Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Monday Alert – June 27th

Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Monday Alert banner

Addressing union workers, Fried says she makes Gov. DeSantis ‘nervous’ during FL Cabinet meetings

With Gov. Ron DeSantis canceling Florida Cabinet meetings, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried claimed on Thursday that she makes the Republican governor uneasy during the meetings because she forces him “to get in the conversation about true policy.”

Fried, seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination against DeSantis this year, mentioned DeSantis’ demeanor during Cabinet meetings while addressing the Florida AFL-CIO convention in Orlando. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, also seeking the nomination, addressed the convention, too.

“I make this a joke all the time — when I am in Cabinet meetings and I go to press my microphone to start talking, Ron starts to have this very weird twitch about him that he gets because I make him nervous,” Fried said.

“I make him nervous and I force him to not just get on his soap box and talk about nonsense, but I force him to get in the conversation about true policy,” said Fried.

The Cabinet comprises three members — Fried, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — who are statewide-elected officials conducting the state’s business along with the governor.

Crist, meanwhile, alleged to union members that DeSantis “wants to bust your union.”

“The AFL-CIO is the backbone of our country and this state,” said Crist, a former Republican governor. “I am here today because union workers really are the essence of our society. You think back to the beginning of this pandemic, and it was you who held it all together.”

Endorsement to come

Although the labor union hasn’t endorsed either Fried or Crist, the union is expected to do so soon, said Florida AFL-CIO spokesman Michael Newberger. Read More

UPDATE: on Friday June 24th, the FL AFL-CIO chose to endorse Charlie Crist

The Hill: Hispanic super PAC releases gun control ad

The country’s largest Hispanic-oriented super PAC on Thursday released a Spanish-language ad linking Republicans to gun violence.

The ad released by Nuestro PAC, a group that promotes increased outreach to Hispanic voters, will air exclusively in Spanish, with a six-figure investment by the PAC.

“The frustration in the community started with the local Uvalde community not even being able to get information about the shooting in Spanish,” said Chuck Rocha, the Democratic political consultant who started Nuestro PAC.

“It made me think that if they can’t even get information about who’s to blame and what happened — on the shortcomings — in Spanish, then they don’t even know that they should be blaming Republicans for the lack of action on curtailing assault rifles,” Rocha added.

Rocha’s hope is that the investment will serve both to educate Spanish-speaking voters and to attract donors interested in running the ad in key congressional districts.

Hispanic voters will play a key role in several competitive districts in 2022, a novelty for a community that’s traditionally held most of its political power in safe Democratic districts.

Among the potential targets for Nuestro PAC’s ad are the South Florida district where state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D) is challenging Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R); the California district where Democrat Rudy Salas is challenging Rep. David Valadao (R); the New Mexico district where Democrat Gabe Vasquez is challenging GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell; and the Texas district where Democrat Michelle Vallejo is facing off against Republican Monica De La Cruz.

“We bought a six figure National Digital buy to target Latino voters and donors, to see if we can raise enough money to run this into individual congressional districts that have large Latino populations,” said Rocha.

“For the first time in American history, there’s a whole bunch of [districts] that are actually marginal and have a ton of Latinos,” he added.

Many of those districts are relatively near to sites of mass killings that shook entire communities.

In the ad, the narrator asks, “How many more children do we need to bury?” while the names of Columbine, Colo.; Newtown, Conn.; Parkland, Fla., and Uvalde, Texas, are displayed on screen.

“All of this is very localized where the shootings have happened. There’s large constituencies of Latino voters, who a lot of them consume information in Spanish where they’re not hearing anything from Democrats,” said Rocha.

“Latinos who consume MSNBC, Latinos that consume Fox News, they’ve already picked a corner. They’re already going to be with one party or the other. Right? Because they’re getting information in English. There’s just not a lot of information getting to our community in Spanish,” he added.

CBS Miami: Nearly 150 new laws set to go into effect in Florida on Friday

From a record $109.9 billion budget to naming a state dessert, nearly 150 laws that Florida legislators passed this year are set to hit the books Friday.

Some of the measures face legal challenges, such as a bill that would prevent abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and a bill that would restrict how race-related concepts are taught in schools and workplace training.

In all, lawmakers sent 280 bills to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Of that total, 149 that were signed or were awaiting signatures Monday had July 1 effective dates. Seventy-five took effect immediately when signed. Others are slated to take effect on October 1, January 1, or at other times.

As of the end of last week, DeSantis had vetoed 11 measures passed this year.

Here are some of the bills that will become law Friday:


— DeSantis signed a $109.9 billion budget (HB 5001) for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which will start Friday. The record spending plan was bolstered by federal stimulus money and higher-than-expected state tax revenues.

— Lawmakers passed a wide-ranging tax plan (HB 7071) that includes a series of sales-tax “holidays” on such things as back-to-school clothes and supplies and a one-month suspension of the state gas tax in October.


— Dubbed by DeSantis as the “Stop WOKE Act,” lawmakers passed a measure (HB 7) that restricts how race-related concepts are taught in schools and workplace training. It has drawn a court challenge.

— Lawmakers approved a measure (SB 1048) to replace the Florida Standards Assessments testing program in public schools with a “progress monitoring system” that would test students three times a year.

— Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 1054) that will require high-school students, starting in the 2023-2024 academic year, to take financial-literacy courses.

— Lawmakers passed a bill (HB 1467) to place 12-year term limits on county school-board members and to increase public scrutiny of school library books and instructional materials.

— In an issue that fueled a national debate, lawmakers passed a measure (HB 1557) that prohibits instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade and requires that such instruction in older grades be age-appropriate. It has drawn a court challenge.

– Lawmakers approved a measure (SB 7044) that requires state colleges and universities to change accreditors at the end of each accreditation cycle and revamps the process of reviewing professors’ tenure.


— Amid national legal and political battles about abortion, lawmakers passed a measure (HB 5) that prevents abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law faces a court challenge.

– Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 1950) that will help set the stage for the Agency for Health Care Administration to award billions of dollars in Medicaid managed-care contracts.

– As the use of telemedicine has increased, lawmakers approved a bill (SB 312) that expands the authority of physicians to prescribe controlled substances through telemedicine.

— Lawmakers passed a wide-ranging Department of Health bill (SB 768) that will prevent renewal of licenses for medical-marijuana businesses that have not started to grow, process and sell cannabis.


— Lawmakers passed a wide-ranging bill (HB 3) that includes offering $5,000 bonuses as a tool to recruit law-enforcement officers from other states and provides $1,000 bonuses for law-enforcement officers and other first responders in Florida.

— Lawmakers approved a plan (SB 226) that will cover veterinary costs of retired law-enforcement dogs. Handlers of retired dogs will be able to receive up to $1,500 in reimbursements for annual costs.


— In an issue stemming from Walt Disney Co.’s opposition to a new law involving instruction in schools about gender identity and sexual orientation, lawmakers passed a bill (SB 4-C) that will dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which plays a key role for Disney. The law takes effect Friday, starting the clock on the June 1, 2023, dissolution of Reedy Creek and five other special districts in the state.

— Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 105) that will allow cities and counties to restrict smoking at beaches and parks that they own. They will not be able to ban smoking unfiltered cigars.

— The Legislature passed a bill (HB 7055) that made a series of changes related to cybersecurity, including prohibiting local governments from making ransom payments when hit with “ransomware” attacks.


— Lawmakers passed a measure (SB 1038) that will give Putnam County until July 1, 2024, to have a feasibility study to determine if a port could be created on the St. Johns River in Palatka.

— With the state threatened by rising sea levels, lawmakers passed a measure (HB 7053) that creates a new resiliency office directly under the governor and expands the Resilient Florida Grant Program.


— Lawmakers passed a measure (HB 195) that will expand the ability of minors to have arrest records expunged if they complete diversion programs. The law will not apply to arrests for forcible felonies and felonies that involve the manufacture, sale, purchase, transport, possession or use of firearms.

— In a priority of the House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, lawmakers passed a bill (HB 7065) that includes creating the “Responsible Fatherhood Initiative” within the Department of Children and Families.


— In a nod to the strawberry industry around Plant City, lawmakers approved a bill (SB 1006) that designates strawberry shortcake as Florida’s official state dessert.

Health Care — Florida COVID fight ramps up

Tonight, Beyoncé is dropping her first single in two years. It’s called “Break My Soul.” Are you ready?

As COVID vaccines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers start rolling out, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) picked a fight with the White House by not pre-ordering doses ahead of time. We’ll look at some of the implications.

DeSantis escalates feud with White House

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is escalating his feud with the White House over the COVID-19 response as he positions himself for a possible presidential campaign in 2024.

DeSantis has been taking heat from infectious diseases experts — as well as state and national Democrats — for his decision not to preorder from the federal government COVID-19 vaccines for infants and young kids.

  • “The state of Florida intentionally missed multiple deadlines to order vaccines to protect its youngest kids,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters Friday.

The White House initially made 10 million vaccines for young children available for states to preorder.

Having a small stockpile of doses on hand meant shots can start being administered as early as June 20, if states were able to distribute them quickly enough.

But Florida was the only state that decided not to place an order. Read More

Research Provides Further Evidence that Pensions are Superior to 401(k) Plans

A new study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has found that retirees are exhausting their 401(k) savings at an alarming rate, providing further proof that 401(k) accounts do not provide the same level of retirement security as pensions.

Since the transition towards the 401(k) over traditional pensions in the 1980s, workers are increasingly responsible for saving for their retirement themselves. However, retirees with 401(k)s are drawing from their savings at a much faster rate than those with pensions. By age 75, 401(k) savers had $86,000 less than those who had a pension.

Financial experts and senior advocates stress that 401(k) plans do not offer the guaranteed income that pensions do. In addition, 401(k) accounts do not offer the monthly payments and withdrawal calculations of pension plans, leaving retirees to make difficult financial decisions on their own.

Now that Americans are living longer than ever before, the risk of depleting retirement savings becomes ever more concerning. About half of retirees are living past the age of 85, but many are in danger of entirely exhausting their savings before then.

“This study shows why Alliance members fight for traditional pensions,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance. “Too few American workers are on track for secure retirements. Replacing defined benefit pension plans with 401(k)s fails workers and retirees.”

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Rule Requiring Return of Medicare Overpayments

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Medicare requirement by UnitedHealth Group on Tuesday, effectively upholding the government rule requiring Medicare Advantage insurers to promptly return any payment that was based on an unsupported diagnosis.

UnitedHealth took issue with applying 2014 law’s application to private Medicare Advantage plans. They unsuccessfully argued they were unfairly audited because Medicare Advantage plans were being treated differently from traditional Medicare. At stake were billions of dollars that Medicare Advantage insurers are now obligated to return to the federal government.

“This outcome prevents private insurers from padding their profits by pocketing money they were paid in error,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “This decision is a big win for retirees who paid into Medicare with every paycheck they earned.”

New Bipartisan Legislation Aims to Limit Insulin Prices for Patients

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) announced a bipartisan bill on Wednesday that promises to curb the rising cost of insulin.

The result of months of negotiations, this compromise would cap insulin costs at $35 per month for all insured Americans while eliminating some authorization hurdles that previously complicated insurance coverage of the drug. Patients with private insurance as well as those enrolled in Medicare would not be charged more than $35. However, patients without insurance are not protected by this bill.

insulinAlthough Sens. Shaheen and Collins claim bipartisan support for the bill, House Republicans argue that a price cap could harm research efforts. Top Senate Democratic leaders are pledging a vote on the bill, but its fate is

uncertain with Democrats’ narrow margin in the Senate. The House passed H.R. 6833, the Affordable Insulin Now Act, on March 31.“Passage of this bill would be a step in the right direction. However, Congress must quickly build on it with additional legislation that lowers drug prices,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “It is not a substitute for more substantial reforms, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for other drugs and limiting the overall out-of-pocket costs seniors pay for their medications.”

New Flu Vaccines Recommended for Older Americans

A CDC panel announced recommendations for older Americans to receive new, “souped-up” flu vaccines that are more effective in preventing flu-related hospitalization. The recommendations are based on findings that certain flu vaccines might offer more or longer protection for seniors, whose weakened immune systems don’t respond as well to traditional shots.

These newly-recommended shots include Fluzone High-Dose, Fluad with an immune booster, or Flublok. Although the research is still relatively new, these special flu vaccines have already proven popular, with roughly 80% of Medicare beneficiaries choosing the souped-up vaccines each year.

“Minimizing hospitalizations is important. The flu can lead to death,” said President Roach. “Particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should take advantage of the precautionary measures recommended by the CDC.”

Kaiser Health News: 100 Million People in America Are Saddled With Health Care Debt

By Noam N. Levey

Elizabeth Woodruff drained her retirement account and took on three jobs after she and her husband were sued for nearly $10,000 by the New York hospital where his infected leg was amputated.

Sherrie Foy
Sherrie Foy of Moneta, Virginia, had her retirement plans upended when surgery to remove her colon left her with about $850,000 in bills and forced her and her husband, Michael, into bankruptcy. (CARLOS BERNATE FOR KHN AND NPR)

Ariane Buck, a young father in Arizona who sells health insurance, couldn’t make an appointment with his doctor for a dangerous intestinal infection because the office said he had outstanding bills.

Allyson Ward and her husband loaded up credit cards, borrowed from relatives, and delayed repaying student loans after the premature birth of their twins left them with $80,000 in debt.

Ward, a nurse practitioner, took on extra nursing shifts, working days and nights.

“I wanted to be a mom,” she said. “But we had to have the money.”

The three are among more than 100 million people in America ― including 41% of adults ― beset by a health care system that is systematically pushing patients into debt on a mass scale, an investigation by KHN and NPR shows. Read more here.





Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Monday Alert – June 20th

Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Monday Alert banner

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.