Medicare Update: Iaf Leads Grassroots Action, Shapes Debate

As seniors read the fine print, the outrage grows over a prescription deal that undermines Medicare, keeps drug prices high, and pumps billions into the pockets of drug companies and HMOs.  A grassroots movement led by the Institute for America’s Future (IAF), Alliance for Retired Americans, USAction and countless other defenders of Medicare is growing.

  1. Available for comment: Roger Hickey, spokesman for a Medicare coalition of senior, disability rights, labor, and consumer organizations fighting for Medicare prescription drug coverage.  Seniors, coalition allies and local leaders are also available to press.
  2. New IAF State Reports on Medicare Deal — Reports Released by State Groups (see below.)
  3. Events around the country to save Medicare  (see below)
  4. Today at IAF’s urging, MoveOn.org wades into the debate, mobilizing millions to oppose AARP.

Roger Hickey of Washington, burns his AARP membership card outside the AARP headquarters in Washington Wednesday, during a demonstration by AARP members to protest the organization’s agreement with the Medicare prescription drug bill that Congress is considering. (AP Photo/Stephen J. Boitano)

1. Leaders and Seniors Available for Comment: …

Roger Hickey is co-director of the Institute for America’s Future and leads a coalition of over 70 national organizations that have come together to fight the Republican Leadership’s plans to dismantle the Medicare system and to fight for real help with the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs.

To book interviews or for comments, contact Tasha Spindler or Anne Macri at 202/955-5665.

2. New State Reports on Medicare Deal

Reports Available for Release by State Groups
The Institute for America’s Future just released new reports showing the local impact of the Republican Medicare prescription drug deal.

The reports have been released to the press in many states, and activists continue to use these reports to lead the public debate in their communities.

The reports feature state-specific data highlighting beneficiary out-of-pocket costs (including rising drug prices, premiums, deductibles) and the impact of program privatization. The report also provides a look at methods proven to reduce drug costs currently being employed by government agencies and state and city governments around the country.

Click here for state reports.

More about the reports:
The state-specific reports highlight several ways in which the legislation would force Medicare beneficiaries to pay more for prescriptions and doctor visits than they do today. The report also shows how the legislation is damaging Medicare’s guaranteed benefit by subsidizing HMOs to pull healthy and wealthy beneficiaries out of Medicare.

Key is the point that the current compromise would guarantee the drug industry hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxpayer-supplied profits because of changes to the law that would prohibit Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries. The reports also examine the pattern of influence that the drug industry has exerted on American politicians — with contributions exceeding some $650 million, about 80% of which went to Republicans.

In contrast to the approach being considered by Congress, which will cost Medicare beneficiaries more, there are many proven ways that Medicare could lower drug costs. The report looks at examples of successful measures, used by the Veterans Administration and various states around the nation, to bring prescription costs down by using the buying power of beneficiaries to negotiate lower prescription prices with the drug industry. Republican leaders in Congress have rejected this proven approach.

Some supporters of the deal claim that though the legislation is not perfect — it is better than nothing. This analysis makes the case that the deal does more harm than good by damaging the Medicare system and costing seniors more.

3. Events Around the Country to Save Medicare

Hundreds Rally at U.S. Capitol
Wednesday: Hundreds from the Alliance for Retired Americans braved the rain at the US Capitol telling Congress: “Don’t pass this lemon of a prescription deal!”  Some then marched to AARP headquarters to burn their AARP cards.  Sources say that Newt Gingrich was in the building at the time.

No One Shows at HMO Rally in AZ
This Week: “Senior Voices for Medicare Choices,” an HMO-funded sham senior group, tried their hand at a rally in AZ with a high-priced telecast of President Bush. Proving their empty suit status — no one showed up.

Seniors Arrested in AZ
July & August: Seniors were arrested twice while trying to meet with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Kyl repeatedly refused to meet with seniors until they refused to leave his AZ office. Kyl finally agreed to a meeting, but only in DC. Seniors sold lemonade around Arizona to earn money for the trip.

Harris Intimidated by Seniors in FL
August: Seniors with the facts make Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) nervous. Falsely asserting that “Congressional rules” prohibit written materials in town hall meetings, Harris staff and security confiscated written notes, questions, and fact-sheets from seniors; Harris then refused direct questions. Protest and ridicule by the media followed.

Hastert Calls Police on Seniors in IL
July: Seniors tried to deliver House Speaker Hastert (R-IL) a letter in Batavia, IL. But for the first time ever, they weren’t allowed in. Seniors had to pass their letter to Hastert through an apologetic police barricade. Gun-toting police in a nearby parking garage kept watch over the IL seniors.

Dozens of other events have already taken place in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

In New York, NY…
11/11/03: Citizen Action of New York delivered sign on letters to Senators Clinton and Schumer urging them to do everything they can to stop the bad Medicare deal.

In Des Moines, Iowa…
11/10/03: ICAN held a press conference to release a joint statement with 27 other organizations and to release the new Institute for America’s Future report outlining the bad Medicare deal. ICAN called on Senator Durbin to oppose the deal.   Three seniors spoke.   After the press conference, ICAN delivered to Senator Durbin’s office 300 handwritten letters asking Congress to “stop and start over.”

In Trenton, New Jersey…
11/10/03: New Jersey Citizen Action, seniors and people with disabilities, and representatives from United Seniors Alliance, HPAE Council of Retirees, State Federation of Teachers, and Alliance for Retired Americans held a press conference to demand that Senators Corzine and Lautenberg oppose the bad Medicare deal. The group also called on Governor McGreevey to urge Senators Corzine and Lautenberg to vote no on the Medicare prescription drug bill.   When the event wasn’t covered, the group camped out at the press row until they were interviewed for television, radio, and in local newspapers.

In Charleston, West Virginia…
11/5/03: USAction’s newest affiliate, West Virginia Citizen Action, spoke against the emerging bad Medicare deal at a press conference with Senator Rockefeller’s office, WV AFL-CIO, and the WV Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.  WVCA called on their Senators and Representatives to “Just Say No” to the bad Medicare deal. An article and supportive editorial appeared in the West Virginia Gazette, and the ABC and FOX TV affiliates aired stories.

For more information on the growing opposition to the Medicare deal, contact Tasha Spindler or Anne Macri at 202/955-5665 or visit www.ourfuture.org.

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