Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our Efforts Pay Off!


My grandson, Nic is home for four weeks with his wife, Chrystal and Mylee Ann Harlan born September 20 as the result of the Family Leave Act. Nic was so happy to be with his baby and wife during this bonding time. I was thrilled to inform them how OWL championed and supported this ACT. We were invited when President Clinton signed the Bill. A hoot for the new baby and a HOOT for OWL.

Elder Abuse

I attended the Elder Financial Protection Network, Call to Action, Confronting Elder Abuse; Building Bridges-Sharing Best Practices, on September 16, 2009 in Long Beach, CA. It was well attended by bank representatives, police fraud investigators, and community outreach professionals for seniors.

OWL was one of the many sponsors prominently posted and acknowledged during the conference. Our Mother’s Day Report on Elder Abuse was in the handout material notebook and it received very favorable comment. Do consider a program on this subject and there is DVD available and handouts. This network is relatively new and I was impressed with the young people involved and the financial institution contribution and participation. Consider outreach to financial institution and Zonta. (See Display of material)

Legislation we can follow and support is the Elder Justice Act. To learn more about Elder Justice Now visit the following web sites: and go the advocacy section

Single Payer

Healthcare has been a high visible activity and I participate in meetings and rallies in the Inland Empire. At this time with League of Women Voters in San Gabriel we are developing a performance street theater skit.


Contacting the members in the Southwest Region is still difficult. I communicate through our OWL/CA Newsletter. I have prepared a letter to send to members at large and I am checking the current list with those in the states of Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona and California.

Older Women in Prison

I have with me the membership renewal and her check for $35 for Jane Benson, W28860, EB517L in CIW, 16756 Chino Corona Road, Corona, CA 92880-9508. Jane’s parole was denied again as were twelve out of 13 by the governor on the last list of women found suitable by the parole board. I encourage you to write Jane and let her know the activities we are doing. This helps to bridge the inside with the outside of those prison walls. Jane is innovative and will find ways to energize the older women on the inside.

With the holidays coming on your chapter with the Action Committee for Women in Prison and All Saints Church Episcopal Church can provide small gift bags for 2,900 women imprisoned at the California Institution for Women. These gift bags are the only Christmas gift that women in prison receive. Allowable items are small lotions, soaps, shampoo, conditioners, mini deodorants, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, lip balm, hair ties and scrunchies, stationery and greeting cards, small packets of instant coffee, tea, cocoa and candy. The deadline to receive these items is November 25, 2009. Chapters and member at large can send items to Gloria Killian, 1249 North Holliston Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91104.

I will be attending OWL National Board Meeting in Washington DC at the end of this month and will report our activities. Please contact me with your comments and concerns to represent you at this meeting.

Shirley Harlan,

PO box 2276 San Bernardino, CA 92406, San Bernardino, CA 92406

909 882 4057

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Reality - Older Women

Women often earned less than men doing the same job. We are less likely to have private pensions and when we do have them, our pensions are smaller because they are tied to our earnings stream and because of time outs caring for our families. Without Social Security most women over 65 would live in poverty. We face higher poverty rates than men the older we get. Because of horrific budget cuts in a weakened economy we have lost protections in nursing homes and elsewhere—even in our own homes.

Health care is now unaffordable for many boomers. Doctors sometimes refuse the Medicare of older seniors because reimbursements are so inadequate. Some seniors have to choose between eating and taking their medications. Yet insurance companies spend millions of dollars trying to insure the healthy, avoid the sick and deny payment for claims. Every year pharmaceutical companies take more than $350 billion for drugs that cost a small fraction of that sum to produce.

If you resonate with any of these issues, please join us. Join OWL.

Thank you,

Diane Latko
Oakland California

OWL is Important

Two weeks ago I met three women who reminded me why OWL is so important. Each of the meetings was independent of the other. The first was a long time friend who had retired but announced that she was looking for work. When I asked why, she said that her adult son had become ill and she needed more money to help him out. I nodded knowing I would do the same in those circumstances. Once a mother, always a mother. The second woman was single and she had just received a pink slip, obviously worried about how she would manage if she couldn’t work – wondering who would hire a 60 year old woman in a recession. The third woman was disabled, in her 50s, and had lost her home to foreclosure. She couldn’t work even if someone was hiring (which they aren’t).

None of these women were complaining but they each had a drawn face and a worried look. I could feel their concern on the verge of panic and I thought to myself, there but for fortune I go also.

We each know stories of people who are suffering in this economy and of those who were suffering before the economy took a dive. It is for these women and others like them that OWL advocates for universal health care and against age and gender discrimination. It is for these women that we fight for a safety net that will protect people with dignity when a disabling illness takes their ability to make a living. And it is for these women that we demand that Congress pass protections against banks and investment companies from ruining our economy.

Ellen A. Bruce
President Emerita

Health Care Conversation with a Friend

From my uninsured blog:

An E-mail Conversation with a Friend

I heard from a friend I’ll call Rosemary. She is now 58, has two kids, was a single mother much of her life, and had a pretty good job (one that had health care benefits…) up until three or four years ago. Then she was laid off, was unemployed for a year or more, and then found another job, but without healthcare. Here is our e-mail exchange:

R: My regular doctor, who has turned into a jerk, fired me as his patient because I can't afford to pay $125 to visit him and then pay for blood work and such. He said I refuse (REFUSE??) to follow his instructions so I can no longer go to him or his cohorts.
I have been taking blood pressure medication and anti-depressants for about 10 years and I just need to get the rx renewed by someone as my old doctor won't do it.
Any ideas?

Me: I asked for a referral from Physicians for Social Responsibility and got a Dr. X. When I was uninsured he charged me what Medicare would have paid which was $60. Use my name, I just visited him and he will remember me most likely.

My old doctor in Yuba City turned into a jerk as well. First she didn't want to see me at all (doctors can refuse to see people who are uninsured, and many do), and then charged me $125, even though she accepted $87 when I was insured. And after the prescription ran out she insisted that I drive to Yuba City for another visit at $125. I originally got my prescriptions from Canada but then found a great deal at Costco, 3 months for $17, and it had been over $100 per month. Check with Costco re your meds, you can go to their website to check. And good luck!

Can I put your story on my uninsured blog? ( and go to Margie's uninsured blog.) How long till 65 (Medicare)?

R: you can put my story anywhere you want. I get my rx's from Target and pay $16 a month for both so I'm ok there. I looked on line to see if I could get my blood pressure meds from maybe Canada but I needed an rx. That's the same I need in the US!
will be 58 in 12 days.

Next note from R: I called Sutter this morning and got an approval as a charity case. Lord, I was never a charity case before but I don't care what they call it, I get to see a doctor.

This last comment unexpectedly shook me to the core. Then I remembered something from years ago. I was unemployed, I was broke, and I had depression and bad toothaches. I went to the Social Services department to apply for MediCal and it was one of the most depressing and humiliating experiences of my life. I could picture that awful waiting room and the condescension on the faces of everyone I talked to. There was no compassion, no reassurance, no reflection of their humanity or mine. I think I made up my mind then that I would literally rather die than ever be a charity case again. I was wrong, and though I still bleed for my friend, I am glad that she got help. She is a valuable, lovely person and she deserves good healthcare. And so do I.

In the course of this year’s Congressional town halls, I heard both Congressman Lungren and McClintock respond to seriously distressed constituents with family members in serious medical trouble that they could “ask for charity.” Eric Cantor suggested to a woman with a 40 year old female relative with stomach tumors and no insurance that “there are charitable organizations who do provide charity care.”

1&playnext_from=PL&index=23 ) And Senator Tom Coburn had a similar response. ( Is this a Republican talking point or just a coincidence? Do they even have any idea of what asking for charity means to people?

I also believe there are many more people in the 40 or 50 plus demographics who are disproportionally affected by this recession and our awful healthcare non-system. We are too young for Medicare, we are often laid off first, we experience age discrimination when we look for jobs, and many of us are overwhelmed with full time jobs, childcare and caring for aging parents. This cohort is probably less likely to demonstrate or otherwise make our voices heard. In many cases, we simply don’t have the time or energy.

--Margie Metzler, OWL California Member

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

SS/SSI Cost of Living Adjustment?

My cousin asked me if it was true that we wouldn’t get a Social Security Cost of Living Allowance next year. And, I had to tell her that it was true. According to my sources and the way I think our SS COLA is computed, we probably won't get an increase for the next two years. At this time, the COLA is computed based on the Consumer Price Index. The CPI is based on a typical "market basket" of goods and services purchased by US consumers in mid- to late-summer.

Last year, the price of gasoline was so high when they did this computation that the cost of that market basket was really high. So, they gave us a good COLA to reflect that (and a stimulus payment, too). Now, however, the price of gasoline and a lot of the other goods and services have gone down, so to balance it out, we won't get a COLA next year, and maybe the year after that.

One of my friend in Massachusetts is working with several groups to come up with a more equitable way to compute the real expenses of older people. The CPI, for example, uses costs of things like new refrigerators and furniture, groceries for a family of 4 including teen agers, vacation expenses, clothes and school expenses and lots of other things--anything that young and mid-life families might be buying. But, my friend thinks that the prices that older people pay are different. We probably are not buying new furniture, but instead are buying new knees and hips. We aren't feeding teen-agers, but we are probably buying diabetes and blood pressure drugs and medicines. We might not be paying for school, but are probably paying for help around the house. See what I mean? It is time that a different index should be used for the SS COLA that more correctly reflects what we old people are all paying for. Several states are trying out the new index (I don't know the name or where, but know that there are some eastern states that are trying this new index to determine some of their assistant payments. (Not Medicare which is determined by the feds.)

And, Yes. Our Medicare premiums will go up, but I don't know the real numbers yet.

That is one of the reasons we have been working to get some changes in the health care system. Medicare cannot keep spending like it is at this time without costing us more money or limiting the services that we get. And, Social Security COLAs probably won't cover the costs. We have got to get something changed.

A public universal health care system, based on the idea of Social Security, where everyone pays in and everyone can take out as they need to, makes a lot of sense to me.

But it has been bogged down by the people who are afraid of government programs. I even heard a guy at one of the town hall meetings say he wanted the government to keep their hands off his Medicare! Excuse me! Who does he think runs the Medicare program now? One person even said they didn't want the government messing with Social Security! Who do they think runs SS now? These are not perfect programs, but where would you and I be without them? Neither my long-suffering spouse nor I were in the military, so we can't depend on the Veterans services to help us. With all the medical problems we have had in recent years as we get older, without Medicare we would be living in a tent in the woods somewhere digging for mushrooms!

A public health insurance program, combined with private programs for those that can afford them, might happen. They are talking about making some kind of insurance mandatory for everyone with some government support for those who can't afford it. That would give the insurance companies more customers, wouldn't it? Even if they have to lower premium prices to match the public program, they would have more customers, wouldn’t they?

The problem is that they are talking about so many changes and so many different pieces of legislation, we can't possibly know what is going to happen. But, this is sure. They have got to make some changes or Medicare is going to go broke. And if Medicare goes broke, so do most low-to moderate income older people.

And we don't live in a vacuum. What affects us is going to affect our families. Instead of taking care of ourselves, we may have to go back to living with our kids to take care of us. Doesn't sound as much fun, does it?

Sorry, if I got carried away, but this is something that I have been working on since I started a job giving community education programs about SS and Medicare back in 1994. And I haven't stopped worrying about it, or working for change, just because I retired and quit being paid for what I was doing!

Thanks for letting me write it all down.

Gladys - OWL National Board Member

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Longevity Factor

The Longevity Factor

Donna L. Wagner

Every morning I do the NY Times crossword puzzle before I start my day. On Monday, typically the easiest puzzle of the week, I noticed that it was taking longer than my normal 10 minute completion time. Puzzled by this difficulty, I noticed an announcement by the puzzle editor’s by-line: Longevity Week. This week the puzzle was featuring puzzles written by people who had at least 50 years of experience writing crossword puzzles. Monday’s puzzle was prepared by Bernice Gordon, 95 years old of Philadelphia. The oldest person ever to have a puzzle published, her work gave all of us who normally can do the puzzle on Monday before coffee pause.

Longevity has obvious advantages when it comes to puzzles and other intellectual pursuits requiring experience and command of the language. To the insurance industry and their assistants, members of the US Senate Finance Committee, longevity is not an asset to be respected but something to be penalized. The Baucus plan includes age-rating – just what we need in a nation of aging people. Age rating is another form of discrimination that, until recently was also levied upon women. Ironically, while giving a nod to the feminist advocacy groups around the country who so rightly fought against gender rating in health care, the “policy” makers just shifted it from the young women to the old women. Women do age and frankly, they age better and more reliably than do men. Women are also the gender who is most likely to have to step in when the older men in their lives, unable to afford the health care coverage they need, need help.

This proposal and all those who think age-rating is acceptable are not only discriminating against those who have lost their employer-based insurance but the rest of the population as well who will pay the bill one way or another in order to protect an industry that needs no protection. Age rating is antithetical to sound public policy and particularly offensive in an aging society. It is discrimination and a step backwards in the goal that should be at the center of the health care debate we are currently having: health CARE as a right to all citizens of the US.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Good News for Single-Payer Health Care: Votes expected in both House and Senate this fall!

Much work has gone into lobbying Congress to take up single-payer health care legislation and leave behind the compromise plans that will result in too many Americans still being uninsured or underinsured. The work has paid off, and we hear that votes are coming in both the House and Senate on single-payer amendments!

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has agreed to allow debate and a vote on two amendments to health care legislation brought to the floor. Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) will offer an amendment to replace proposed legislation with language from HR 676, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will offer an amendment to allow states to implement state-run single payer plans, should they so choose. HR 676, as many of you know, is the Medicare For All single payer bill from Congressman John Conyers.

In the Senate, Senator Sanders has agreed to offer his state-based single-payer bill, S. 703, as an amendment to replace compromise legislation. S. 703 is similar to the language that Congressman Kucinich will offer in the House.

It is unlikely any of these amendments will pass, but it is a big step to have votes on the record regarding single-payer health care. Many Members of Congress that we meet with say something similar to what we hear from President Obama – Single-payer is of course the best, most cost-effective choice to provide affordable, high-quality coverage to all Americans, but it’s not politically feasible at this time. The time to ante up has come for those members, and we will see who really stands for single-payer when the votes are called.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Aging in France

Earlier this month I was in Paris to attend the International Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics. Before the meeting started my husband and I did a little touring in the beautiful countryside of Brittany and Normandy. Hiking through the country on rural paths by fields of cattle, horses and vegetables and old stone houses we encountered a few French elders, one of whom shared a hike with us. A fan of Obama, she warmed to us immediately when we told her we were Americans. She explained that she hiked through her hills on a daily basis to keep active and healthy. After we said our adieus and parted ways, my husband and I spent the remainder of our hike musing over what it might be like to grow old in such beautiful surroundings. It seemed like a wonderful idea – old traditions, great food, beauty and health care for all. What’s not to like? A few days later we discovered another wonderful reason to grow old in France.

We were in a post office in Paris. The post office was bustling with activity – many Parisians use the post office as their bank and there were several lines of people waiting to make financial transactions. We were in a retail line to buy stamps for our postcards. Directly in front of us stood an older woman in her late 80’s or 90’s. Through a combination of French and sign language she asked us to save her place in line – something we were happy to do – and she moved away to stand next to the wall, leaning into it to help keep herself on her feet. We watched her carefully to make sure she didn’t fall and smiled to reassure her that she was going to have a turn before us. It wasn’t long before the clerk helping our line of customers noticed her leaning on the wall and called her up to the front of the line to take her order. Everyone moved away to give her room at the counter and she completed her transaction. It seemed like a very nice thing to do and we noticed that the six customers in front of us seemed happy to accommodate the needs of their older neighbor. But it didn’t stop there.

The clerk asked her if she needed to have a taxi called and if she needed to sit down. “Oui, si’l vous plait” was the response. Immediately the clerk left her line of 10 or 15 customers to go to the back room to find a chair. She brought the chair out into the lobby and then helped the woman over to the chair. After she was comfortably seated, the clerk asked her name and began to address her as Madame Delauney. Her complete attention was directed at Madame Delauney – none of it on her line. Everyone in the line was watching the interaction between the postal clerk and the elder in silence and apparently with patience, with the exception of an American who was several people behind us who began to complain. He told us all that he could get this post office to run efficiently in two days if he was put in charge of things and made other comments that I am sure few people in line understood. No one commented on his comments and the postal clerk continued to see to the well-being of Madame Delauney. She asked one of her co-workers to call a taxi for her and told her to sit there until someone came for her.

Returning to her station, the clerk began to wait on the next customer, an older gentleman who was mailing skeins of wool to his sister and needed a box to put them in. She slowly and deliberately selected one of her mailing boxes and helped him put the wool into it only to discover that it was not large enough. Needless to say, this action further incited the unhappy American behind us who began to search for an alternative line that looked more promising than ours. We had plenty of time in line to see the taxi driver enter the post office and began to look for Madame Delauney. He didn’t sit outside the post office in his taxi honking his horn – he came in and asked where she was. Our clerk left her station yet again to personally escort him to Madame Delauney and to help her stand and take his arm. The cab driver was attentive and careful with her as he escorted her out of the building and into his waiting cab.

You might already figure out where I am going with this rather amazing story. I had seen Parisians treat young children with this type of kindness and disregard for their own activities before but never had seen it with elders. Back to our original fantasy of growing old in France we could now add to the benefits of beauty, tradition and health care, kindness and concern for people of all ages who needed a little help with their daily transactions. It was a remarkable experience and one I am not likely to forget as I watch the scorn and impatience on the faces of those who are standing in line in my local grocery store, post office or bank here in the nation’s capital. Who needs assisted living when a society assumes it is their duty and privilege to make sure everyone is okay?

--Donna Wagner, President OWL National Board of Directors

Monday, July 27, 2009

I scream on the corner for nothing?

When I was a kid, a family ice cream joke was, “ I scream on the corner for nothing”. Now as an elder, I find myself screaming on the corner of 2nd and E Street for something! There I was Thursday for Single Payer Healthcare along with 40 or more Move-On persons from every walk of life screaming out “Healthcare Not Warfare” to Senator Barbara Boxer to encourage her to take a strong stand in the current debate.

Support a Public Option!

Support Affordable Healthcare!

Choice UP and Cost DOWN!

SAVE $$$$!

The current healthcare system is not working when America is 37th rated with other countries, when 47% of our population is not insured and cannot afford healthcare. Those who are insured risk if covered in the event of a medical occurrence and whether their policy will be renewed and at what increase cost? There are so many personal stories confirming this.

Yes, I am old enough to qualify for Medicare. Why should I care about others? Because I strongly believe that preserving the present market-based approach does not serve us well. Healthcare is not a commodity for sale but is a right; that my health depends on my neighbor being healthy; that this is an area that government does better when all of us are in the risk pool for access to quality care.

I urge support of a strong public option as part of healthcare reform that is available to ALL Americans on Day One. No “trigger” and No delay, No gimmicks.

Get out and scream! What do we want? Healthcare! When do we want it? NOW!

Shirley Harlan, PO Box 2276, San Bernardino 92406, 909 882 4057

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stop Age Rating

As the health care reform debate has heated up in Washington, the issue of age rating insurance policies has been raised. The question is “will people be charged more for their health insurance because they are older?” OWL has come out strongly with a clear “NO”! To do that would be to discriminate against older people just because they are older. We have long stood against age and gender discrimination.

Here is how the debate is unfolding. Insurance companies now charge people more as they get older because they see that older people use (need) more health care services and therefore the company must pay out more. The companies charge a 55 to 65 year-old up to five times as much as a younger person just because of age. Logical? Maybe if you are an insurance company, but let’s look deeper.

The whole point of insurance is to spread the risk of needing to pay for medical care among people who will need it and people who won’t. That is what makes it insurance. If you lump all high users together you are not spreading the risk but putting it all on those who need the care.

Putting 55 to 65 year-olds in one risk pool increases the cost for that age group and essentially means that healthy 55 to 65 year olds support the ill 55 to 65 year-olds. All healthy people should help pay for those who need care because at anytime we might be the ones who need the care.

We, as a society, recognized that putting all people 65 and older into one pool would make insurance unaffordable for those over 65 so we created Medicare and a funding mechanism that spread the cost over the whole population. As we expand health insurance to all, we need to maintain that principle. Discriminating on gender or age should be a policy of the past.

Ellen A. Bruce
Immediate Past President, OWL Board of Directors

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Those of us who have been around OWL for some time have heard endless arguments about the use of the word “older” in Older Women’s League, the original name the founders gave the organization. A lot of members and potential members don’t want to be considered “old”, “older”-- or anything that suggests this. On the other hand, some embrace the term and would like to see “older” given a good name.

On some reflection, I’ve decided that when the founders used “Older” Women’s League, the word was used intentionally. It was a political embrace of feminism -- older women were not simply kindly, docile grandmotherly types. They had the intelligence and strength of women in general -- and feminism was about recognizing these attributes. And, in addition, they had experience and wisdom, not to mention the often-recognized trait of becoming more forthright in the “second half of life”.

There was pride in the term, when older women were a recognizable political force, advocating for issues that affected them. They were recognized as an “in your face” but wise group who stood up to issues, popular or not. They were leaders in rights for “displaced homemakers”, women returning to the workforce after a lot of caretaking. They were leaders in the movement for universal health care in the ‘90’s. And they have continually been leaders in advocating for women’s economic security (such as social security and pensions). These are only a few of the many areas in which active, involved older women, are a recognized as a significant political force.

Not wanting to use the term “older” is somewhat understandable, in our youth obsessed society. (In fact, in my OWL chapter we seldom use the term.) On the other hand, older women have some unique attributes. I’d really like to see us take positions of power and leadership again -- by any name.

--Kathie Piccagli
OWL San Francisco and National Board Member

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Health vs. Medical

Up for debate nationally is the matter of insurance coverage for “health care.” I think we do not need to debate among ourselves the merits of a single payer, universal coverage system as opposed to what we have now. Our chances for achieving that goal this time around seem slim to me. That does not mean we should stop trying. But I think we need to pay great attention to the language and rhetoric used by all interests in the debate, regardless of the proposal.

What we are hearing is the need to “reform our current system of provision for health care.” Let’s take that apart.  In the Random House Dictionary of English Usage I found the following definitions:

Health: the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigor; freedom from disease or ailment;

Reform:  the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory; to change to a better form; to put an end to abuses, disorders, etc.;

Medical: of or pertaining to the science or practice of medicine;

System: an assemblage or combination of things or parts forming a complex or whole; an ordered and comprehensive assemblage of facts, principles, methods, etc. in a particular field.

Given these definitions of words commonly used relative to provision of care for “health” matters, I contend that we have no system, but a mish mash of various approaches and programs, most of which are related to medical care rather than health care. If a diagnosis is required for payment to a provider, it is medical. This could happen with a single payer plan as well.

I suggest that we pay close attention to the language of the discussions as they progress. Yes, I think we need to continue to push for a single payer plan , but even for that we need to be aware of the differences between “health” and “medical”.  Let’s not call it health if it is really medical.

-Cleo Berkun, Ohlone OWL

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Cost of Health Care

The ARA (Alliance for Retired Americans) will focus on health care this Older Americans Month. OWL has advocated for single payer for decades. Why are people over 65 interested in single payer? Almost everywhere I go younger people seem to think it is only for altruistic reasons---once you reach 65 and get Medicare, you’ve got it made, so why should you care about a single payer system.

I do think fairness is a component of the interest of older Americans in single payer health care. We have seen far too much suffering caused by a health care system that is not universal. Too many people don’t receive health care they need because they can’t get coverage or afford coverage ----or because insurance they have is inadequate. Too many “older Americans” have watched children, friends, and others struggle (or even die unnecessarily). The “system” isn’t fair and it hurts too many people.

However, there is also the issue of self interest. Conceptually, Medicare is a health safety net for those over 65; that’s the way it was originally intended. The current Medicare program has become increasingly “broken”. Between deductibles, co-pays, and increasing costs, Medicare is inadequate. A recent study said that a couple can expect to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars on healthcare, assuming they have Medicare “benefits” to start with.

Most people don’t grow old with those extra resources. As the costs of basic Medicare increase (and they do regularly), we will see increasing numbers of people entitled to Medicare who don’t have all of the coverage they need. And we will see increasing numbers of people who can’t afford to use it, if they do have it----because of the steady increase in co-pays and deductibles.

The situation is, of course, worse for older women. Older women are poorer than older men. They have lower savings and a lower income, with a much higher proportion living on Social Security alone. And, of course, women live longer than men---generally, the older, the fewer resources. Increasingly your financial resources enable you to use the Medicare system.

Older Americans recognize the importance of an integrated system of health care for all, because they see that our society needs it and because they are members of that society.

--Kathie Piccagli, OWL National Board and OWL of California

Monday, May 4, 2009

Elder Economic Security

I have been motivated to look at “Elder Economic Security”, both by things going on here in California and looking at the National picture. It appears that there is a national effort (at least in five or more states) to determine a more realistic economic standard for older people. As “Older Americans Month” gets underway, this is a totally appropriate emphasis. This is “where it’s at.” We need to pay attention to it. We need to update it.

Economic issues are the most important overarching issues facing us as we grow older. Your economic situation affects housing, health, nutrition, social interaction---the whole gamut of quality of life. If you don’t have enough resources to cover your basic needs, life is very difficult indeed. We often hear of retirement or getting older as “golden years” But are they? Not for many----most, in some areas of the country.

Poverty levels and cost of living standards used by most government agencies were based on conditions in the 1950’s. In addition, there are ordinarily not allowances for different geographic areas----housing costs a lot here in CA cities, for example. Extensive studies have been done, at least at the University of MA and in CA by the UCLA-Insight program.

According to these studies, many, many seniors are poor---they don’t have enough to cover necessities, much less extras. At the same time, many in dire economic straits don’t qualify for many government supports, because eligibility is based on outdated data.

As previous bloggers have said, I am one of the lucky ones, as are most of the people who’ll read this. It’s not going to matter to me right now, for example, that social security recipients are not getting a cost-of-living increase this year, as I read in the paper this morning. But it may matter to me someday.

Meanwhile it bothers me a lot that we aren’t working hard enough to put supports in place, that more and more older people are finding it difficult to survive. The problem of not living comfortably will only get worse as time goes on, and we live longer and longer.

It is important for us to realize that the income levels and poverty are worse for older WOMEN. We have fewer savings, we get less from social security and pensions, we live longer----and longer life and gender mean more health problems, care needs, and expenses.

(In CA, legislation supporting adoption of a fairer elder economic index, was introduced this spring---AB 324.)

-Kathie Piccagli, OWL San Francisco and OWL National Board of Directors