July August 2000

Back to Newsletters

Back to Gray Panthers Home Page



Wed., July 5 5:30 p.m.

S.F. Alliance for Health meets at the GP office toplan for the July 22 area

meeting of all endorsers of the need for affordable, accessible, comprehen-

sive, quality and publicly accountable health care for all. For more info

on the July 22 meeting, call 415/552-8800. Also on this agenda will be SB 480

and Emergency Coalition for Public Health.

Thurs., July 6 1:00­3:00 p.m.

Board meeting at the office. All welcome!

Tues., July 11 7:00­9:00 p.m.

Toxic tour of south Africa and the "Struggle for Environmental Justice."

Golden Gate University, 526 Mission. Call CBE, 510/302-0430 for info.

Sat., July 29 Noon-3:00 p.m.

Potluck luncheonhonoring GPs members for community service and their

work with the Gray Panthers. Western Park Apartments, Dinin Room,

1280 Laguna at Ellis.

August is vacation time for the Gray Panthers; no newsletter, no regular membership meeting.

We'll be back in September with all the usual activities you've come to expect. So keep the info


July 31­Aug. 3 and Aug. 14­17

The World Trade Organization (WTO) planning to protest during the GOP

and Democratic conventions in Philadelphia and L.A. If you can, be there!

Thurs., Aug. 3 . 1:00­3:00 p.m.

Regional meeting in S.F. of the Northern California GPs at the Western Park

Apartments, 1188 Laguna, between Ellis and Eddy. The #31 Balboa stops

1/2 a block away. Brown bag lunch, noon­1:00 p.m. Drinks and dessert

will be provided.

Celebrating Service

Gray Panthers make a difference! In July we will honor a few of those who have given the most for the longest time with our social action organization.

Join the potluck party, bring your favorite crowd-pleaser dishes to share, celebrate our united dedication to making this world a better stage for our children to continue to play out the drama.

So far, our list of honorees include:

Fannie Biderman

Miriam Blaustein

Helen Ludwig

Lillian Kiskaddon

Miriam Rothschild

Mary Frances Smith

Ilse Sternberger

Irma and Urhu Tuominen

Clarissa Ward

We hope we haven't missed any of those original "keepers of the faith," but if we have, call the office and remind us of their whereabouts. And join our celebration!

The People's Budget Explained in Detail

The May meeting was a learning experience for Gray Panthers members. Representatives of the People's Budget Collaborative (PBC) presented hard facts, figures and ways to implement the San Francisco budget surplus for the benefit of those who most need it. The Collaborative represents community-based organizations working for a more equibable and fair City Budget.

Although San Francisco's economy is growing, there is also an increase in poverty and alienation. High rents and evictions have forced people of color and women with children out of the City or onto our streets. The number of homeless individuals in S.F. is estimated to be 14,000­16,000.

The PBC is committed to advocating funding for permanent solutions to poverty. Their philosophy: It is more prudent to invest in long-term planning and programs than to increase the City's reserve. Funding prevention pays off: For example, it has been shown that for every $1 spent on substance abuse treatment, $7 is saved in social services, emergency room and criminal justice costs. Whether or not there is a budget surplus, the truth is there are enough resources in this rich city to take care of basic needs. Our duly elected city officials need to learn how to prioritize expenditures to meet these basic human needs. Hopefully, they may learn from the PBC.

The City Charter mandates that department budgets be based on achievement of mission. The Mayor ignores that mandate by directing departments to base proposed budgets on the previous year's budget, regardless of need. Some departments are able to get around the Mayor's directive to receive increased funding, but other departments in need of funding, like the Department of Health, do not receive it and are forced to cut vital services. The PBC calls on the City to adhere to the Charter's mandate for mission-based budgeting and to cease engaging in shortsighted, wasteful financial management.

Another objective of the People's Budget is to stop excessive corporate subsidies that take desperately needed monies out of the City budget. Corporations that receive tax subsidies from the City must be held accountable to their promises of job creations and codes of community conduct and responsibility. Companies that engage in unfair labor practices should not be given tax subsidies, and corporate property must be assessed at an accurate level.

Aroza Simpson, S.F. GPs' convenor, opened the meeting. Riva Enteen, National Lawyers Guild, presented an overview of the People's Budget Collaborative. Miguel Wooding, S.F. Tenants Union described the housing situation. Nora Roman from the Emergency Coalition to Save Public Health spoke on the pharmacy situation at S.F. General. Rebecca Vilkomersen represented the Homeless Prenatal Program and Coalition for Ethical Welfare Reform gave us an explanation of the budget process, and Mara Raider, Coalition on Homelessness, spoke on their lack of civil rights.

A brief outline of the People's Budget 2000 is divided into four main categories:

· Affordable housing and homelessness

· Health care

· Economic justice

· Social services

Total budget $104,075,627

Fiscal savings 33,689,290

Total cost 70,386,337

The PBC is working to achieve solutions to poverty, serve the poorest residents of San Francisco and address unmet needs in the community.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the audience was encouraged to attend district meetings where the budget proposals will be discussed. These meetings are taking place in May. For more dates of interest about the S.F. Budget, call the National Lawyers Guild, 415/285-1055.

"We can have democracy or we can have the

concentration of great wealth in the hands of

a few. We cannot

have both."

Supreme Court

Justice Louis Brandeis

Health Care Alert from the National Gray Panthers

Beware the front group "Citizens for Better Medicare." It is spreading lies and fears about prescription drugs and Universal Health Care!

The Gray Panthers are warning Americans, especially older Americans, across the U.S. about a disinformation campaign called "Citizens for Better Medicare, a front group for the pharmaceutical industry. In TV spots featuring "Flo" and in recent full-page newspaper ads, it has tried to discredit attempts to make health care and medicine more affordable to Americans, especially those receiving Medicare. The ads, claiming that Canadian seniors are jumping on buses to the U.S. for health care, aim to discredit the Canadian system of guaranteed care for every citizen.

The United States would be very fortunate to have a system as successful as Canada's which guarantees basic care for every citizen. Even with some recent problems of underfunding, the Canadian single-payer system remains very popular, with 87% approval rating according to a 1999 poll. Most Canadians don't want anything like the U.S. system, with its reliance on unresponsive private HMO and insurance bureaucracies, restricted treament and referrals, and over 44 million Americans uninsured. This is especially true for seniors, as older Americans on Medicare pay out-of-pocket, sometimes a third of their income, for drugs that would be cheaper outside the U.S.

Under the Canadian system, retail prices are 30 to 80 percent lower than in the U.S, because the Canadian state purchasing agent has more power than American HMOs have to demand

have to demand lower prices. Trips across the border to buy presciption drugs, organized recently by Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders and other Congress members, have exposed Citizen for Better Medicare's lies. Pharmaceutical firms want to maintain the American status quo, which accounts for the industry's 57% overall increase in political campaign donations between 1995 and 1999, with a 47% increase in pharmaceutical PAC contributions and 22% increase in money from industry executives and lobbyists, and a 121% increase in soft money! (Source:Center for Responsive Politics and Common Cause)

The drug industry receives more in tax breaks$3.8 billion a yearthan any other industry in this country, and gains billions in benefits from the National Institute of Health's research done for prescription drugs. The U.S. stands alone among industrial democratic nations in not guaranteeing health care for all citizens, and Americans pay, on average, $1.00 for prescription drugs for which French citizens pay $.64 and Mexicans $.47.

Gray Panthers has alerted members about the "Bus to Canada" and "Citizens for Better Medicare" scams. All Americans should call their Congress members and the White House and demand that they ignore disinformation campaigns like "Flo" and "Citizens for Better Medicare," and that they expand Medicare to cover prescription drugs. The S.F. office has a long list of Web sites where you can find much more information.

Punishment, or Torture?

Every citizen concerned about the poor performance and exorbitant costs of California's prisons will demand that justice be done after seeing the documentary Blind Eye (shown at our June meeting).

The treatment of prisonersin this instance women HIV-positivewas vividly produced in the documentary film Blind Eye to Justice produced by Cynthia Chandler of the Women's Positive Legal Action Network. Narrated by Angela Davis, this compelling documentary portrays the injustices of the California prison system as seen through the eyes of incarcerated HIV-positive women. Personal accounts and statistics interweave to tell the story of violation and empowerment. The film takes us into the prisons where women demonstrate their courage fighting for decent medical care, and activists demonstrate outside the prison.

Good medical care is one of the most pressing problems facing women prisoners, but medical care for women is grossly inadequate. Medical Technical Assistants (MTAs), trained as custodians, and who receive minimal medical training, are gatekeepers to the system. They demonstrate a custodial approach and lack of understanding when a woman is ill. There have been documented reports of critically ill women being refused treatment by MTAs and dying within hours of that refusal.

Most women seeking medical care are believed to be overreacting and are treated accordingly. Consequently access to medical care is restricted. When and if they see a doctor they may be subjected to indignities that make the process of obtaining medical care a humiliating experience. Chronic diseases and minor illnesses are neglected in many cases causing serious medical problems later on.

When a woman tests positive for HIV in prison she receives little or no post-test counseling. Treatment options are limited or denied. Painful side effects if treated are ignored. With basic medical supervision many women could be helped, but the system does not appear capable of offering them humanitarian aid.

You can help by contacting a prisoners' rights organization and volunteering your time. A comprehensive list of organizations is available from the Prison Activist Resource Center <http://www.prisonactivist. org/>, Box 339, Berkeley, CA 94701; Phone: 510/893-4648; Fax: 510/893-4607; e-mail: parc@prisonactivist.org

First in War, 37th in Health Care!

The U.S. health care system, ranked 37th among 191 systems surveyed by the World Health Organization (WHO), is inferior to those of most other industrialized nations because it is the most expensive and yet fails to provide adequate care to the poor, according to a survey of the worlds health systems.

The U.S. is really three Americas. The top 10 percent here are the healthiest in the world. The middle class receives mediocre care. But the bottom 5 to 10 percentmade up of Native Americans living on reservations, the inner city poor, rural blacks and Appalachiathat is the third America which has health conditions as bad as those in sub­Saharan Africa in the opinion of Dr. Christopher Murray, WHO's director of global programs for health policy.

France, ranked No. 1, has the best health care system because the French live longer on average than any other people, and because, according to the WHO authors, they consistently enact safety regulations on everything from food to highway repairs.

Concurrently with our inadequate health care system, U.S. seniors pay the highest drug prices64 to 85 percent higher than federal agencies. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, who supports legislation to lower medicine prices and offer drug coverage through Medicare said, "Seniors are at the mercy of pharmaceutical companies, which are known to charge whatever they can get away with."

Meanwhile, President Clinton and Congress are proposing ineffectual measures that do not address the exorbitant prices that seniors pay for medication while spending themselves into poverty.

According to Public Citizen, a consumer rights organization founded by Ralph Nader, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn't set limits on the prices of pharmaceuticals. England, Germany and Canada regulate the prices of medicines for the benefit of the patient, not the pharmaceutical company.

While U.S. government agencies and HMOs negotiate to lower cost of drugs, pharmaceutical companies have a monopoly and can charge any price they want for seniors who have no clout.

In Massachusetts, doctors and nurses, senior citizen groups, and labor unions are gathering signatures for a referendum that would require the Legislature to find a way to provide health insurance coveraage for all by mid­2002 in a state where more than 600,000 people lack it.

It would also introduce a patient's bill of rights, guaranteeing doctors the freedom to choose the right treatment for their patients. Similar white-coat rebellions are in the works elsewhere: Campaigners in Washington state are close to getting a measure calling for universal health care onto the state ballot this fall.

"What is happening is an enormous backlash by the public,"said Dr. Bernard Lown, a Nobel Prize laureate and a leader of the Massachusetts initiative drive. A push to overhaul the health care system, he said, "has to come from below, from the state level."

Have a Great Summer!

The Newsletter of the San Francisco Gray Panthers is published each month, and distributed free of charge to members and friends of this nonprofit organization.

Editorial Board: Rebecca Hirshleifer, Mitzi Raas; Publisher, Astrid M. Spector; Art Director, Fannie Biderman; Proof, Lurilla Harris; Circulation: Harold Greenblatt and Mary Francis Smith. Printed by Graffik Natwicks; Webpage design: Barry Simpkins

Back to Newsletters

Back to Gray Panthers Home Page