Thursday, March 19, 2009

HARA Meets the Senators

HARA Meets the Senators—Al Hamai, chair of Hawaii Alliance of Retired Americans

Senator Dan Inouye

“We had a good meeting with Senator Inouye, not only on the issues but also a lot of small talk. The Senator has a collection of Jewish memorabilia, including a Hanukkah Menorah, which we all enjoyed. He noted that his first wife was a teacher and a member of a union. On a wall he had the labor contract for his grandparents, which paid his granddad $12 per month for 60 hours of work a week at a sugar plantation on Kauai, while grandma was paid $7.50. He said that contract reminds him of his background. He said that his Dad helped to organize his sugar plantation workers, before the ILWU.

We expressed our concern with the high cost of prescription drugs and the need to reduce these cost by authorizing our government to negotiate to drug companies to reduce drug prices. He stated that with the new administration and Congress, things would hopefully change. We also discussed the need to keep Medicare solvent and the desirability to end the Medicare Advantage program. We also urged him to support legislation to give retired Americans age 55-64 the option to join Medicare. He recalled that he was in the Congress when Medicare was enacted and he returned home to meet with the doctors and others who were opposed to Medicare because they thought it was "socialized medicine." He commented: we either are going to provide health care for all who need it or let them go without help as some countries had done. He recalled that Medicare when originally enacted was a simple basic program and not expensive. Now with many additions, it's a costly program.”

Senator Dan Akaka

States across the country are confronted with budget shortfalls while our citizens have increasing health care and social service needs. ARRA (the stimulus package) establishes the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and provides emergency Medicaid funding to ensure Americans can continue to rely on vital education and social safety net programs. Funding is also provided for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps), and childcare services.