Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Monday Alert – June 20th

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ redistricting map is back in play for November elections

An appeals court Friday tossed out a temporary injunction that would have blocked the use of a congressional redistricting plan that Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed through the Legislature in April.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal was expected: The panel had earlier placed a stay on the temporary injunction, describing it as “patently unlawful.”

Friday’s decision also came on the final day of a formal qualifying period for this year’s elections. Candidates qualified under the DeSantis-backed plan, which could increase the number of Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation from 16 to 20, based on past voting patterns. Read More

9 in 10 Floridians at ‘high’ risk of COVID as hospitalizations rise

  • Florida’s COVID-19 infection rate evened out last week, but hospitalizations kept rising. The state recorded 10,618 cases per day, on average, during the week of June 11-17. That’s essentially unchanged from last week. But Florida hospitals had 3,212 confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday, a 13% jump from the week before. Elevated infection and hospitalization rates mean that 92% of Floridians now live in “high risk” counties, according to federal data released Thursday.
  • The state’s pandemic response made headlines this past week when White House officials said Florida was the only state in the union not to preorder COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 4 and under. Biden administration officials said the decision could delay doses for Florida’s youngest children, who rely on medical providers instead of retail pharmacies. Federal health officials approved the child-sized doses from Pfizer and Moderna on Friday. Doses could be available in some states this week following the unanimous recommendation Saturday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisers to approve the kids vaccine. That is pending a final signoff by CDC director Dr. Rochelle ­Walensky.
  • Omicron appears to cause fewer cases of long COVID than the delta variant in vaccinated adults, according to a study published in The Lancet. Approximately 4.5% of vaccinated adults developed long COVID-19 symptoms after an omicron infection, compared to nearly 11% who were infected with the delta strain, according to London researchers. CDC research, released in May, suggests that more than 20% of U.S. adults have a long-term health condition related to a previous COVID-19 infection. Read More

White House says Gov. DeSantis has reversed course, now ordering COVID vaccines for kids under 5

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday was still refusing to order COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, for the country’s youngest children. But by Friday, the governor had “reversed course and is now ordering vaccines,” according to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“We are encouraged that after repeated failures by Governor DeSantis to order COVID-19 vaccines even after every other state had ordered, the State of Florida is now permitting health care providers to order COVID-19 vaccines for our youngest children. We believe it is critical to allow parents everywhere to have the choice to get their kids vaccinated and have a conversation with their pediatrician or health care provider,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

She added: “Even though Governor DeSantis reversed course and is now ordering vaccines, we will pull every lever to get pediatricians across Florida vaccines as quickly as possible. This is an encouraging first step, and we urge the state to order vaccines for its state and local health departments, so that all Florida parents have the opportunity to get their children vaccinated.” Read More

AAA: Gas prices down, making $5 per gallon in Florida less likely — for now

Florida gas prices fell last week from an all-time state high, making $5 per gallon gas looking less likely — at least for now, according to AAA.

Prices per gallon fell 7 cents last week from an all-time average of $4.89 across the state, the auto club said Monday in a press release.

The drop was even more dramatic in Brevard County, which saw an average per-gallon price of $4.77 on Sunday, down 12 cents from the week before. It remains a steep spike over the county average of $2.92 per gallon a year ago.

AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said the prices reflected falls in the price of oil and gas futures, which trended down last week on news of a rate hike from the Federal Reserve and the Biden administration’s announcement it was considering limits on petroleum exports to bolster domestic supply.

“Florida drivers are finally catching a break after several weeks of rising gas prices,” Jenkins said in the press release.

President Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer Redmond Bring Bold Vision For Labor Expansion

History was made at the AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia on Sunday as Liz Shuler was elected AFL-CIO President and Fred Redmond was elected Secretary-Treasurer. Ms. Shuler is the first woman to be elected federation president, and Mr. Redmond is the first black Secretary-Treasurer in AFL-CIO history.

President Shuler with Secretary-Treasurer Redmond
President Shuler with Secretary-Treasurer Redmond

From 2009 until 2021, President Shuler served as the AFL-CIO’s Secretary-Treasurer, and she has also served as Executive Vice President of the Alliance for Retired Americans. She began her labor career as an organizer, working to unionize clerical workers at Portland General Electric in Oregon. She worked her way up through the ranks at the IBEW in her capacity as a lobbyist and chief of staff to the international president.

Human Affairs for the United Steelworkers (USW) and has used his platform as a union leader to fight for civil rights and combat economic inequality throughout his career.

The two leaders shared their vision for the federation in their acceptance speeches, calling for action in organizing and pushing the labor movement forward past the COVID-19 pandemic. They stressed the importance of inclusivity in expanding the scope of the AFL-CIO, and President Shuler announced the AFL-CIO’s goal of organizing and activating 1 million workers throughout all 50 states to participate in the electoral process.

Alliance President Robert Roach, Jr. applauded the enthusiasm. ”I think we’re addressing key issues with inclusivity and the mobilization of voters, and I’m very optimistic about the direction of the federation,” he said. “I know that President Shuler and Secretary-Treasurer Redmond will put union retirees’ interests at the forefront of their agenda.”

Biden Speaks about Social Security and Medicare at Philadelphia AFL-CIO Convention

Speaking before the AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, President Joe Biden discussed Social Security and Medicare as he provided an overview for what is at stake in the 2022 midterm elections.

He also offered a scathing review of Sen. Rick Scott’s (FL) proposed economic plan, criticizing the extreme measures of the National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman’s proposal that include major cuts and potential elimination of Social Security and Medicare.

Other plans similar to Sen. Scott’s proposals have also been prevalent within the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC)has recently reiterated his support for uprooting Medicare and Social Security altogether through “entitlement reform,” and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) have supported cutting earned benefits.

President Biden emphasized the importance of Medicare in lowering health care costs in his address, promising to empower the program to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical corporations and to ensure diabetes patients pay no more than $35 a month for insulin.

Biden also touted the record number of jobs created since he was elected president, and again called on Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The PRO Act would stiffen penalties for employers who violate workers’ rights and strengthen protections for employees against retaliation. It would also benefit retirees, since union workers have higher wages and can negotiate for benefits such as health care, pensions and employer contributions to retirement plans, which leads to higher income in retirement.

“Retirees need to be on high alert. Republican candidates for the Senate and House have declared their intent to cut the Social Security and Medicare benefits we’ve earned over a lifetime if they regain control of the Senate,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Workers Encouraged to Track Down Lost Pension Benefits

Retirement benefits can easily be lost through each change of employment, leaving many Americans with unclaimed retirement income as they approach retirement age.

In a blog for the Administration for Community Living, David Bonello of Trellis Pension and Retirement Rights stressed some important steps to identify and locate these lost pension benefits. He emphasizes the importance of keeping documents related to eligibility, such as benefit statements or notices from the Social Security Administration. In addition, contacting former employers or even former colleagues can help with clarifying procedures for accessing retirement benefits.

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and the Pension Rights Center offer other resources for locating lost pension benefits.

“A lot of people don’t know about lost pensions and retirement income that they may be eligible for,” said Alliance Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Peters, Jr. “It’s important to make people aware of the benefits they earned through years of hard work.”

Kaiser Health News: Preventive Care May Be Free, but Follow-Up Diagnostic Tests Can Bring Big Bills

By Michelle Andrews

Cynthia Johnson
Cynthia Johnson was reluctant to pay $200 out-of-pocket for a test used to diagnose her breast cancer after she detected a lump.

When Cynthia Johnson learned she would owe $200 out-of-pocket for a diagnostic mammogram in Houston, she almost put off getting the test that told her she had breast cancer.

“I thought, ‘I really don’t have this to spend, and it’s probably nothing,’” said Johnson, who works in educational assessment at a university. But she decided to go forward with the test because she could put the copay on a credit card.

Johnson was 39 in 2018 when that mammogram confirmed that the lump she’d noticed in her left breast was cancer. Today, after a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, she is disease-free.

Having to choose between paying rent and getting the testing they need can be a serious dilemma for some patients. Read more here.