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HEALTH CARE JUSTICE NOW: U2K UPDATE

The Newsletter of the Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign (U2K)

May 15th, 2000 (Issue no. 10)

Health Care Justice NOW is a bi-monthly fax/email newsletter.  It aims to keep endorsers and supporters of U2K informed and engaged.  It is also an outreach tool, so please distribute it widely, and encourage other groups to subscribe through contacting us.  There are over 400 individuals that subscribe to Health Care Justice NOW.  (To unsubscribe, email us at uhcan@uhcan.org)  Past issues of the newsletter (as well as basic U2K Campaign materials) are available at www.u2kcampaign.org.

Table of Contents
-New Endorsers
-U2K Flash Updates
-U2K Resources
-Parallel Campaigns for Universal Health Care
-Health Care Issues in the News
-Contact Us

NOTE: This issue of Health Care Justice NOW includes a section on health care issues in the news, as they relate to the movement for universal health care as well as the upcoming 2000 elections.  In order to sharpen the policy debate on health care issues in the elections (as well as the U2K Campaign's role in it) Health Care Justice NOW will feature these items regularly.

NEW ENDORSERS (since 4/15)

NATIONAL
American Public Health Association, Public Citizen, USAction

STATE
Mississippi Human Services Coalition (MS), National Association of Social Workers, New York Chapter (NY), Rt. Rev. Hayes H. Rockwell of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri (MO), Mississippi Human Services Coalition (MS), Hunger Action Coalition of Michigan (MI), Pax Christi Michigan (MI), Organize! Ohio (OH)

LOCAL
Monterey County Central Labor Council (CA), Hayward Demos Democratic Club (CA), S. Alameda County Gray Panthers (CA), Birmingham Friends Meeting (MI), Santa Cruz County Central Labor Council (CA), Dayton Peace Action (OH), Physicians for Social Responsibility, San Francisco Chapter (CA), Coalition for Quality Health Care (CA), California Public Employees AFSCME Retirees Chapter (CA), El Cerrito Democratic Club (CA), Health In Common (CA), Auburn Area Chapter 14/74 AARP (CA), Heights Christian Church (OH), Chicago Green Party (IL), Berkeley City Council (CA), St. Mary's Center (CA), Homeless Coalition of the Palm Beach County of Florida (CA), South Suburban Gray Panthers (IL), United Auto Workers Local 909 (MI), American Association of University Women, Santa Barbara Chapter (CA)

INDIVIDUALS
Rev. Stewart Wood, Episcopal Diocese of Michigan (MI)

U2K FLASH UPDATES

Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Health Care of Philadelphia Plan March and
Rally at 7/29 Republican Convention - Plan to Draw Thousands


The Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Health Care of Philadelphia is hoping to place universal health care back on the Republican Party's agenda through rallying at the 7/29 Republican Convention in Philadelphia.  The express purpose of the Republican Convention is to plan their platform for the 2000 elections, and the group hopes to elevate the issue of health care for all. Over a dozen health care justice, provider, labor, community, welfare rights and other organizations that have endorse  the demonstration.  The U2K Campaign plans to help promote and organize the event through mobilizing U2K activists to convene in Philadelphia on that date.  It is important to note that mass rallies have the most impact when followed up by long-term organizing and advocacy efforts, and this is nowhere more true than in the lengthy struggle for health care justice in this country.  Check this newsletter for periodic updates about the July 29th "Call to Action to Save Healthcare."  For more info or to attend the march, contact Kate Sorensen at 215/423-9375 or call 856/423-3165.  Or visit the web site at www.phillyhealth.org.  The march will gather at 11 AM Eastern Time on Saturday, July 29th at Franklin Square (6th and Arch in Philadelphia) and the march will start at noon.

Gray Panthers of Seattle Plan U2K Kick-Off

The Gray Panthers of Seattle are planning a U2K kick-off for the Washington campaign.  They are inviting local members as well as Washington groups with a stake in health care justice to a forum about the U2K Campaign, and other efforts for health care justice.  For more information, please contact Janet Kotyk at 206/417-6265 or Hans Bodleander at hansbod@aol.com.  The Gray Panthers of Seattle are working with the Seattle Just Health Care Coalition (a chapter of the Labor Party), and will nominate a representative from Washington to serve on the U2K Steering Committee.

Health Care for All New Jersey Holds Forum on Universal Health Care

Health Care for All New Jersey held a forum in universal health care on Saturday, May 6th, bringing 75 individuals into the movement for universal health care.  Speakers included Dr. Victor Sidel, past president of the Public Health Association of New York City, Robb Burlage of the National Council of Churches, Nick Unger of UNITE and a representative from the Labor Party, who are running the "Just Health Care Campaign" for single-payer health care.  To follow up on the meeting, the group plans to solicit organizations to join U2K.  For more information about Health Care for All New Jersey, contact O'Brien Boldt at 201/569-5721 or obboldt@carroll.com.  

Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Holds National Conference

Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring plans to bring together about 50 representatives from its 8 local and state chapters on May 20 for a convention.  Among the topics to be discussed in the workshops are ways that WC/AR members can engage in the U2K Campaign.  South Florida WC/AR member  Karl Zukerman will present the workshop on the U2K Campaign.  For information contact Sandy Weinreb at 212/889-6800 or member@circle.org

Oregon Health Action Coalition Joins U2K Campaign at "Coordinator" Level, Plans Candidate Forums in the Fall

The Oregon Health Action Coalition recently agreed to join the U2K Campaign at the Coordinator level.  They are soliciting member organizations for endorsement of U2K, and planning to gain candidate commitments to work towards universal health care at a candidates forum this fall.  Contact Ellen Pinney, Director at ellen@ohac.org or 503/695-2806 for more information.  

Gray Panthers of Greater Albuquerque Join U2K Steering Committee  

The Gray Panthers of Greater Albuquerque recently joined the U2K Steering Committee, and plan to pull together a collective of individuals from their organization to solicit endorsements from groups they work with.  The Gray Panthers of Greater Albuquerque work closely with Health Action New Mexico and other health care justice activists across the state.  For information contact Tom Lockwood at 505/856-1835 or juto@att.net

U2K RESOURCES

Faith Communities Handbook in the Works

The U2K Campaign is preparing a Faith Communities Handbook designed to help endorsers of the U2K Campaign more effectively engage the faith communities in there area.  The Faith Communities Handbook will include targeted messages for faith communities, tools to help faith communities engage in U2K (for instance, prayer vigils, congregational workshops and other tools) as well as denominational statements that are in support of universal health care.  For more information contact Faith Communities Coordinator Linda Walling at 216/751-2440 or u2kwalling@aol.com.  

U2K Constituency Working Groups in the Works

The U2K Campaign is planning to launch several constituency-specific "Working Groups" over the upcoming months.  Linda Walling, the U2K Faith Communities Coordinator has launched a Faith Communities Working Group already.  The purpose of the Working Group is to plan national and coordinated outreach to faith communities, as well as faith-specific message and resource development.  The Working Group will correspond through an email list serve, and meet for conference calls where it is appropriate. Current members of the working group include representatives from the National Council of Churches, the United Church of Christ, the Interreligious Health Care Working Group, the Illinois Conference of Churches and others.  Current work includes outreach to national faith groups, state councils of churches, metropolitan ecumenical groups and the development of the Faith Communities Handbook.  Look for periodic updates about the working group in this newsletter.  For information contact Linda Walling at 216/751-2440 or u2kwalling@aol.com

U2K Electoral Handbook to Appear by the End of June

As we prepare to swing into the election season, the U2K Campaign is preparing a Guide to the Elections.  It will include tools for engaging candidates, information about hot and contested races in 2000, tools for targeting races in your state, messages to take to candidates and "hot button" health care issues in the 2000 elections.  (The U2K Campaign is a 501©(3) organization and does not endorse candidates or legislation.)  Watch this space for more information about the U2K Guide to the Elections.  

June 13th Meeting Planned in DC to Discuss State of U2K, Plan for Next Six Months

On June 13th, U2K state and national Coordinators will meet in Washington DC for a day-long working meeting to evaluate the state of the U2K Campaign during its first six months, and prepare for the summer and fall of 2000. Agenda items include campaign outreach in the coming months, tools for engagement in the elections, and a look ahead at the campaign in 2001. Watch this space for updates about the outcome of the meeting.

PARALLEL CAMPAIGNS FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE

American Medical Student Association supports "States' Right to Innovate in Health Care Act" (introduced by Cong. John Tierney (D - MA)).

The American Medical Student Association are helping to campaign for the States' Rights to Innovate in Health Care Act, a bill introduced by Congressperson John Tierney (D - MA) with 14 co-sponsors.  Through this legislation, a maximum of 10 states would receive grants of up to $3.75
million each to assist in the research and development of a state plan for universal, comprehensive, cost-effective health care with simplified administration.  Here are a few features of the bill:

* States would have the ability to design plans suited to their own needs, as long as they met basic requirements.  Up to 5 state plans will be approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Service  as 7-year demonstrations.  The approved states would receive a grant for $10 million plus $3 per capita to assist them in the transition of their health care delivery and financing infrastructure.  

* People who otherwise received health care through any of the waived federal programs would, under the new state plan, receive benefits at least as generous as those offered under the fed program.

* The bill would allow states to guarantee the residents more generous health care benefits than they currently receive, including long-term care, drug coverage, dental and vision services.  

* The states would have to assure, monitor and maintain the quality of health items and services offered under the plan.

* The Secretary of Health and Human Services would provide for data collection and evaluation of the state proposals, allowing the U.S. to create a body of knowledge on the comparative effectiveness of state programs to provide health care for all.

For more information, contact Simon Ahtoridis, Legislative Affairs Director for AMSA at 703/620-6600 x 211, or lad@www.amsa.org.

HEALTH CARE ISSUES IN THE NEWS

Maryland Citizens Health Initiative Releases Independent Study that Shows Economic Viability of Universal Health Care for Maryland

At a press conference hosted by Bon Secours Baltimore Health System on May 2nd, the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative ("Initiative") released an economic study conducted by the nationally renowned economists, the Lewin Group.  The study found that if Maryland adopted a single-payer insurance plan for achieving universal health care, the state could provide health care for all of its citizens and save $345 million on total health care spending.  The study also found that MD could provide health care for all Marylanders with a mult-payer insurance system for only $207 million more than the state presently spends on health care.  

For more information, contact Vinnie DeMarco at 410/235-9000 or demarco@mdinitiative.org.  For a full copy of the study, visit the Initiative web site at www.healthcareforall.com.  For media reports on the release, visit these links: http://www.sunspot.net/content/cover/story  
http://www.HometownAnnapolis.com
http://jrnl.net/news/00/May

Study Cites Medical Bills for Many Bankruptcies

Nearly half of the more than 1 million Americans who filed for bankruptcy protection last year did so in part because they could not cope with medical bills or other financial consequences of illness or injury, says a recent study by Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren.  The study is to be published this month in Norton's Bankruptcy Advisor, a specialty periodical.  

"I thought we'd be looking at a wholly uninsured group of Americans, and we're not," said Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren.  "These data suggest that under-insurance is a far bigger problem for middle-class families." Middle-class American families are "one serious illness away from financial collapse," she added.  "What a scary way to think about America." 

The study provides justification for the argument that America's health care crisis affects not only the 45 million, uninsured Americans, but also the increasing number of under-insured Americans.  The increasing fragility of health care security for most Americans is spurring a number of efforts to create a broad-based movement for universal health care.

Texas Health Care System Throws Doubt On Bush Health Care Record

According to the April 19 edition of Health Line (an Internet clipping service concerning major health care issues in the news), a study by the Center for Disease Control showed that Texas has the lowest ranking in the country for Hispanic women age 50 and older who had a breast exam in the last two years.  "Part of the reason for the disparities is the high number of uninsured Hispanics in Texas," Health Line notes.  In 1997, 47% of Hispanic women ages 18 to 64 were without h alth care coverage, significantly higher than the national average.  The release of information highlighting Texas' poor health record casts serious doubt on former Texas Governor George Bush's claim that his health care proposals will improve America's health care system.

Congressional Candidates Launch Effort to Make Health Care Issues Big in 2000 Elections

In the April 25 edition of Health Line, The New York Times is quoted as calling George Bush's health care plan a "case study in the carefully calibrated philosophy of compassionate conservatism."  But will it work? The Democrats are launching campaign efforts to exploit its weaknesses and to make health care issues big in the 2000 elections.  Bush's plan provides a $2,000 tax credit for families and $1,000 for individuals - allowing people to cover as much as 90% of the costs of health insurance, he claims. Democrats argue the Bush plan will not cover the costs of health care for families.

In the April 26 edition of Health Line, a Harris Poll reveals that Americans trust Democrats to handle four major health care issues better than Republicans.  The survey states that "majorities of the public see a Democratically controlled Congress as more likely to do a better job than Republicans on making health care affordable to as many people as possible, patient protection, preserving Medicare and introducing a Medicare drug benefit."  According to the poll, respondents felt that making affordable health care widely available was the most important health care issue. The Harris Poll also showed that Presidential candidate Al Gore gained the support of a clear majority on only one issue - making health care affordable to as many Americans as possible.  "Al Gore and the Democrats need to find a way to bring these issues to life," said Humphrey Taylor of the Harris Poll.

Nonetheless, most Democrats are pushing piecemeal health care reform efforts, such as ensuring a strong Patients' Bill of Rights, affordable prescription drug coverage and expansion of safety net programs.  There is little evidence that such piecemeal reforms will lead to the sort of health care reform Americans need and want - that is, a nationally guaranteed health care system - so much as placing Band Aids on a sick system.

The poll suggests that activists for universal health care have a huge opportunity this election season to raise the issue of fundamental health care reform as a major issue in the 2000 elections, with candidates from both political parties. Health care justice activists have a chance to inform the public about the health care records of Congressional candidates, as well as stances on universal health care, to tell people to "vote for their health."  The poll also suggests that most American believe lack of affordability and accessibility the most significant health care issues - which provides an opportunity to educate the public about universal health care.

Will Congress Enact a Strong Prescription Drugs Bill this Election
Season?  An Analysis of the Democratic Proposal (From Public Citizen)


The Democratic proposal for a Medicare prescription drug benefit will do too little to curb the ever-increasing prescription drug costs, watchdog group Public Citizen said in a press release on May 16th.

"The proposal represents half a pill," said Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen.  "While we commend President Clinton and Democratic leaders for putting forward a comprehensive proposal with a strong drug benefit, it has a wholly inadequate mechanism for reigning in skyrocketing prescription drug costs, which is the lynchpin to ensuring that a benefit is affordable for taxpayers and sustainable for Medicare recipients."

The two-page proposal, which is modeled on Clinton's plan with some modifications, would go further than Clinton's original plan in providing catastrophic coverage.  But it would rely on private regional networks to negotiate lower prices with pharmaceutical companies, which would not go far
enough to curb drug costs.

"Democratic leaders refused to incorporate the best cost containment mechanism now before Congress the Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act," said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch.

That act, HR 664, sponsored by Rep. Tom Allen of Maine, would require that the best prices be offered to all Medicare beneficiaries, effectively cutting prices up to 40 percent from retail level.  This would reduce drug company revenues a modest 3.3 percent because of the increased demand that would result from making the drugs more affordable.

Clemente said, "It would appear that the lobbying and advertising tactics of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America have scared off Democratic officials from doing what is in the best interests of their constituents.  Obviously, America's seniors are away ahead of thepoliticians of both parties on this one." 

STRENGTHS OF THE PROPOSAL:

** Would provide a universal drug benefit as part of the Medicare program, rather than expanded private insurance coverage of prescription drugs, as proposed by Repub. Leaders
**A beneficiary's out-of-pocket costs would be limited to $3,000 per year adjusted for inflation, which represents a substantial improvement over Clinton's original proposal, which lacked such a cap.
**Would cover 100 percent of a Medicare beneficiary's annual drug costs, including premiums, for seniors below 135% of poverty level.  This would provide full coverage to nearly 13 million Medicare recipients.

WEAKNESSES OF THE PROPOSAL:

**Reliance on Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM's) is wholly inadequate.  Even with the proposed improvements in how PBM's would operate, the administration estimates savings at about 15 percent off retail, much less than the 40 percent under the Allen bill.
**Without strong measures to lower drug prices and change industry marketing practices, rising prescription drug expenses will erode the value of the annual cap.
**The 50 percent cost sharing arrangement will still be a burden for many seniors with high drug bills.  Two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries are above 135 percent of the poverty level, which is the cut-off point for the government paying premium costs and out-of-pocket costs.  Under the proposal, a widowed senior with $12,500 in annual income and a $4,000 annual drug bill would spend $2,300 on prescription drugs, or 18 percent of her annual income.

For more information, contact Guillermo Nicacio at Public Citizen (a U2K Endorser) at GNICACIO@citizen.org or 202/546-4996.

CONTACT US (Let us know what you are doing in your state or region.)

Rachel Rosen DeGolia, Campaign Coordinator
Lee Chilcote, Field Organizer
U2K Campaign
2800 Euclid Ave., Suite 520, Cleveland OH 44115
Phone: 216/902-5577 * Fax: 216/241-8423
Email: <uhcan@uhcan.org>
Web Site: http://www.u2kcampaign.org

Linda Walling, Faith Communities Coordinator
U2K Campaign
15905 Fernway Rd.
Shaker Hts. OH 44120
Phone: 216/751-2440
U2kwalling@aol.com

REQUEST TO INCLUDE NEWS about your organization's activities on behalf of U2K and health care justice to this newsletter: Send your message to <uhcan@uhcan.org>

"U2K Update" ARCHIVES: Direct your Web browser to:<http://www.u2kcampaign.org/news> to see past issues of this newsletter.

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