Dr. Boozman's Check-up

If you’ve been looking to make a change to your Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan, now is the time to do it.

The Medicare Open Enrollment Period, currently underway, got off to a much earlier start this year.

Open Enrollment is the one time of the year when Medicare recipients can switch plans and make changes to their Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D.

The Open Enrollment Period will continue through December 7, 2011.  Any changes you opt to make to your coverage during this period will begin January 1, 2012.

To get started, just review which plan will meet your needs for next year by using the Medicare Plan Finder. You can also find a listing of plans in your area by checking your most recent “Medicare & You” handbook or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), where help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends.  Medicare can also help you enroll online, in person, at an event in your community, or via phone.

Trying to find affordable health care coverage can be exhausting.  If you have limited income you may qualify for the “Extra Help” program to pay your prescription drug costs.

Once you choose a plan, there are several options as to how to start your coverage. 

These options include:

•             Enroll on the plan’s Web site or on Medicare’s site

•             Complete a paper application

•             Call the plan’s administrator

•             Call 1-800-MEDICARE

Remember, these change will take effect on January 1, 2012 only if your request is submitted by December 7, 2011.

If you opt to change your coverage after the Open Enrollment period, you may be forced to pay a late enrollment penalty.

Learn about Medicare enrollment periods here.

Yesterday, I stopped by the Fox 16 newsroom to visit with Kevin Kelly. We chatted about jobs, the economy, infrastructure and the 2012 presidential race.  Watch the entire interview here.  

Yesterday, I visited with KUAR in Little Rock about The Jobs Through Growth Act, a combination of initiatives that will spur job creation and lift the fog of uncertainty that is preventing an economic recovery in the private sector.

The story also touches on my concerns about the President's proposal, which so far has failed to garner enough support to pass a Senate controlled by his own party.  One of the reasons people are rejecting it is that the plan penalizes fiscally responsible states, like Arkansas, by using federal funds to bailout states that have not made the tough decisions to get their fiscal houses in order. 

Every state should be able to manage its budget in a fiscally responsible manner and the federal government must as well.  We cannot continue to spend money on public sector jobs that disappear as soon as the federal funds run out.  That is exactly what happened with President Obama’s first “Stimulus”, and his new plan is more of the same.

The Jobs Through Growth Act focuses on creating jobs in the private sector.  A prosperous private sector will foster long-term economic growth in our communities, instead of the very temporary reprieve that federal bailouts provide.

Read the KUAR story here.

He Said What?

Oct 20 2011

In a Floor speech on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said “It’s very clear that private sector jobs have been doing just fine, it’s the public sector jobs where we’ve lost huge numbers.” Senator Reid is clearly out-of-touch with reality.

REALITY

 ‘TOP INCOME IN U.S. IS... WASH. D.C. AREA’

“The U.S. capital has swapped top spots with Silicon Valley, according to recent Census Bureau figures, with the typical household in the Washington metro area earning $84,523 last year. The national median income for 2010 was $50,046. … . The unemployment rate in the Washington metro area in August was 6.1 percent, compared with 10 percent in San Jose, according to Labor Department figures.” (“Top Income In U.S. Is...Gasp!...Wash. D.C. Area,” Bloomberg, 10/19/11)

 

CLASS Dismissed

Oct 19 2011

The Obama Administration announced it’s giving up on the Community Living Assistance Services (CLASS) Act, a major part of Obamacare, because of the high cost of implementation. 

In a letter to Congress, Kathleen Seblius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), confirmed that initial cost savings of $86 billion were deceptive. Rather than saving money, the President’s healthcare legislation would have added at least $700 billion to the national debt in the first ten years alone. 

As The Hill reported “HHS officials acknowledged that CLASS fell apart simply because it was too flawed to salvage.  This is what happens when legislation is rushed through Congress, not given the proper oversight and when Members aren’t given enough time to read the bill. This needs to be a lesson in following proper procedure. 

This is a good step in dismantling Obamacare and I will continue to seek a full repeal of this flawed legislation.

Senator Boozman serves as the Ranking Member of the Green Jobs Subcommittee. During this hearing on October, 13, 2011 the subcommittee discusses "Innovative Practices to Create Jobs and Reduce Pollution" and the Senator expresses his concerns with the cost of implementing regulations that ultimately drives jobs overseas. 

Senator Boozman Answers Your Questions

From the Mailbag: Episode 3

Oct 18 2011

In our latest edition of "From the Mailbag" we answer questions from Arkansans about the President's job creation proposal, one of the Department of Homeland Security's newest deportation policies and the general direction of our country. Watch the segment attached below.

I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone in Garland, Hot Springs, Clark, Grant, Dallas, Cleveland, Pike, Howard and Nevada Counties who joined us via phone last night for our tele-town hall.

We had some great questions and comments about our nation’s economic crisis; how the government can create jobs; helping veterans return to civilian life; protecting Medicare and Social Security; securing our borders; and federal bailouts.

Tele-town halls are a great way to stay in touch with the people of Arkansas during the days we are in session here in Washington.  I look forward to more in the coming months and hope to hear from you when we call. 

The lede from National Journal Daily’s (subscription required) front page story on Congressional approval of three trade agreements says it all:

The future of U.S exports moves to center stage now that Congress approved trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama—an achievement that lively will be Congress’s biggest on the trade front for years to come. (Emphasis mine)

Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created if we take steps to increase our exports.  Approval of the Panama, South Korea and Colombia pacts is an excellent start and should make a strong positive long-term impact on our economy.  It is estimated that these three pacts alone could create over 250,000 here at home.

The National Journal Daily story continues:

Taken together, the three deals represent the largest free-trade agreement since Congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. Overall, trade in goods with the three partner countries totaled more than $84 billion in the first seven months of 2011, according to the Census Bureau. The pacts will provide U.S. companies greater access to all three markets as soon as the deals enter into force later this year.

An earlier story from Bloomberg Businessweek highlights some of the economic benefits of each agreement:

The South Korea deal, the biggest since the North American Free Trade Agreement, would boost U.S. exports by as much as $10.9 billion in the first year in which it's in full effect, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. The accord with Colombia would increase exports by as much as $1.1 billion a year. The South Korea and Panama pacts were signed in June 2007, while the Colombia accord was signed in November 2006.

At a more microcosmic-level, trade is vital to the economy of Arkansas.  Over 600,000 Arkansas jobs depend on exports.  Over 1,500 companies export from Arkansas, most of which are small to medium businesses.  In turn, our agriculture producers, businesses and manufacturers reinvest those dollars into our economy and communities.

The pacts were approved in a bipartisan manner.  Republicans and Democrats in both the House of Representatives and Senate cast their vote in support of these trade agreements.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise since we have repeatedly said this is one way to stimulate the economy where we find common-ground.

Unfortunately just one day earlier, our Chamber was bogged down in a political exercise.  Senate Majority Leader Reid brought up a bill he knew would fail and ensured that his caucus all voted in line with him.  That bill—his version of President Obama’s “Jobs Bill”—was destined to fall short of the votes to block a filibuster so he knew he didn’t need to worry about forcing members of his caucus to vote against the bill’s final passage, which many have said they would if it came up for a vote.  He went as far as taking powers away from the Minority last week and would not allow us to offer the bill as an amendment, just to protect the image of “unity” in his caucus.

The past two days should be looked at as a case study in how the Senate should operate.    

Here’s what Majority Leader Reid should take away from this lesson:  The Senate needs more days like Wednesday and less like Tuesday.

As a long-time member of the House Law Enforcement Caucus, I’m proud to join my colleagues in launching the first ever U.S. Senate Law Enforcement Caucus to educate and inform my colleagues and their staffs about the programs and initiatives that are keeping our communities safe, while advocating for the policies and resources law enforcement agencies need to carry out their missions.  

This group is made up of 18 bipartisan senators and will serve as a forum for officials, community groups, and other stakeholders to meet with legislators, staff, and one another to share experiences and develop strategies for fostering effective law enforcement. We will work to highlight ways the federal government can better assist agencies at the state and local levels. This will help circulate best practices in administering law enforcement programs during a time of severely limited budgets. 

While we must work to rein in spending, we must also continue to provide resources for our men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe. Through this caucus I will be an advocate for our law enforcement agencies as we work to address the issues important to our nation’s first responders.