Legislative Update

Volume C, No. 3March, 2000

Judy West


S-1895, the Breaux-Thomas Bill, is designed to dismantle Medicare under the guise of “saving” it. This dangerous Senate bill is expected to go to hearings very shortly.

Our present Medicare program provides health care to our hardest to care for population, keeps tens of millions of Americans out of poverty, and increases the life expectancy of 39 million seniors and persons with disabilities. It is the nation’s most efficient insurance program, with only 2.1 percent overhead (compared to the over 10 percent that will be needed to administer the Breaux-Thomas plan).

The Breaux-Thomas bill would turn Medicare into a voucher system. All Medicare participants would be given a voucher that could be used to pay part of the premium of a private plan.

This would be a disaster for older Americans. Premiums and out-of-pocket expenses would escalate. Guaranteed access to benefits would be eliminated. Age eligibility would go from 65 up to 67, creating several million more uninsured people. Care for the poorest, most vulnerable people would be severely reduced. Worst of all, the Breaux-Thomas plan would force people who depend on Medicare into HMOs, which have been a disaster for seniors. HMOs dumped more than 400,000 Medicare beneficiaries last year, because covering them was not profitable to the companies.

The Breaux-Thomas bill does not cover prescription drugs, one of the most urgent problems faced by Medicare beneficiaries. Its sponsors have vowed to block any effort to make prescription drugs a covered benefit in the “traditional Medicare” program.

These are just a few of the problems contained in the 140-page bill. Local 802 members are urged to call Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan – who has not taken a position to date – at (202) 224-4451. Urge him to take a strong position against S-1895. Also call Sen. Charles Schumer at (202) 224-6542 to thank him for opposing the bill and ask him to encourage other Senators to do likewise.


The battle to preserve rent regulation will be in its final weeks when members receive this issue. Following are steps that can ensure the laws are renewed without weakening amendments. For the next few weeks, tenants must keep up the pressure on City Council.

As we went to press, a public hearing before the City Council Housing Committee was set for Feb. 25 and the committee was expected to vote on the issue on March 6. A large turnout is very important. The Committee may hear additional testimony on that date, so if you can come prepared to testify, do so.

On March 15 the full City Council is scheduled to vote on both laws that protect New York City tenants – rent control and rent stabilization – and tenant organizations are mobilizing to make sure the council chambers are full. The council’s vote is sufficient to renew rent control; the mayor’s signature is not required. Directly after their vote on rent control, Council members will vote on whether to extend rent stabilization – which does require the mayor’s signature.

Ten days after the City Council votes – during the week of March 27 – the mayor will hold a public hearing on the rent stabilization bill. Again, a huge turnout of tenants, including many prepared to testify, is critical to guarantee that he signs the bill.

Call NYS Tenants & Neighbors at (212) 695-8922 for updates or for confirmation of listed dates before you go to City Hall.


New York State’s minimum wage has always been pegged to the federal minimum wage – despite the fact that the cost of living in New York is among the highest in the nation. The state’s minimum wage, now $5.15 an hour, has not been raised in five years. An employee working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage earns only $10,712 a year.

The New York State AFL-CIO is campaigning for the state’s minimum wage to be raised to $7.65 an hour, and indexed to the rate of inflation to prevent lower-income workers’ gains from being eroded by a rising cost of living. Legislation should be introduced soon.