Sunday, February 19, 2006

Medicare Part D Showdown

- Nick Juliano (Tracy Press) reports that, "About 30 senior citizens descended on Rep. Richard Pombo’s office in Stockton on Tuesday to protest his support of a new Medicare prescription-drug law before moving to continue the protest at a nearby drug store where the congressman’s staff was fielding questions on the new law.

The program in question, Medicare Part D, expands the health-care program to cover prescription-drug costs for seniors through federally subsidized private insurance plans. Critics say it is filled with giveaways to big drug companies and confusing for consumers.


The protesters, organized by the California Alliance of Retired Americans, called the new program a “disaster,” and said that it has been chaotic and more costly to seniors. Protesters filled out Valentine’s Day cards for Pombo and displayed signs urging him to “have a heart.”


The rally also featured an appearance by Democratic congressional candidate Jerry McNerney, who was collecting signatures to get his name on the ballot for the primary election in June.

“Richard Pombo is dirty; Richard Pombo is corrupt. It’s hurting the people of this district; it’s hurting the people of this country. We need a universal health-care plan,” McNerney said, his voice rising as he spoke.

More Here.

-2 Days later Jim Martin, who'm the Tracy Press describes as the "president of 60 Plus Association, a nonpartisan, “pro-senior” special-interest group headquartered in Arlington, Va." was defending Pombo in an editorial available here.

-Scott of Vote Pombo Out, on the VPO mailing list brought to light a little something regarding this 'nonpartisan, "pro-senior"' group, courtesy of Source Watch.

"In the 2002 election campaigns, the 60 Plus Association paid for issue ads on local radio and TV stations across the country saying that local Republican candidates "care for seniors" so much that they "passed a prescription drug bill" that saved us from an inept government bureaucracy meddling with health plan benefits.

Though 60 Plus claims to be a citizens' group, they are actually a front group for the pharmaceutical industry. That bill died in the senate, but Big Pharma paid them and similar front groups well - more than $5 million dollars by most accounts (see below). The misinformation of those 'soft money' issue ads helped elect a lot of drug-industry-friendly congresspersons.

The 60 Plus Association has championed the pharmaceutical industry in mass mailings, press releases, lobbying and law suits since its inception. It was one of three associations that backed the "astroturf" issue ads of Citizens for Better Medicare (a drug industry front group) during the 2000 elections. It is currently supporting a lawsuit by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America against the state of Maine (in a "friend of the court" brief) for daring to try to pass a law that will authentically reduce prices for Medicare drugs by allowing the state to buy in bulk directly from manufacturers. It has also joined a lawsuit against the FCC regarding campaign reform (specifically -surprise!- they support soft money for issue ads).

The AARP Bulletin of February, 2003, has an excellent, well-researched article explaining this subversion of the democratic process by 60 Plus and two other astroturf organizations (United Seniors Association and the Senior Coalition). It notes that none of these groups have significant membership roles or community bases. "All three organizations claim to speak for millions of older Americans, although as recently as 2001 none of the three listed any revenue from membership dues on their tax returns," it states. "Moreover, an investigation by the AARP Bulletin shows that virtually all of their largest contributions in recent years have come from the same source - the nation's pharmaceutical industry." [1] "



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