Tuesday, November 5, 2013
It's that time again! The store shelves turn various shades of red and green. And GCF begins collecting gifts for underprivileged children through the Marine Corps.' annual Toys for Tots campaign. Bring your new, unwrapped toy or book to any GCF branch today through December 5th to donate to the cause. Children between the ages of 9 to 12 are often overlooked. Let's not forget them this season!
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The History of Medicare
With Obamacare dominating the headlines, you may have missed hearing that Medicare's open enrollment period is here. The annual window to switch plans closes on December 7.
Your needs may change based on lifestyle events that have occurred since you last reviewed your options. Your current plan may no longer best serve you. If you don't act before the end of the open enrollment period, you're stuck with what you have until next year.
We've covered Medicare basics in past issues of GCFlash. You can read a couple of the more recent columns on our Golden VIPs articles web page. These are archived articles, some of the details like income limits may have changed. Yet program basics and understanding how Medicare works remains the same. You may want to bookmark the page for continued reference.
Medicare is health insurance for Americans age 65 and older. Younger people with certain disabilities or health conditions may be covered under the plan as well.
President Harry Truman first put the wheels in motion in 1945 when he petitioned legislators for a national health insurance program. They didn't act. He introduced bills again in 1947 and 1949. They died in Congress.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy took up the battle once more. But this time he suggested a plan specifically for those over the age of 65. He raised public awareness for the program during a televised speech in May 1962. Kennedy didn't live long enough to see the plan become law.
President Lyndon Johnson got credit for creating Medicare, along with Medicaid for certain low-income people, as part of the Social Security Amendments of 1965. Moments later, he presented the 81-year-old President Truman with the first Medicare card. Johnson referred to Truman as the "real daddy of Medicare."
More than 19 million Americans age 65 and older enrolled in the program when it actually began on July 1, 1966.
The program initially consisted of two parts. Medicare Part A provided hospital insurance coverage. This portion was funded by payroll deduction. Those who contributed were not charged a premium. Their only cost was a $40 annual deduction.
Medicare Part B was an optional medical insurance program. Enrollees pay a monthly premium, originally $3.
Today, Part A remains funded by payroll deduction with an annual deduction of $1,184. Those who didn't contribute through employer payroll pay up to $441 each month. Part B enrollees now pay around $105 per month, depending on income level, with a $147 annual deductible.
Medicare Part C, now called Medicare Advantage, was implemented by President Clinton in 1997. This gave enrollees the option of using a private insurance HMO-style plan instead of the traditional fee-for-service Medicare program.
A prescription drug benefit, Part D, was added by President Bush in 2003 with the Medicare Modernization Act. The optional coverage carries an additional premium. Cost varies depending on the drugs you use, the plan you choose, and the pharmacy you use.
Certain preventive care services, like mammograms or colonoscopies, and wellness health screenings are now covered free of charge under the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama in 2010.
Prescription drug coverage has changed, as well. The gap in benefits, known as the donut hole, will go down a defined percentage each year until it closes entirely in 2020. At that time, you'll pay 25% for all prescriptions, no matter if they're brand name or generic.
Medicare Advantage will also change under ACA. Under the Act, a bonus is paid to your insurance company if they improve your Part C plan. However, they'll be paying less to some plans under the new law. In response, providers may cut benefits like dental care, or increase your co-pay or co-insurance.
It took six presidents over a span of 68 years for Medicare to reach the point it has today. As of 2012, it provides benefits to 50.7 million beneficiaries. Of those, 42.1 million are age 65 and over with another 8.5 million disabled beneficiaries.
Voting In America
Today is election day in America. Registered voters in many districts across this land have the opportunity to designate which candidate they believe will best represent their interests in whatever office is up for grabs.
It wasn't always this way. Only six men elected the first president to govern the Jamestown colony - our first permanent settlement.
Representative government took form by the mid-1700s. The thirteen colonies each used their own methods, policies and restrictions in exercising voter rights.
The English king appointed most governors before the Revolution. Only citizens of Connecticut and Rhode Island elected their own governor.
Many governors appointed their local officials. Only certain towns in New Jersey and Pennsylvania held local elections.
Colonists could only vote for legislators to the lower house of their assemblies. That is, colonists who were white, male property owners, 21 years or older.
Voting rights have been contentious since the birth of our nation. We didn't start out as a democratic nation. It was feared that democracy would result in mob rule, government by the unfit. Restrictions were made on the local level based on beliefs in that time.
White males were required to own a certain amount of land before they earned a right to vote. It was believed only then would they hold a legitimate interest in the community's success. They were the ones who had sufficient wealth for taxation.
By the time of the Civil War, most white men were allowed to vote regardless of owning property.
But now literacy tests are introduced. First in Connecticut and followed closely by Massachusetts. These were used to discriminate against Irish-Catholic immigrants. Later, numerous other states adopted literacy tests to exclude African Americans from voting.
It wasn't until 1870 with passage of the 15th Amendment that former slaves had the right to vote. The Amendment protected the voting rights of adult male citizens regardless of race.
Florida adopted a poll tax in 1889, soon followed by 10 other southern states. Those without the means of paying the tax were not permitted to vote, keeping African Americans and poor whites away from the polls. This tax was finally disallowed by the 24th Amendment in 1964.
Women were guaranteed the right to vote in 1920 through the 19th Amendment. Four years later, Native Americans were granted the same right through the Indian Citizenship Act.
The Civil Rights Commission was established in 1957. This commission was created to investigate voter discrimination and led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Finally, the rights of minority voters were protected. But it still took three revisions and almost 20 years to finally eliminate literacy requirements and other voting barriers permanently.
The right to vote was not something freely awarded. It was hard-fought. It had to be earned. It's your privilege, and duty, to elect those you believe hold the best interest of our citizens. Use this right as if the future of your country depended upon it. It does.
Tip of the Week
Monday, November 11, is Veteran's Day. As has become custom; restaurants, retailers and recreational centers are offering discounts or free goods to thank those that have selflessly served our country. Find the most extensive list of military discounts being offered at this site.
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