount. Even then, “I don’t go to the doctor unless I absolutely have to,” says Olsen. “I need to save the cash for the visit.” F ROM THE G RASSROOTS Olympia Resident Wins AARP Scholarship The AARP Foundation has named Linda Rae Alvarado of Olympia a winner of the first annual Women’s Scholarship Program. The scholarship provides funds to women age 40 and older who seek new job skills and training to support themselves and their families. Alvarado, 59, has been raising four grandchildren for more than six years. She has a masters degree in business but has worked part-time at minimum-wage jobs that gave the flexibility she needed to care for her grandchildren. Now that the children are older, Alvarado has had trouble finding a better-paying job. “Every position I’ve applied for has required current computer and accounting skills — and mine are simply out of date,” she said. Alvarado plans to use the funds to take software courses at South Puget Sound Community College. Each year, one in three Americans age 65 and older falls. Thirty percent of those who fall require medical treatment, costing a total of more than $19 billion annually. September is Falls Prevention Month in Washington. You can lower your risk of falling by making the following changes: Exercise regularly. Exercise makes you stronger and improves balance and coordination. Check your medications. Have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medicines you take including over-the-counter ones. Some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy and can cause you to fall. Have your vision checked. Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Poor vision can increase your chances of falling. Make your home safer. About half of all falls happen at home. Remove throw rugs, install grab bars, use nonslip mats in the bathtub and shower, improve the lighting and wear shoes inside your home instead of slippers or going barefoot. For more information on preventing falls, visit www.cdc.gov/injury or visit www.aarp.org/health/ staying_healthy/prevention, then click on “Better Balance Prevents Falls.” Linda Rae Alvarado is updating her job skills through an AARP Foundation scholarship. “I hope to help my grandkids through college,” she says. I N THE C LASSROOM Wahluke High School Wins Legacy Award AARP Washington has awarded its Ethel Percy Andrus Legacy Award for Innovation and $10,000 to Wahluke High School in Mattawa, a small, isolated, rural school district. Many students come from poor farm-working families and speak only Spanish at home (93 percent are Hispanic), yet Wahluke has developed a climate that refuses to allow kids to quit. Test prep classes four mornings a week and credit recovery classes four nights a week helped double the number of students who passed the state assessment in reading from 2000 to 2007 — and writing scores almost tripled. I N YOUR P OCKET Consumers Can Now Put Credit on Ice A new state law went into effect Sept. 1, giving all residents the ability to freeze access to their credit files. Identity theft victims and anyone age 65 and older can do so for free. Other consumers will pay up to $10 to each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to enact or lift a freeze. A security freeze means that a credit file cannot be shared with potential creditors or insurance companies. “While identity thieves often hijack existing accounts, they can do far more damage by opening new credit,” Attorney General Rob McKenna (R) said. “Lenders can’t approve a credit application if they can’t see your credit report.” AARP joined McKenna in crusading for passage of the law last year. Enacting a freeze requires writing to all three bureaus and providing proof of identity. Each credit bureau supplies a PIN for lifting the freeze. Consumers can temporarily lift a freeze within 15 minutes electronically, or within three business days by mailing a request. For more information, visit www.atg.wa.gov, or call the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center at 1-800-646-2283. Fraud Fighters Offer On-Site Training The AARP Washington Fraud Fighter Call Center is taking its program on the road, working on site with community groups and housing facilities to offer tools and tips for recognizing scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Washington ranks second nationally for complaints of fraud, which cost state consumers almost $40 million in 2007. The average loss per victim was $2,925. To learn more about this free program or to volunteer, call Jean Mathisen at 206-517-9353 or 1-800-646-2283 toll free. Visit www.dividedwefail.org to read more stories and to become one of AARP’s “millions of voices for change.” Twelve percent of Bainbridge Island residents work from their homes, the second-highest proportion in the United States. Get free state-sponsored foreclosure and home ownership counseling by calling 1-877-894-HOME or visiting homeownership.wa.gov. Q. In this uncertain economy, Q&A Serving 940,000 members AARP Washington 9750 3rd Ave. NE Suite 450 Seattle, WA 98115 1-866-227-7457 toll free www.aarp.org/wa email@example.com S TATE O FFICE S TAFF Doug Shadel State Director Crystal Bell Senior Operations Administrator Bruce Carlson Program Coordinator Susan Cunningham AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center Project Assistant Jason Erskine Communications Director Jean Mathisen AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center Project Director Ingrid McDonald Advocacy Director Karla Pak Program Coordinator Cheryl Reed Outreach Director Susan Schindler Program Coordinator E XECUTIVE C OUNCIL M EMBERS John Barnett State President Art Cruz Joe Dukes Shelby Gilje Lillian Hayashi Tom Hokanson Bill Iulo Pauline Lothspeich Ed Singler Where the State Candidates Stand In preparing the Voter Guide for Washington residents, AARP asked Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) and challenger Dino Rossi (R) what steps they would take to improve health care and financial security in the state. Q. How do you propose to address the high cost of prescription drugs? A. Washingtonians Gov. Chris deserve less Gregoire (D) expensive prescription drugs. I made the request to the Legislature for the Medicare Part D program, and I support its continuation. The state has saved $3.3 million for 80,000 Washingtonians with a new prescription drug card. Transparency and openness are also important to keep costs down, and our healthcare system is more open than it was three years ago. I will consider any proposal that will make our healthcare system more open, and provide patients more information and choices about their healthcare. what will you do to encourage people to plan and prepare for their retirement and protect consumers from financial fraud and abuse that can erode retirement savings? A. Financial education and protections against predatory lending are very important, especially in tough economic times. My Department of Financial Institutions has launched many initiatives to promote financial education, and I will continue these efforts during my second term. In 2008, I signed a bill that stepped up oversight of mortgage lenders so consumers would be better protected. I will continue to look for ways to protect consumers from predatory lending and help Washingtonians prepare for their financial futures. Q. How do approved drugs and making generic drugs more accessible. The use of generic drugs is an effective costsaving tool that still gives seniors access to the drugs they need. We should continue to promote the use of general drugs and educate people on their safety and affordability. Q. In this uncertain economy, you propose to address the high cost of prescription drugs? A. The high cost of prescription drugs Dino Rossi (R) are a burden for many seniors. They should never be forced to choose between taking their necessary medication and paying their bills or buying food. I support making prescription drugs more affordable through the safe importation of FDA what will you do to encourage people to plan and prepare for their retirement and protect consumers from financial fraud and abuse that can erode retirement savings? A. I support protecting Social Security and believe that my colleagues at the federal level must find a way to put it on a path toward fiscal sustainability. But we must also supplement the Social Security system by encouraging people to establish personal retirement savings accounts. This will allow individuals to better plan for their future and help ensure they have stable income during their retirement years. Seniors are often victims of fraud and abuse, and I do support programs to increase financial literacy and protect against predatory lending. To read and download the complete Voter Guide for Washington races, please go to www.aarp.org/wa. F ROM THE S TATE P RESIDENT Make Sure You’re Informed The time to take action is today. There’s no better opportunity to send a message to Olympia and Washington, D.C., that we want change, for a stronger state and nation. John Barnett serves as AARP Washington’s state president. Get the facts, use the power and vote! Tune in to your local public broadcasting station on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. to view a live, AARPsponsored gubernatorial debate. 1/3 The Fraction of those Washington employers who offered employee health coverage in the recent past that no longer do. As we head into the election season, the message of Divided We Fail is more important than ever. The issues of our broken health care system and lifetime financial security should be front and center in our minds. Next month we can send the powerful message to our elected officials that the values of Divided We Fail matter to us. Watch our gubernatorial debate on Oct. 1. Read the AARP Voter Guide and the state voter guide. Listen to what the candidates for every office have to say. Washington’s more than 2,700 foreclosure ﬁlings in June marked a 68 percent increase from the same month last year. Save on fuel costs! Visit http://bulletin.aarp.org/yourmoney/personalﬁnance/articles/squeezed_at_the_pump.html. Resources To call or visit online: Aging & Disability Services Administration 1-800-422-3263 www.aasa.dshs.wa.gov Department of Health www.doh.wa.gov Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program www.liheapwa.org Social Security Administration 1-800-772-1213 www.socialsecurity.gov Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) 1-800-562-6900 www.insurance.wa.gov D IVIDED W E F AIL Steps to Better Health Inactivity coupled with years of a diet high in fat and sugar have made one-third of us obese and another one-third overweight. Chronic health conditions such as diabetes are rapidly becoming commonplace. Diabetes affects more than 1.4 million Washington residents. More than 300,000 (adults and youth) have diagnosed diabetes; 127,000 have diabetes but don’t know it; and nearly a million of us have pre-diabetes and are at risk of developing the disease. However old you are, you can take simple steps to keep healthy, starting with eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables and going for a brisk walk. Start by visiting www.aarp.org/walking. Giving up tobacco is another effective way to improve your health. Washington has the fifth lowest smoking rate in the country, and smoking among adults here fell 24 percent from 1999 to 2006. That means 235,000 fewer smokers and $2.1 billion less in future health care costs in the state. Visiting your medical provider regularly for preventive screening and vaccinations can also put you on a path to better health. Screening becomes To watch: “One Illness Away” An in-depth look at Washingtonians struggling to afford health care www.aarp.org/wa “In America” The story of a real family pushed to the brink of financial ruin by a health crisis www.aarp.org/issues/dividedwefail/ resources/in_america.html “Stand Up for Yourself” An appeal by Aretha Franklin to get involved www.aarp.org/issues/dividedwefail/ resources/aretha.html even more critical after age 50, when more than half of us have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or some other chronic condition. Americans need to make wellness a national priority — we all will reap a bounty of savings and health benefits. Through Divided We Fail, AARP is pressing our elected leaders to stand up for effective solutions. You can help by signing the pledge below. Join Divided We Fail I want to join with millions of other Americans to support candidates who will give us action and answers on health care and lifetime ﬁnancial security. We need to elect leaders who will end the gridlock in Washington and get things done. I pledge to: now. Candidates owe us action and answers, and they must commit to delivering long-term, lasting solutions if elected. Signature ....................................................................... Name .............................................................................. Address .......................................................................... City, State, Zip ............................................................... E-mail ............................................................................. To order: To receive the following free materials, call the AARP Fraud Fighter Call Center toll free at 1-800-646-2283. Who’s Calling? Recognize and Report Phone Fraud “Knee Deep in Debt” Fact Sheet Credit Freeze Fact Sheet ❏ Vote for candidates who will ensure that all Americans have access to affordable, quality health care. ❏ Vote for candidates who will ensure that all Americans have peace of mind about their lifetime ﬁnancial security. ❏ Vote for candidates who are speciﬁc about what they’ll do and how, and who stop speaking in generalities. I’m using my vote to deliver the message that the time to address these problems is ❏ Please keep in touch with me by e-mail about AARP activities, events and member beneﬁts. Please mail your signed pledge to AARP Washington, 9750 3rd Ave. NE, Suite 450, Seattle, WA 98115 AARP is nonpartisan and does not own a political action committee (PAC), endorse political candidates, or contribute money to political parties or political candidates’ campaigns. AARP educates the public about issues of concern to older Americans and their families through voter guides, issue workshops and candidate forums. When it comes to keeping long-term care patients at home, Washington is one of the top four states in the nation. Get tips on steps to healthy aging from the Washington Department of Health; visit www.doh.wa.gov/cfh/OHP/healthy-aging.