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HEALTH CARE JUSTICE NOW: U2K UPDATE

Newsletter of the Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign (U2K)

June 15, 2000 (Issue no. 11)

Table of Contents
Roll Call: U2K Active in Nearly 30 States to Date
Faith Communities Organizing Packet
League of Women Voters Organizes Candidates Forums
Building a Healthy Movement
Linkages Between Principles of Universal Health Care and Prescription Drug Coverage
Contacts for Action
Contact Us

The U2K Campaign was founded in October 1999 by the Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN!), the Gray Panthers and the National Council of Churches (NCC).  Since then, the U2K Campaign has grown to include over 350 endorsing organizations, and thousands of individuals.  The goal of the U2K Campaign is to achieve, through a democratic process, a national guarantee of comprehensive, affordable, accessible, quality and publicly accountable health care for all.  In its first year, the U2K Campaign seeks to build a strong, broad base of support for the issue of universal health care, and to raise this as a major issue in the upcoming 2000 elections.  If you are receiving this newsletter for the first time and your organization has not yet endorsed the campaign, we hope you will join us in building a nationwide, grassroots movement for universal  health care.

Health Care Justice NOW is a bi-monthly fax/email newsletter.  (It also appears in a print version.)  It aims to keep endorsers and supporters of the Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign informed and engaged.  Health Care Justice NOW 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.

PLEASE NOTE: We apologize for the delay in getting out this latest issue of Health Care Justice NOW.  U2K staff and leaders have been busily preparing for a leadership meeting in Washington, DC on June 13.  You should expect to hear from us regularly over the course of the summer!  If this issue of the newsletter seems familiar, that's because it is - this is the same issue sent to you in the mail.  We hope that through providing it in an email version, as well, you will be able to forward it on to others.

Roll Call: U2K Active in Nearly 30 States to Date
YOU ARE ENCOURAGED TO CONTACT THESE INDIVIDUALS FOR MORE INFORMATION 

AL * Jessie Tehranchi of Alabama ARISE is helping to organize a forum on the uninsured in Birmingham, as part of the League of Women Voters project. After June, Jessie¹s attention will turn to helping to build U2K in AL.  *205/822-5615 or jtehranchi@mindspring.com.

CA * Health Care for All California, which has garnered nearly 50 endorsements, is planning a meeting on July 22nd in San Francisco to launch their elections strategy. * Don Bechler, 415/695-7891 or dbechler@value.net.

CO * The Colorado Gray Panthers are planning a campaign to study ways to provide universal health care in Colorado, and approaching groups to join U2K. * Bob Danknich, 303/343-7701 or rdanknich@aol.com.

CT * CT Call to Action are planning to approach Congressional candidates in order to ask for their support of Medicare expansion as one model of providing universal health care. * Naomi Shaiken, 203/248-0053 or nshaiken@snet.net.

FL * Florida Health Care for All is holding a U2K kick-off forum on June 10th, and will invite current and prospective U2K endorsers.  They are reaching out to providers, especially in the public health arena, and hope to involvethe uninsured in the struggle for universal health care * Eileen Jacobs, 727/446-2897 or eileenoneal@webtv.net.

IL * The Campaign for Better Health Care is planning candidate forums on health care issues in every state and Congressional district.  To prepare for the events, they plan to send out candidate questionnaires over the summer. * Michelle Mascaro, 312/913-9449 or cbhc@enteract.com.
IN * The Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana is currently soliciting groups to join U2K. * Julia Vaughn, 317/205-3535 or jvaughn@citact.org.

MA * The Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care (MASSCare) is planning candidate questionnaires asking for commitments to support universal, single-payer health care. * Linda Stamm, 617/357-7003 or masscare@aol.com.

MD * The Maryland Citizens Health Initiative released an economic study by the nationally renowned Lewin Group on the economic feasibility of providing universal health care in Maryland. * Vinnie DeMarco, 410/235-3504 or demarco@mdinitiative.org.

MI * The Michigan Universal Health Care Action Network (MichUHCAN) has garnered broad support from labor, minority, faith and other constituencies, and currently has nearly 50 U2K endorsers.  They have gained pledges to work towards universal health care from several state and Congressional candidates. * Marge Mitchell, 248/477-7911 or MJMitchell@ameritech.net

MN * Minnesota COACT is approaching member organizations of the Minnesota Health Care Campaign to join U2K. * Paula Fynboh, 612/645-3733 or paulacoact@mtn.org.

MO * Missourians for Single Payer Health Care (MoSP) recently demonstrated for affordable prescription drug coverage in front of House Speaker Dick Gephardt¹s office. * Anne Steele, 314/427-7627 or abs4k@aol.com.

MS * The Mississippi Human Services Coalition recently joined as a state Coordinator. * Judy and Rims Barber, 601/355-7495 or hn0137@handsnet.org.

ND * The North Dakota Progressive Coalition is considering endorsement of U2K. * Don Morrison, 701/224-8090 or NoDakPC@aol.com.

NJ * New Jersey Health Care for All recently held a large forum on universal health care.  To follow up on the meeting, NJ Health Care for All plans to ask groups to join U2K. * O¹Brien Boldt, 201/569-5721 or obboldt@carroll.com.

NM * The Gray Panthers of Greater Albuquerque are soliciting groups to join U2K. * Tom Lockwood, 505/856-1835 or juto@att.net.

NV * The Nevada Health Care Reform Project (NHCRP) is asking organizational members to join U2K. * Ruth Mills, 702/648-8124 or MillsR007@aol.com.

NY * Metro New York Health Care for All is burning up the U2K Campaign trail, soliciting the 300 members of the NY State Health Care Campaign for endorsement.  They are holding a series of forums with clergy and labor leaders to engage them in U2K. * Mark Hannay, 212/964-3534 ormetrohealth@igc.org.

OH * The Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio (UHCAN Ohio) recently  conducted a race-by-race analysis of Ohio¹s Congressional races.  They plan to hold a candidates¹ forum in the most hotly contested race in the state, a Columbus district recently vacated by John Kasich.  They are focusing efforts on supporters of universal health care, as well as "swing" candidates such as moderate Democrats and Republicans. * Larry Bresler, 216/241-8422 or lbresler@uhcan.org.

OR * The Oregon Health Action Coalition (OHAC) is working on a state single-payer ballot initiative and public forums on universal health care. They are holding a candidates¹ forum on health issues in the fall, at which they will approach candidates for their support of universal health care. They are approaching the 100 organizations in OHAC to join U2K. * Ellen Pinney, 503/695-2806 or ellen@ohac.org.

PA * The Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Health Care of Philadelphia is holding a rally and march for universal health care at the Republican Convention on July 29. * Harold Cohen, 215/242-5385 or kbatt@ccp.cc.pa.us.

RI * The Coalition for Consumer Justice hopes to have 50 endorsers of U2K by June, and is planning to work on several races in RI. * Arline Bolvin, 401/521-1534 or consumerj@surfree.com.

SD * Tim Langley, a longtime health care justice activist, is approaching the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center for endorsement of U2K. * 605/330-2500 or mtlang@uswest.net.

TX * The Gray Panthers of Austin are soliciting groups to join U2K. * Charlotte Flynn, 512/345-1869 or wbillflynn@aol.com.

WA * The Gray Panthers of Seattle recently held a forum on U2K.  They are nominating a representative to the Steering Committee, and soliciting groups to join U2K. * Hans Bodleander, 206/328-1674 or hansbod@aol.com.

WI * The Coalition for Wisconsin Health is asking organizational members to join U2K. * Marjorie Colson, 608/251-0139 or marjie@merr.com.

WV * The West Virginia Citizens Health Reform Coalition is revitalizing to tackle U2K. * Gary Zuckett, 304/659-3193 or gzuckett@wvwise.org.

WY * Diane Arnold is approaching Community Action for their endorsement, and hoping to build U2K in Wyoming. * 307/477-3446.

***Workmen¹s Circle/Arbeter Ring (WC/AR) held a workshop on U2K at their May  convention.  They are convening a meeting of national Jewish organizations to solicit involvement in U2K. * For info or to link up with a WC/AR chapter contact Sandy Weinreb, 212/889-6800 or member@circle.org.

***The American Medical Student Association will approach AMSA chapters and other student health professional organizations to join U2K. * Josh Rising, 703/620-6600 or lad@www.amsa.org.

***National Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and Consumers (NCMHPC) are interested in raising the issue of mental health parity within the struggle for universal health care.  They are approaching organizations that sponsored Rescue Health Care Day to join U2K.   To link up with Rescue Health Care Day supporters in your area, contact Dr. Pat Dowds, 631/361-3662 or Pat-Dave@ix.netcom.com.

***The National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) recently held a Policy Symposium, including several workshops on U2K.  NHCHC has launched the "People Like Me" postcard campaign, which involves homeless people and their advocates in urging candidates for Congressional office to support universal health care. * For info or to link up with an NHCHC clinician in your area, contact Kevin Lindamood at 410/837-5533 or klindamood@nhchc.org

***Church Women United (CWU) are approaching state and local chapters to join U2K. * To link up with a CWU chapter, contact Tiffany Heath, 202/544-8747 or tlheath@churchwomen.org

FAITH COMMUNITIES ORGANIZING PACKET is a Tool for Organizing Faith Communities

A Faith Communities Organizing Packet is available to help organizers approach faith communities for involvement and engagement in U2K and other health care justice issues.  It includes faith community statements on the need for universal health care from the National Council of Churches, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, United States Catholic Conference and others.  Organizing and advocacy resources are also available, including a congregational organizing outline, a workshop for people of faith and a list of Top Ten Ways to Work with Religious Leaders.  For info, to receive a packet or to link up with a faith community group in your area, contact Linda Walling, U2K Faith Communities Coordinator at 216/751-2440 or u2kwalling@aol.com.

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS Organizes Candidates Forums on Health Care Issues in Elections

The League of Women Voters, in partnership with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, has developed a guide to the elections, Join the Debate: Your Guide to Health Issues in the 2000 Elections.  The guide is intended as "part of a nonpartisan public education initiative to inform citizens, stimulate dialogue and give the public a greater voice in the health care debate in the 2000 elections."  The guide provides information, policy proposals and sample candidate questions on five major health care issues - coverage for the uninsured, managed care and patients¹ rights, Medicare reform, prescription drug coverage and long-term care.   U2K activists are encouraged to visit the LWV web site, <www.lwv.org> or the Kaiser site, <www.kff.org> to learn more about the project or to link up with an LWV chapter.  You are also encouraged to raise the issue of universal health care in the dialogue sessions.  If you do not have Internet access, contact the U2K office at 216/902-5577.

BUILDING A HEALTHY MOVEMENT: Why Universal Health Care Activists Should Work for Affordable Prescription Drug Coverage

The lack of affordable prescription drug coverage for most Americans is a clear symptom of the unhealthiness of our current health care system. Nearly 8 in 10 Medicare beneficiaries use prescription drugs, yet Medicare does not pay for medications outside of the hospital.  Over a third of Medicare beneficiaries do not have any sort of prescription drug coverage, and these same seniors spent about $400 out-of-pocket on drugs in 1999. Meanwhile, the prices of the 50 prescription drugs used most frequently rose by more than four times the 1998 inflation rate, and studies show that drug company profits are several times higher than profits of other industries.  A recent study by the National Committee to Defend Social Security and Medicare showed that 55% of Americans polled support a universal drug benefit, and that prescription drug coverage is the most important health care reform issue this year.  Meanwhile, drug prices continue to soar, while experts point out that price hikes are not simply due to development of new drugs, but also to the drug industry¹s inflated advertising budget.  Since the FDA allowed drug makers to advertise on radio and TV three years ago, spending has nearly doubled, reaching $1.9 billion last year.

So what can we do about it?  Health care justice activists must convince candidates and elected officials that affordable drug coverage is on voters¹ minds, and we want something done about it.  Activists must expose the link between drug company profiteering and lack of affordable drug coverage, and they should show how the campaign contributions of drug companies tie the hands of our leaders in Congress.

U2K Campaign activists should join these efforts because a strong prescription drugs benefit is fundamentally tied to the rejuvenated struggle for comprehensive, affordable, quality, accessible and publicly accountable health care for all.

LINKAGES Between Principles of Universal Health Care and Prescription Drug Coverage

* Comprehensive: Access to prescription drugs is now an essential component of health care.  Medicare cannot be considered truly comprehensive until it includes prescription drug coverage.

* Affordable: Excessive profits by drug companies leads to inflated prices, which put drugs out of reach of many low and middle-income Americans. Government must play a role in guaranteeing everyone can afford the medications they need.

* Quality: High quality health care is not attainable without prescription drug coverage, since drugs are increasingly important for basic health and wellness.

* Accessible: The inability of so many to afford prescription drugs highlights glaring disparities in our system.  People with low income and with the greatest medical needs, such as seniors and people with disabilities, are hit the hardest.

* Publicly Accountable: Drug companies have shown themselves to be accountable to shareholders, corporate profits and the bottom line - not to millions of Americans who rely on prescription drugs for basic health and wellness.  Appropriate steps must be taken to ensure public accountability.

The Democrats and Republicans have released competing proposals for providing a prescription drug benefit this year.  "The Democratic 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 solid drug benefit, it has a wholly inadequate mechanism for reigning in skyrocketing prescription drug costs, the lynchpin to ensuring that a benefit is affordable for taxpayers and sustainable for Medicare recipients."

Public Citizen¹s Claybrook criticized the lobbying and the election-year scare tactics of the pharmaceutical industry, and suggested that "America¹s seniors are way aheadS. in clamoring for Congress to stop drug company price-gouging."  The Democratic plan relies on Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM¹s) which are drug-only HMO type plans, which would achieve a savings of only 15 percent, compared with 40 percent price reductions available if Congress enacts a bill requiring that best prices be offered to Medicare beneficiaries.  Rep. Tom Allen (D, ME) has put forth such a bill, but the Democrats do not support it.  What¹s more, the 50 percent cost sharing arrangement of the bill would place a high financial burden on many seniors, while not addressing the inflated prices and marketing practices that lead to higher costs in the first place.  Meanwhile, Republican leaders have proposed expanded private insurance coverage of drugs, a move that would further weaken and privatize Medicare.  What has become clear is that neither political party is taking a strong stand on the issue of affordable prescription drug coverage.

A triad of justice organizations, Families USA, USAction and Public Citizen are working with local groups to plan demonstrations in more than 30 states on July 6.  The demonstrations will mostly be outside of prescription drug company headquarters, and will draw attention to the relationship between drug company profiteering and lack of drug coverage for millions of Americans.  They will point out the links between the need for health reform and campaign finance reform evident in the obscene amounts of cash that flow from drug companies into candidates¹ campaign coffers.

It¹s time for universal health care advocates, under the unified banner of U2K, to join other health care justice activists in calling for candidates and elected officials to provide affordable drug coverage.   Joining these actions will help make an impact on this critical health care justice issue, and also to build relationships in the health care justice movement.

Joining in the fight for fair and affordable prescription drug coverage also provides U2K activists a way of building relationships with senior organizations working on this issue.  Ultimately, enacting a prescription drugs benefit is about safeguarding and expanding Medicare.  As House Minority leader Dick Gephardt has said, "Today¹s debate over a prescription drug benefit is no different from the one that shaped Medicare 35 years ago."  The analogy is a good one - the framers of Medicare originally fought for a program that guaranteed health care for all; opponents argued for a means-tested program that didn¹t provide universal, comprehensive coverage for seniors.  History has a habit of repeating itself in the movement for universal health care.  Medicare is America¹s most successful social insurance program, and fighting to protect and upgrade it will help us build towards health care for all.

The struggle for affordable drug coverage is also a great issue for state and local health care justice groups, since the issue easily ties into their organizing efforts.  The states have been the legislative front for health care issues since the failure of the Clinton plan in 1993-1994.  Some states have been out in front on the issue of prescription drug coverage, as well.  For instance, a new Maine law allows state officials to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicaid recipients and residents without drug coverage.  Maine Governor Angus King told the NY Times: "If the industry can consolidate and increase its market power, so can we.  We¹re going to bargain on behalf of 50% of our citizens and we think they deserve the same consideration as other groups that get discounts based on volume." The state may also impose "profiteering" fines for companies charging excessive prices or that restrict states¹ supplies.  A 12-member panel will monitor prices and access.  Should the panel find that prices are still too high, that state can set price limits beginning July1, 2003.  The initiative of Maine and other New England states on this issue places the heat on Congress to follow their lead, and provides organizing opportunities for health care justice activists in the year 2000.

Organizing for an affordable and universal prescription drugs benefit this election year - and joining with seniors and other health care justice activists towards this end - is a political building block towards winning health care for all.

CONTACTS FOR ACTIONS
for Affordable Prescription Drug Coverage in Your State on July 6

TO FIND OUT WHAT ACTIVITIES ARE BEING ORGANIZED IN YOUR STATE, GO TO <www.congresswatchdog.org> and visit the link to July 6 actions.

***YOU MAY ALSO CONTACT THESE INDIVIDUALS IF NO ACTIVITY IS CURRENTLY BEING ORGANIZED IN YOUR STATE, AND YOU'D LIKE TO GET INVOLVED:

*Jeff Kirsch, Families USA, 202/628-3030, jkirsch@familiesusa.org (AL, DE, FL, IN, LA, NC, OH, OK, MA, MS, NV, OR, SC, UT, WV)

*Wendy Ray, USAction, 202/842-3100, wray@usaction.org (AZ, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IA, IL, ND, ME, MI, MT, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, TN, WA, WI)

*Lance Kilpatrick, Accountability Project, lancek@project.org (AR, CA, KY, NM, NC)

*Michael Schlesinger, Congress Watch/Public Citizen, 202/546-4996, michael@citizen.org (FL, MN, MO, SD, TX)

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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