HEALTH ACCESS ALERT

Monday, June 9, 2003

* QUICK BUDGET UPDATE

As of this writing, the Budget Conference Committee has not yet taken up

many of the key health items “in conference,” or those where the Assembly

and Senate took different actions. This includes the funding of trauma

centers, and the elimination of Medi-Cal coverage for those workers in their

second year transitioning off of state assistance.

There have been some false starts on the big issues. A proposal on how to

spend the temporary federal fiscal aid to states (such as the enhanced

Medicaid matching rate) was withdrawn, and so no action has been taken on

that issue. The Republicans were scheduled to present a series of

recommendation of cuts tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, but are no longer

planning to do so.

Grassroots activity continues to push for the revenues needed to prevent

cuts to health and other vital services. In just the past three days, dozens

of legislators were directly met by their constituents, in coalition

delegations to legislative offices organized by California Church Impact,

Congress of California Seniors, Working Assets, and Health Access, or in

town hall meetings this past weekend sponsored by the many organizations of

the PICO California Project.

On Wednesday morning, Health Access will sponsor a press conference with

several high-income earners on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, all of whom

support the full restoration of the upper tax bracket to prevent severe

cuts. A similar event will take place in the Bay Area soon afterwards.

* MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG ALERT: STOP THE STEAMROLLER

A Medicare prescription drug proposal OPPOSED by many senior, consumer,

labor, and community organizations is on a “steamroller” path in the U.S.

Congress. On Tuesday, the Senate Democratic caucus will discuss a proposal

agreed to last week by the Republican chair and ranking Democratic minority

member of the Senate Finance Committee. Senate Finance Committee’s

bipartisan Medicare plan — proposed by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) — is scheduled to be “marked up” for Thursday, June

12, and the goal is to bring it up for a vote by the full Senate before June

27.

The Grassley-Baucus plan is done through private insurance plans, not

through Medicare. Under the plan, beneficiaries would pay a $275 deductible

and a suggested — but not guaranteed — monthly premium of $35; half of

annual drug costs up to $3,450 and *all* drug costs between $3,451 and

$5,300. After $5,300, beneficiaries would be required to pay 10 percent of

drug costs with Medicare paying the remainder. The plan would go into effect

in November 2005. In the meantime, the government would permit drug

discounts cards in 2004; and low-income beneficiaries would get a $600

annual benefit in 2004 and 2005.

In contrast, the Medicare Rx Drug Benefit and Discount Act of 2003 (H.R.

1199), sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI),

allows seniors to stay in traditional Medicare and still get the medicines

they need at a price they can afford.

ACTION: We need you to communicate with Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane

Feinstein to tell them to vigorously oppose the Grassley-Baucus Bad Deal. It

violates two basic principles of health advocates:

* REAL, MEANINGFUL HELP: Under the Grassley-Baucus plan, a senior who now

spends $1,000 on prescription drugs would spend $1057.50 under the

Grassley-Baucus bill; that’s right, it would cost them more money. A senior

with high drug costs, $5,000, would still have to pay $3,695 for

prescriptions.

* NO PRIVATIZATION: Under the Grassley-Baucus plan, the prescription drug

coverage would be offered through private insurance plans, not through

Medicare. It would leave seniors at the mercy of the drug and insurance

companies, as we have experienced with Medicare HMOs. It takes Medicare down

the path to privatization.

Call: Senator Boxer at 202-224-3553, Senator Feinstein at 202-224-3841, or

at their local offices. Also fax the enclosed letter on your letterhead to

their DC offices. ATTACHED is a flyer.



Anthony E. Wright

Health Access

1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814

Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921

awright@health-access.org

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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