WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Social Security, in conjunction with the Older Americans Act and the nations new healthcare reform law, is a key element in protecting the future of older Americans, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) said as it prepares to tackle the issue at its annual conference Sept. 28-29, 2010, in Washington, DC.
NHCOA is the premier national organization dedicated to understanding the needs and securing the wellbeing of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers. Its conference – “Working Together for a Strong Golden America” – will be Sept. 28-29 at LEnfant Plaza Hotel, 480 LEnfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC. Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population.
“Caring for our parents and grandparents in their golden years is a moral obligation,” said NHCOA President & CEO Dr. Yanira Cruz.
President Obamas bipartisan Commission on Debt Reduction will make recommendations by Dec. 1 on ways to keep Social Security financially sound for future generations. On the table: raising the age for Social Security eligibility and cutting benefits.
“Raising Social Security eligibility will affect Hispanics disproportionally,” Cruz said. “Many of our nations Hispanics are in physically demanding manual jobs. Because of that, the degree of injuries Hispanics receive is greater so they are forced to retire early. This is a double-whammy for Latinos.”
The full retirement age has already increased from 65 to 66 and is scheduled to rise to 67 in 2022 – a 13% benefit cut. But now some are proposing that it go to 70, which would be a 33% cut. Some justify that three-year difference because the life expectancy has risen and assume that people can easily work later into life. Thats the case for people who need Social Security least: affluent, white-collar workers.
The conference speakers include Professor Eric Kingson, PhD, of the Syracuse University School of Social Work and co-director of Social Security Works. “No matter how you dress it up, raising the Social Security retirement age is a benefit cut. And its especially harmful to low-wage and younger workers, groups in which Latinos are overly represented,” Kingson said. “The pundits, politicians and economists telling everyone they have to work longer and that Social Security needs to be cut dont seem to understand how detrimental raising the retirement age is to many groups. Low-income working people are more likely to have serious employment and health problems in their later work years.”
NHCOA will address these issues and others in briefings, including:
— 8:30 – 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, “Status of Hispanic Aging Issues.”
— With Jeff Cruz, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement; Edwin Walker, JD, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Program Operations, Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Professor Kingson; Anna Wadia, MPA, Program Officer, The Ford Foundation; Leticia Miranda, Associate Director, Economic and Employment Policy Project, National Council of La Raza
— 10 a.m. – noon Tuesday, Sept. 28, “Economic Security Trends for Hispanic Families.”
— With Ralph Yaniz, MBA, Regional Vice-President Midwest, AARP; Rene Perez Rosenbaum, PhD, Associate Professor, Michigan State University; Nancy Altman, JD, Co-Director, Social Security Works; Rigo Saborio, MSG, President & CEO, St. Barnabas Senior Services.
Social Security benefits for retired workers and dependents are modest but critical, averaging about $14,000 annually. They keep millions out of poverty, especially elderly women. Almost half of Hispanic older adults (49%) are entirely dependent on Social Security for their retirement vs. 20% of non-Hispanic white older adults. Without Social Security, 53% of older Hispanics would live in poverty.
Also critical to this population: The OAA, which is a major provider of social and nutrition services to older Americans and their caregivers.
“Reauthorizing the Older Americans Act gives us a great opportunity to review the policies and programs in place to see if they are relevant to our nations changing demographics, from baby boomers to our multicultural society,” said Jorge Lambrinos, Edward R. Roybal Institute for Applied Gerontology, University of Southern California Los Angeles. “We have an opportunity to modernize senior housing and senior centers so they are more relevant to the needs of todays older Americans.”
Hispanics have the most to benefit from healthcare reform, NHCOA says. Because Hispanics have the lowest insurance rates of any U.S. population, they get less preventive services and have less access to quality healthcare. Lack of insurance is a key factor in Hispanics suffering disproportionately from a number of serious but preventable chronic conditions, including diabetes, cancer and obesity.
Many Hispanic older adults expressed being confused about the benefits they will receive with the new healthcare law. They believe that the new healthcare law will decrease the number of services available to seniors, when in reality, the new law contains several critical improvements in Medicare coverage. For example, the new law does not cut Medicare benefits. Quite the opposite: it adds new preventive health visit coverage, gradually closes the gap in prescription drug coverage (aka the “doughnut hole”), boosts reimbursement rates to primary-care physicians and improves long-term care coverage for seniors with disabilities who live at home. That means older Hispanics will no longer have to choose between buying food and buying medicine.
Said Cruz, “The enactment of healthcare reform brings hope to millions of Hispanics and their families who have been unable to access quality, affordable healthcare. Were meeting at this conference to encourage and inspire each one of us to be engaged and be part of the solution to build a strong golden America.
NHCOA is the premier national organization dedicated to understanding the needs and securing the wellbeing of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers, the fastest-growing segment in the U.S. population. For information, visit www.nhcoa.org.
SOURCE National Hispanic Council on Aging