Thursday, November 20th, 2003



If you can make one phone call or write just one letter today, please contact Senator Feinstein and urge her opposition to the current Medicare proposal.

A major bill currently awaiting vote in the U.S. Congress would take significant steps to UNDERMINE MEDICARE, the national program that currently provides basic health coverage to virtually all seniors in the United States–including almost 4 million in California. In particular, we understand the bill would:

* PLACE AN ARBITRARY CAP ON MEDICARE SPENDING that would lead to cuts in benefits and other areas, increases in premiums, raising of the eligibility age, or other cost-cutting measures.

* PRIVATIZE THE PROGRAM–push seniors into Medicare HMOs and destablize the traditional Medicare program–in key areas of the country, including probably California. Despite the current awful experience with Medicare HMOs–more California seniors have been dumped by a Medicare HMO than are currently enrolled in them–this “demonstration project” will lead to a full privatization of the program.

* INSTITUTE MEANS-TESTING into Medicare, forcing seniors to do new paperwork about their eligibility, invade their privacy, and undermining political support among well-off for Medicare.

The bill has been touted by supporters for its inclusion of a prescription drug policy, but most anaylses suggest that for California seniors, the DRUG BENEFITS IS AT BEST INADEQUATE, AND AT WORST HARMFUL. The prescription drug portions of the bill would:

* KEEP DRUG PRICES HIGH by directly PROHIBITING Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices with pharmaceatical companies.

* OFFER AWFUL COVERAGE THAT IS FOR MANY MORE EXPENSIVE THAN NO COVERAGE. After paying a mandatory $275 deductible and a monthly premium of $35 and up, seniors would still have to pay 25% of drug costs up to $2,201 in a year, but 100% of the drug costs of $2,201 up to $5,504. Only after paying those considerable costs does catastrophic coverage kick in. Many seniors will end up paying more than they do now for this so-called “coverage.”

* FORCE MANY TO LOSE THEIR CURRENT COVERAGE: If the bill is passed, many employers and others that currently provide prescription drug coverage to their retirees would drop it, leaving them with this substandard pacakge. Low-income seniors that currently get “wrap-around” benefits under Medicaid may also lose that coverage, and thus get stuck with the very high cost-sharing elements.

TIMING: When the bill is implemented, we expect seniors’ reactions to range from disappointment to anger. Yet this bill is on a fast track, with a vote expected in the U.S. House of Representatives in the next few days, and in the U.S. Senate sometime early next week. We need action in the next few days.

ACTION: We urge you to call your Representative and two Senators to OPPOSE the Medicare bill. For Senators Boxer and Feinstein, we urge them to support a filibuster to stop this bill from passage.

IF YOU CAN MAKE ONLY ONE CALL, CALL SENATOR FEINSTEIN: As stated in the publication CongressDaily on Tuesday, Nov. 18, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said she could still change her mind, “but I’m inclined to vote for it, depending on how the scoring comes out.” We need Senator Feinstein to support the filibuster of this destructive bill.

For phone calls, Senator Feinstein’s office numbers are:

Washington, DC: 202-224-3841

San Francisco: 415-393-0707

Los Angeles: 310-914-7300

San Diego: 619-231-9712

Fresno: 559-485-7430

For letters, here are Senator Feinstein’s fax numbers:

Washington, DC: 202-228-3954

San Francisco: 415-393-0710

Los Angeles: 310-914-7318

San Diego: 619-231-1108

Fresno: 559-485-9689

OTHER CALLS: If you can make other calls, contact Senator Barbara Boxer, and members of California House delegation, including Representatives Joe Baca, Howard Berman, Dennis Cardoza, and Mike Honda.

MORE INFO: For more information, several national organizations have put out information showing the problems with the Medicare proposal. They include:

Consumers Union:

Campaign for America’s Future:

Alliance for Retired Americans:

Families USA:

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:

Finally, if you as a Medicare recipient want to see how much you will pay under this so-called drug coverage plan, check out the following helpful online calculator. Many, if not most, seniors will find that they will pay more under this proposal:

Anthony E. Wright

Health Access

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

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

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