UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE INITIATIVES
In Massachusetts, where a well-organized movement for universal health care has been campaigning energetically, Gov. Paul Cellucci recently signed a bill that includes $250,000 for a study on the “feasibility and fiscal implications of establishing a system of consolidated health care financing and streamlined health care delivery model accessible to every resident of the Commonwealth.”
In the U.S. Senate, Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) has proposed a bill that would guarantee universal coverage but leave it up to each state to determine how best to deliver it. The Health Security for All Americans Act would provide federal funds to states based on an enhanced version of their current Medicaid allocation. They would be required to provide coverage as generous as the standard-option Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for federal workers, and limits (based on a family’s income) would be placed on out-of-pocket expenses.
LAWMAKERS TACKLE THE HIGH COST OF PRESCRIPTIONS
The U.S. Senate passed a bill to approve the reimportation of FDA-approved drugs that sell for much lower prices abroad. The legislation requires the Department of Health & Human Services to certify to Congress that the reimportation would pose no risk to the public’s health and safety and would result in significant consumer savings.
In Congress, Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.) introduced HR-4772, “the Pharmaceutical Products Price Equity Bill,” designed to ensure that pharmaceutical companies charge U.S. consumers prices comparable to those in other nations. It would prevent pharmaceutical companies from charging more than 6 percent above the average retail price of prescription drugs sold in the five most industrialized, free-market countries.
And in the NYS Assembly, Richard Gottfried introduced a prescription drug discount program on July 5 that would make it possible for people who are not covered for prescription drugs to become part of a bulk purchasing program. Those joining the program would save from 11 to 20 percent, depending on the prescription.
PLEDGING SUPPORT FOR SOCIAL SECURITY
The Sign the Pledge Campaign – organized by a coalition of seniors’ groups, unions and civil rights, community and religious organizations – is asking candidates for Congress who claim to support Social Security to sign a pledge committing themselves to do so in very concrete ways. They are being asked to pledge to oppose privatization, reduction of benefits or increasing the retirement age, as well as to oppose efforts to convert Medicare to a privatized voucher system or to force beneficiaries into HMOs. For more information visit www.signthepledge.org.
NYS UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT TO RISE
Effective Sept. 4, the maximum benefit rate for unemployment insurance is to increase to $405. Current recipients who are entitled to a higher rate will begin to receive checks for the higher amount beginning with the week ending Sept. 10.
YOUR VOTE COUNTS. USE IT.
No matter who your choice may be, you are giving up a very important source of power if you don’t vote. With Primary Day set for Tuesday, Sept. 12, we encourage all 802 members to find out whether there is a primary in your district – and to vote if there is.
The deadline for registering to vote in the Nov. 7 general election is Oct. 13. Local 802’s Public Relations Department has registration forms and we will send them in for you. Come in for a copy or call (212) 245-4802, ext. 176 or 177.
If you will not be in town on election day you can vote on an absentee ballot, but in order to do that you must send an application in to the Board of Elections before Oct. 31, and the absentee ballots themselves must be postmarked no later than Nov. 6. See the back page of this issue for the full election calendar.