Rx: Make three calls now

The Medicare prescription drug scheme being promoted by the president along with Republican and some Democratic congressmen is not just a lousy drug program. It’s the front end of a steamroller that is revving up to crush the whole Medicare system and pave it over with private insurers.

In order for seniors to get any real help with paying for the prescription drugs, they will have to opt out of the traditional Medicare system and into Medicare HMOs and PPOs. The sham prescription drug plan would funnel federal dollars to these private insurers to enhance their drug coverage. But for the 88 percent of seniors who so far have stuck with the traditional single-payer style Medicare plan, the sham plan offers only the stingiest of benefits.

How stingy? In a communiqué to its retirees, the United Auto Workers (UAW) points out “Under the proposed plan in the Senate, a senior who now spends $1,000 on prescription drug coverage would spend $1,057.50. It would actually cost them MORE money. A senior with high drug costs, $5,000, would still have to pay $3,695 for prescriptions.”

The legislation delays the start of the sham plan until 2006, allowing the president and his supporters in Congress to run in 2004 claiming they passed a prescription drug bill before people on Medicare realize they’ve paid an awful price for a terrible benefit.

There’s not much time to stop the perpetration of this fraud – votes in both the House and Senate are expected any day now. Americans of all ages need to burn up the phone lines to Washington D.C. to stop this outrage, called the Grassley-Baucus “Bad Deal” plan, after the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate finance committee who are sponsoring it. Contact your congressperson and both of your senators today by calling toll free (877) 331-2000.

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Honor Medgar Evers

June 12 marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Mississippi’s fearless NAACP leader, Medgar Evers, who was cut down by Klan gunmen when he stepped from his car in front of his home.

Evers became an NAACP leader in 1954, after the University of Mississippi, then all-white, rejected his law school application. Through the NAACP, Evers mobilized the masses of Black Mississippians to fight for equality. He pushed to increase Black voter registration, led boycotts and helped bring attention to murders like the 1955 slaying of Black teenager Emmett Till.

The civil rights movement became an irresistible force that pushed through the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. During the Johnson administration, affirmative action programs were implemented, opening to African Americans, other people of color and women skilled and highly paid jobs they had been excluded from. Thousands of Black, Latino and women candidates were elected to high office.

Now the ultra-right is scheming to roll back the gains Evers died for. On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the Bush administration declared war on affirmative action when they filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the University of Michigan’s admissions program, falsely claiming it is a “racial preferences.” They seek to rollback society to the days of legal discrimination, like what Evers faced, while a broad coalition of forces support the U-M’s policies, including other colleges, labor unions, civil rights and women’s organizations and even the military.

The most effective way to honor Evers memory is to get active in the growing labor, civil rights and people’s movement against the Bush agenda. This includes the 2004 elections, which is only 18 months away. If it is a close vote, Bush will steal the election again. That is why we must register millions of new voters and make it an anti-Bush landslide election.