Friday, January 30, 2009

State Healthcare Coverage May Aid in Creating a National Plan

A feeling of excitement was felt on Capitol Hill in one of the first hearings, conducted after the inauguration of President Barack Obama. On Thursday January 22, 2009, the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee held a hearing to examine measures states are enacting to keep their citizens healthy.

According to Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the chairman of the committee, 38% of deaths related to chronic illness among Americans arise from alcohol use, smoking, physical inactivity and poor diet. In addition, 75% of health care costs associated with chronic disease are preventable. State Senator of Iowa, Jack Hatch, stressed the importance of preventative healthcare measures. He mentioned that Iowa should lead prevention and wellness initiatives by enabling doctors to use efficient practices and administer proper protocols necessary to treat chronic illnesses. Health care costs are continuing to rise making it necessary for people to receive proper health education, so they can make better lifestyle choices to improve health and contain costs. The state of Iowa has enacted preventative healthcare measures as a means of reform. Some include: 1. By 2011, the state is expected to provide healthcare coverage for all eligible children 2. Iowa has strengthened its public health and prevention programs by launching the healthy communities initiative, enabling small businesses to receive a qualified wellness tax credit.

Mr. Emmet spoke about our country’s failure to treat mental illness. He revealed mental illness is a major cause of disability, yet many insurance services do not provide coverage for mental health visits.

Dr. Dobson stressed the need for community healthcare services. He revealed quality of healthcare can be enhanced and the cost of healthcare can be reduced by providing people with primary care, creating local networks to gather resources and providing state funding for healthcare related programs. State healthcare systems need to be sustained in order to enable one to have access to care and be treated efficiently.

Dr. Bigby spoke about the importance of prevention. She mentioned the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform bill designed to provide the citizens of the commonwealth with universal coverage. 97.4% of Massachusetts residents contain healthcare coverage, 99% of kids contain coverage and 90% of residents have regular healthcare providers and thus receive preventative care. In addition, Dr. Bigby spoke about “Mass in Motion,” a program designed to promote healthy eating and exercise through grants to cities and towns in hopes of making wellness a priority. She also addressed the need to remedy the racial and ethic disparity prevalent in who receives healthcare coverage.

The experts at this hearing were in agreement that access to and quality of healthcare needs to be augmented. In order for people to live healthier lives, they say diet and exercise programs, as well as preventative and routine healthcare services need to be provided to the people of our nation.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Free Social Security Webinar

Social Security is hosting its first national webinar on January 29, 2009. Retire Online, It's So Easy! will offer a demonstration of the new Social Security online application as well as a discussion of its key features. If you're interested in finding out more about the SSA online application, join SSA online at 2pm EST next Thursday. To RSVP, visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/survey/retireonlinersvp.htm.

Lilly Ledbetter Passes in the Senate!


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(Interview of Lilly Ledbetter following the Senate passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: from the National Womens Law Center, http://www.nwlc.org/)

The Senate passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act yesturday with a vote of 61 to 36. This will be the first piece of legislation Congress sends to newly elected President Obama for his approval. It's a fitting first bill for the President, who incorporated Ms. Ledbetter's story into his campaign ads and entered DC on his inaugural whistlestop tour in the company of Ms. Ledbetter herself.

So what does it all mean? Will the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act close the wage gap once and for all? Not quite. This is an important step towards pay equity, a step which will allow women to fight back against unfair wages by making each unfair paycheck count as a new act of discrimination. Now, no matter when a woman finds out that she’s been discriminated against, she can still take action. But there is still more to be done to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal labor.

One of the next steps for pay equity may be the Paycheck Fairness Act. This companion piece to the Fair Pay Act was passed by the House but so far has not made it to the Senate. According to Ledbetter "One bill fixes a past mistake, and the other makes sure that such a mistake won't happen again." 46 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act (EPA), women are still earning 78 cents to a man's dollar. The Fair Pay Act would update the EPA and close the loopholes that have hindered its success.

[The Paycheck Fairness Act is Essential to Combatting Pay Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace] National Partnership for Women and Families
[The Fair Pay Campaign] NWLC
[From the Desk of Lilly Ledbetter] AAUW

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pay Equity: Do You Have Five Minutes?

As the Senate proceeds with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the recently House-approved Paycheck Fairness Act glimmers on the horizon, it's a great time to find out more about pay equity. Women currently make 78 cents to a man's dollar, which over time adds up to $1,200,000 less in income than men over a lifetime for college educated women. For high school educated women, the lost earnings amount to a whopping $700,000.

Want to get involved, but don't know where to start? Here are five ways you can learn more about pay equity in five minutes:

1) Got Cents?: The Fair Pay Cents quiz was created by the National Committee on Pay Equity to test your knowledge on the wage gap. Click here to take the quiz!

2) Know Your Rights: Do your quiz results have you wanting to learn more? In 2006, then-Senator Hillary Clinton hosted a "Pay Equity for Women" seminar where she released "Know What to Ask and Know Your Rights: A Pay Equity Guide on How to Help Yourself in the Workplace." This brief guide outlines tips for successful pay negotiations and what you should do if you suspect that you've been a victim of pay discrimination. Click here to download the pdf.

3) Tell a Friend: Want to inform your friends about pay inequity? Why not send them a "Keep the Change" card from AAUW? AAUW recently launched their "Keep the Change Until Women Have Real Change" campaign. Tell your friends about pay equity by visiting http://www.aauw.org/postcards/keepthechange.cfm

4) Tell a Senator: The Lilly Ledbetter Paycheck Fairness Act is currently being discussed in the Senate and will be up for a vote in the very near future. Let your senators know if pay equity is important to you by contacting them. You can find contact information for your senators at www.senate.gov. Not sure what to say? AAUW has a message you can send via e-mail and will send it for you: all you have to do is enter your name and zip code. Find out more by visiting the AAUW website.

5) Stay tuned: We will continue posting updates on the status of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as it moves through the Senate. So check back for updates this week!




Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Legislative Update: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

On January 9th, the House passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Now our attentions are turned towards the Senate to see what will become of this legislation, which passed in the House last year as well, but faced defeat in the Senate. The Senate has invoked cloture, which should lead to a final vote in the next few days.

Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tires and Rubber Plant for nineteen years before it came to her attention that she was experiencing pay discrimination. Though the Court of Appeals ruled in her favor and awarded her backpay and damages, their decision was overturned when the case reached the Supreme Court. The Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company verdict set a precedent that pay discrimination claims must be filed within the 180 days following the first instance of discrimination. Like Lilly, women may not find out for years that they are victims of pay discrimination. The Supreme Court’s decision made it even more difficult for women to submit pay discrimination claims and provided no incentive for employers to cease their discriminatory practices, since they would not be penalized if their actions went undetected in the first six months of employment. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would overturn the Supreme Court’s decision and allow women to pursue pay discrimination claims 180 days after each instance of pay discrimination.

Ledbetter gained fame during the 2008 elections when she appeared in advertisements for Barack Obama. This weekend, she will accompany President-Elect Obama on his inaugural train ride into DC.

We will post updates on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as more information becomes available. In the meantime, if you're interested in getting involved, you can find contact information for your senators at www.senate.gov. Visit the National Committee for Pay Equity's website to learn more about pay equity as well as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

[ Keep the Senate Moving on Pay Equity Legislation ] AAUW
[ Pelosi on House Passage of Lilly Ledbetter and Paycheck Fairness Act ] PRNewswire

Women and Social Security: New WISER publication

Did you know:
  • More than 50% of women age 65 and older would live in poverty if it were not for their Social Security benefits.
  • Without Social Security, the poverty rate for older African-American women would jump from 25% to 62%.
  • Even with Social Security, 12% of all older women are poor.

Find out more about the ways Social Security benefits impact women by reading "Women and Social Security," the first installation of WISER's online "Your Future Paycheck" series. You can download the chapter here or visit the WISER website for more information.

Monday, January 12, 2009

SSA Launches Online Retirement Application Process


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Picture this: You're lying on your couch, laptop propped on your lap, clad in your favorite pajamas. You're comfortable, you're relaxed...you're applying for Social Security. Sound impossible? Well Social Security has recently made this dream a possibility by introducing an online application for Social Security benefits. The new application offers a number of perks previously unavailable for Social Security applicants, including a retirement estimator and the ability to take breaks while filling out your application. You can save your Social Security application online and continue filling it out at a different time. Don't worry that this will jeopardize the security of your application: SSA guarantees that they've taken every precaution to make sure that your application is secure. Even your favorite TV stars of the past are getting in on the online application action. You can watch Patty Duke reprise her roles as cousins Cathy and Patty Lane in the SSA public service announcement posted above, which shows the identical cousins using less than identical methods of applying for Social Security. Guess which tech-savvy Lane girl has an easier time with the new online application!

For more information on applying online, check out this electronic fact sheet from SSA: "How to Apply Online for Retirement Benefits."

...and we're back!

The WISER Women blog took a short hiatus for the holidays, but we will return to our regular posting schedule this week!