Zapping Medicaid beneficiaries
To use a commonly accepted phrase, the 37.8 million Medicaid beneficiaries are caught between a rock and a hard place – the rock of declines in state revenue and the hard place of rising prescription drug prices, which are climbing 15 to 20 percent a year.

As a result, more than one-quarter of Medicaid beneficiaries, many of whom suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease or depression, could not afford to fill some of the prescriptions ordered by their physicians last year. The proportion increased for those suffering more two or more chronic conditions, where 40 percent of beneficiaries reported they couldn’t afford to fill a prescription.

So says a study released by the Center for Studying Health Care Change, released on April 9. The study, titled “Prescription Drug Access: Not Just a Medicare Problem,” says the problem is “a consequence of aggressive cost-control policies” that have resulted in a reduction in access to prescription drugs by Medicaid beneficiaries.

Although they vary from state-to-state, these policies often impose copayments, restrict the number of prescriptions, mandate substitution of generic drugs or require prior authorization for certain drugs.

Although cost-control techniques are also used by private insurers, they are more likely to curtail access to prescription drugs among Medicaid recipients because they have lower incomes and are more likely to have chronic illnesses.

Obviously “more of the same” is no solution. Rather, the movement for health care reform should be carrying on a two-front war. A state level fight for reforms mandating state limits on drug prices, as was won in Maine, should be coupled with the demand for a prescription drug benefit under Medicare.

But the bottom line is that the only solution to the health care crisis – inclding provision of prescription drugs for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries – lies in winning a universal, comprehensive and affordable national health care system based on the principle, “Everybody in, nobody out.”

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Sharon policies mean destruction of Israel
Any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be based on U.N. resolutions calling for the creation of a Palestinian state and Israeli withdrawal from territory occupied after the 1967 War. These just demands, backed by world public opinion, are being flagrantly violated by the military incursions into Palestinian territory ordered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as his troops plunder and terrorize civilians.

Sharon’s war is fraught with unintended circumstances. While deliberately aimed at the Palestinian people and their hope for a Palestinian state it is also destroying the state of Israel and it’s people. In the name of a “secure Israel,” the policies of occupation and war are undermining Israel’s integrity and security.

The systematic abuse of the Palestinian people spreads the bloodshed and strengthens all right-wing extremists who oppose a political solution to the years-long conflict. And it does nothing to quell the senseless suicide bombings.

And it strengthens the hand of the amalgam of ultra-right Zionists and Christian conservatives here, thus erecting roadblocks in the path of those in this country demanding an end to the Bush administration’s support for Sharon’s war.

The heroes and heroines of Israel are not the Sharons. They are the Jewish and Arab Israelis who have courageously stood for a peaceful, two-state solution and an end to the occupation.

The cause of peace is not advanced when ultra-right Zionists attack Jews, like the family of Adam Shapiro, because of their anti-Sharon activity, instead exposing the fact that the ultra-right agenda is, rather than in the interests of the Jewish people, a cover for the arms merchants who sell 63 percent of their wares in the Middle East.

In a recent Israeli poll 73 percent of respondents said they supported an independent Palestinian state “if the terrorism will stop.” That is a sentiment upon which to build a truly peaceful Middle East.

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