Gray Panthers of San Francisco
March, 2006 Newsletter

February Membership Meeting on Health


Our February general meeting proved to be an opportunity to share information about the new Medicare “reforms” and to strategize about how to combat them.

Frances Paine talked briefly about the status of Conyers’ national single-payer bill, HR 676, which now has 68 sponsors (with Nancy Pelosi noticeably absent from the list), and Sheila Kuehl’s SB 840, a strong single payer plan that has been passed by the State Senate and by the Assembly health committee. With ample union support, it is expected to reach the governor soon. If he vetoes it, the hope is to make it a proposition on the ballot. This bill doesn’t provide for the complex financing system that is needed to put the program into effect and that is still to be worked out and passed as separate legislation.

Meanwhile, Tom Ammiano’s plan to tax employers to pay for health care for the 150,000 uninsured in San Francisco faces the Mayor’s veto and not enough support on the Board of Supervisors to override it. Newsom wants to expand the City’s health program instead, by bringing in uninsured people who aren’t now participating. The trouble is that the City health program is woefully underfunded, so the Mayor’s plan amounts to spreading a defective program over more people.

We shared horror stories about the new Medicare act—people desperately ill whose drugs aren’t covered under Part D, people on Medi-Cal going without their drugs due to the administrative nightmare the act has caused, hour-long waits on the telephone for information. Medicare modernization brings huge cuts and increased premiums and co-pays and is designed to reward the healthy and well-to-do.

We agreed that the Gray Panthers should actively lobby against the entire Medicare Modernization Act, and not just the Part D drug “benefit.” Also we need to continue to forcefully make the connection between money going to the never-ending war and the dwindling financing of health care and other social services.

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