Your Congressional Representatives who voted to Abolish Medicare aka The Ryan Plan

Erratum: In the original posting below, I stated that under the Ryan plan, seniors would receive $6,000 voucher to help with purchasing insurance. This is incorrect. The correct figure is $8,000 for the year or roughly $666 per month to pay your premiums, co-pays and pharmacy charges.

Link to full map of all Congressional reps who voted on the Ryan plan below. List of California reps who voted to abolish Medicare at bottom of posting.

As this Foundation has noted before, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan calls for abolishing Medicare to all those under the age of 55 and handing your taxpayer money over to private corporations. What happens to all the money you have been paying into Medicare for the past 30+ years of your working lives? Answer is you get nothing in return.

This Foundation began in part because of the way my husband, who has Progressive-Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis, was treated by his insurance carrier, CIGNA, a private, for-profit corporation with a long and terrible history of denying claims to their sick, premium paying customers–one such denial resulted in the death of 17 year old Nataline Sarkisyan.

Rep. Ryan and all his GOP friends want to hand you a voucher for $6,000 and tell you to go and find a company, like CIGNA, who will insure you at the age of 65, for that amount of money–while at the same time they, the GOP, are trying to undo the Affordable Care Act that will prevent insurance companies from denying your claims. Doesn’t make one bit of sense, does it?

If you have Multiple Sclerosis or any other life-altering disease, you know how far $6,000 will get you. If you have MS, that’s the cost of your disease modifying drugs for just one month!

Call your representative if they voted to abolish Medicare. Tell them forget trying to get re-elected since they don’t seem to be serving the American public but their corporate paymasters instead. Contact information is embedded in each link and the full map of how Congress voted can be found at the New York Times. It’s time this country went to a single payer system. Medicare for Everyone, cradle to grave.

Call and be heard. It’s your money that pays for Medicare and pays for Congressional salaries. Remember, they work for us.

Your California Congressional Representatives who voted to abolish Medicare and hand your money over to private corporations:

1.  Rep. Herger, Walter [R-CA2] voted to abolish Medicare.

2.  Rep. Lungren, Daniel [R-CA3] voted to abolish Medicare.

3.  Rep. McClintock, Tom [R-CA4] voted to abolish Medicare.

4.  Rep. Denham, Jeff [R-CA19] voted to abolish Medicare.

5.  Rep. Nunes, Devin [R-CA21] voted to abolish Medicare.

6.  Rep. McCarthy, Kevin [R-CA22] voted to abolish Medicare.

7.  Rep. Gallegly, Elton [R-CA24] voted to abolish Medicare.

8.  Rep. McKeon, Howard [R-CA25] voted to abolish Medicare.

9.  Rep. Dreier, David [R-CA26] voted to abolish Medicare.

10. Rep. Royce, Edward [R-CA40] voted to abolish Medicare.

11. Rep. Lewis, Jerry [R-CA41] voted to abolish Medicare.

12. Rep. Miller, Gary [R-CA42] voted to abolish Medicare.

13. Rep. Calvert, Ken [R-CA44] voted to abolish Medicare.

14. Rep. Bono Mack, Mary [R-CA45] voted to abolish Medicare.

15. Rep. Rohrabacher, Dana [R-CA46] voted to abolish Medicare.

16. Rep. Campbell, John [R-CA48] voted to abolish Medicare.

17. Rep. Issa, Darrell [R-CA49] voted to abolish Medicare.

18. Rep. Bilbray, Brian [R-CA50] voted to abolish Medicare.

19. Rep. Hunter, Duncan [R-CA52] voted to abolish Medicare.

 

A report on the one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act featuring Paul Paez

One of the reasons this foundation started was to fight against health insurance injustices. Part of that was, and is, fighting to keep the Affordable Care Act in place and build to make it even stronger.

While I will not address the various arguments and downright lies against the law, suffice to say, they have no merit and proof of that is the report Health Access dot org put together to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Health Access was founded in 1987, and is the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition advocating for quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

Here is the report: ACA One Year Report 3-23-11

My husband, Paul, is featured in the report to highlight the need for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Pool or high risk pool. Paul has Multiple Sclerosis. Paul was ousted from his job at Fidelity Investments just after he finished chemotherapy.

A year without income left us unable to afford our COBRA payments. Paul is without insurance.

Going without insurance when you are sick is what happens in this country. It kills people and burdens our system. Paul has been without care for five months now, was turned down for coverage by Blue of California and must wait one more month before he can even apply to the new high risk pool.

Yes, there is a bizarre and draconian provision in the new law (thanks to the Senate Finance Committee) that states applicants to the pool must go without insurance for six months prior to applying for coverage. It does not make any sense at all and we have been doing everything we can to call attention to this issue and have asked our lawmakers to simply change this.

Truthout dot org ran a story on this very issue and called on our lawmakers to rid the law of this provision. But our lawmakers are too busy trying to do things like undermine public school teachers and defund NPR to pay attention to real matters–like the economy, health care and jobs. That would be the GOP portion of our lawmakers. When presented with facts like these below, the GOP all put their collective heads in the sand and cry something about taxes. Shameful as real Americans face real problems. Please read the report and know that we still have a long way to go, but this is a start.

During those six months, these individuals could become too sick to work. They may never return to work or pay taxes again, leaving them on the unemployment and disability rolls, or they may go bankrupt or have foreclosed homes: three problems that we know are already bedeviling our economy. These are very real possibilities, because an astounding 62 percent of bankruptcies and 23 percent of foreclosures in this country are due to medical bills.

Make no mistake about it, GOP’s Rep. Paul Ryan wants to take your money and give you nothing in return.

Part of the efforts of this Foundation include the push for Medicare for Everyone in this country, from cradle to grave. But Rep. Paul Ryan wants to take away the system that seniors have paid for all their working lives, Medicare.

The private, for-profit system of health insurance has gone unchecked in our country for 60 years now and we have nothing but skyrocketing costs and a system that is ranked 37th in the world.

Medicare has kept costs lower than the private system and “…Medicare outperforms private sector plans in terms of patients’ satisfaction with quality of care, access to care, and overall insurance ratings.”

The Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s much demonized by the GOP plan, has been the only thing to come along and attempt to make the private health insurance companies pay when you get sick; not rescind your policy, not tell you that your cancer treatment is too expensive, not deny you a transplant, actually pay your medical bills since they collect your premium dollars.

And we all get sick, some more than others, like waking up one day as my husband did and not being able to feel his legs.

And now along comes GOP congressman, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. Rep. Ryan has been in Congress since 1998. If you are curious as to his pension and benefits (he does hail from Wisconsin) Ryan became fully vested after a mere five years of service (it’s one of the perks of being a freely elected member of Congress) and Rep. Ryan will leave Congress with a taxpayer funded pension–we do pay his salary as he is a public servant! Rep. Ryan’s net worth can be found at Open Secrets dot org and here is the link.

But I don’t see Rep. Ryan going on about his own pension, just things like Medicare and Social Security, two programs seniors in our country have 1. paid for, 2. need for their own retirement and 3. are programs indicative of a civilized society. Keep reading.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program the morning of Feb. 17, 2011, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., defended Walker’s efforts to force public employees to pay more in pension and health care costs to solve the state’s budget deficit.

“It’s not asking a lot,” said Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee and one of the stars of the new GOP House majority. “It’s still about half of what private sector pensions do and health care packages do.”

That’s interesting as Rep. Ryan is in public (not private) service himself and we the people will be paying his pension. Period. We pay our public servants’ salaries, subsidize their wonderful health benefits program and pay their pensions when they retire. It was created under the Reagan presidency and is called the Federal Employees Retirement System.

Lawmakers with less service qualify for full pension benefits starting at age 62. The retirement package includes automatic inflation adjustments and guaranteed access to post-retirement private medical insurance in addition to Medicare protection provided all Americans.

Barely 20 percent of the American workforce has pensions comparable to congressional pensions, according to the independent Employee Benefit Research Institute. Almost no one in the private sector has the kind of cost-of-living escalators that keep Capitol Hill pensions moving upward.

That is in total disagreement with what Rep. Ryan said about private sector pensions and is what he will receive when he retires. I find that hypocritical, at best and completely uninformed of him.

Now let’s look at Rep. Ryan’s campaign donors. From OpenSecrets.org we find that Rep. Ryan’s top contributor was the faux industry called Retired. This is not the AARP, who if you recall, were in favor of The Affordable Care Act. This Retired industry is something entirely different. These are high net worth individuals. His other top donors were insurance companies, money movers like Harris Associates, Big Pharma and of course, Koch Industries.

So what does Rep. Ryan want to do to “balance the budget?” Let’s face it, we have money in this country. We printed it to bail out the banks (Rep. Ryan voted for TARP) and we are in two incredibly expensive wars (Rep. Ryan voted yes to invade Iraq but won’t put military budget cuts on the table but will cut veteran’s benefits), so tell me why would we have to undermine our own well-being?

Because people like Rep. Ryan are beholden to their corporate paymasters. Rep. Ryan’s less than stellar voting record is here. No to health care, no to unemployment benefits extension, no to fund Planned Parenthood (unwanted pregnancies can be avoided with contraception, Paul), no to aid to states for Medicaid and teachers and no to food safety regulations. He’s a regular GOP No to everything kind of guy–except when it comes to attempting to take your money away from you and handing it over to his buddies.

Rep. Ryan wants to take your money and give it to his corporate friends. He wants to privatize Medicare. That’s your money. Medicare works beautifully as it is (although there is always room for improvement) and you pay into it–it’s your money–and he wants to hand it over to who? The private health insurance companies? Those same upstanding corporate citizens who denied 5 year old Kyler Van Nocker his cancer treatment? Kyler never saw his 6th birthday.

And he wants to raise the retirement age (while undermining your health care) and give out vouchers for your Social Security dollars, so you can give them to the reckless fools (his campaign donors) who got us into this financial mess in the first place: Wall Street.

Ryan has been calling for big changes to the social safety net for years. Known as “the roadmap,” his approach calls for individuals to take on more of the financial responsibility for retirement, including the costs of health care. The government would provide a floor of protection for everyone, particularly the poor and those in failing health, but middle-class people who desire more than a basic plan would have to pay extra.

He’s also proposed allowing younger workers to divert part of their Social Security taxes to personal investment accounts, an idea that’s lost currency among other Republicans given President George W. Bush’s failed 2005 Social Security overhaul and the recent swoon in the stock market.

The plan Ryan rolled out last year for Social Security would gradually increase the full retirement age, from 67 to 70. It would also reduce initial benefits for middle- and high-income retirees.

“Give me a cocktail napkin and I can write you a plan on the back of it,” Ryan said. “It’s not that hard.”

Under the roadmap, Medicare would be converted into a voucher system that offers seniors a fixed payment to pick their coverage from a range of private insurance plans overseen by the government. Today’s Medicare recipients and those nearing retirement would remain under the current system, in which the government determines what’s covered and sets payments for providers.

We cannot stand by and allow our money, our tax dollars, to be given to private corporations who pay little or no taxes themselves. This kind of power grab will ultimately make us, as a country, less stable and less healthy. Our social safety nets are ones we pay for and to give away our tax money to companies who have no other interest than their bottom lines (much like the for-profit health insurance industry) will be our undoing. They will give us less and less for each dollar we give them.

It’s a power grab to attempt to take away our government and create a large corporate bureaucracy where We the People will have no say in how our lives, our health and our money are handled.

Here is Rep. Ryan’s contact information. Tell him to stop the power grab. Tell Wisconsin voters we don’t agree.

What repeal of health care would mean, by congressional district.

Today Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Frank Pallone released, for each congressional district and the 30 largest metropolitan areas, an analysis of the impact of the repeal of patients’ rights, protections, and benefits contained in the historic health care reform law. Click on the highlighted text to be taken to the Committee’s website.

There you will find a map with all the states broken down into their districts with each representative’s name. The numbers of people the Affordable Care Act would help, and are helping, speak for themselves.

Analyzing Patient Assistance Programs for Multiple Sclerosis: AVONEX and AVONEX Services

As part of our continuing efforts to highlight all the patient assistance programs available through the pharmaceutical companies that make the disease modifying drugs for Multiple Sclerosis, we continue with AVONEX. The price of AVONEX is approximately $3,000 per month.

What we want to know about these programs is:

  1. How easy is it to apply?
  2. What is needed to apply?
  3. How easy is it to receive the assistance?
  4. Do they really work in terms of helping MS patients with financial assistance?
  5. What is offered?

AVONEX offers a program called AVONEX Services that covers a co-pay program and an access program. The only way to apply to these programs is via a phone call to them at 1-800-456-2255. There is no online application. From the phone call I placed to AVONEX Services, it seems that a prelimary phone interview is the way to get things rolling, where certain information is taken from you and then turned over to their financial assistance team. You must have a prescription for AVONEX to begin the process.

If you have insurance and cannot meet your co-pay, their financial assistance team will do insurance research to see if you do have coverage for the drug. If you still cannot afford your co-pay, a 2nd screening is done by the AVONEX Services financial assistance team. Eligibility, I was told, is done on a case-by-case basis.

I did not receive a clear answer on what the qualifiers are for the programs and I have asked them to contact me further so I can post them here.

As far as being underinsured or uninsured, AVONEX Services offers something called their access program. Again, details remain sketchy but I came away from my conversation with AVONEX Services with these points:

  • They do help those who are on government assistance.
  • They do help both new and current AVONEX users.
  • They do offer a temporary assistance program, of up to two (2) years, to get those who need AVONEX free of charge.

Beyond that, I am not certain on a few other issues. For example, it was said several times that “they partner with financial institutions,” to help you with payment. When asked what financial institutions they partner with, I was told that information comes from the financial assistance team. Again, it is unclear to me what that means.

Sending MS patients to charitable organizations to get their AVONEX was also mentioned, but that was it; it was mentioned with no further details. Why they would mention a program to send patients to charitable organizations when they have a program in place for up to two (2) years, leaves the overall impression of gaps within their patient assistance program. Again, I am waiting for more details from AVONEX.

I finally inquired about the Affordable Care Act and the impending six (6) month waiting period to apply for the new high risk pools and what, if anything, was Biogen doing about this. Are they prepared for this and would they be willing to begin a program that will get this group of people their drugs for free? I left my contact information and I await their response.

AVONEX is manufactured by Biogen Idec who also make Tysabri. Stock quote for Biogen can be found here.

Analyzing Patient Assistance Programs for Multiple Sclerosis: MS LifeLines and Rebif

As part of our continuing efforts to highlight all the patient assistance programs available through the pharmaceutical companies that make the disease modifying drugs for Multiple Sclerosis, we continue with Rebif.

What we want to know about these programs is:

  1. How easy is it to apply?
  2. What is needed to apply?
  3. How easy is it to receive the assistance?
  4. Do they really work in terms of helping MS patients with financial assistance?
  5. What is offered?

We finally got some good news and welcome answers today when we spoke with MS LifeLines. For those of you with MS who are uninsured or underinsured, you can and do receive help. The application process must begin over the telephone and can, most times, be completed by phone with no waiting period. There is no online application. The phone number for MS LifeLines is 877-447-3243.

You must have a valid prescription for Rebif to start the process. Rebif costs approximately $2800 per month. More drug information can be found at Destination Rx.

MS LifeLines offers three types of assistance, including help for those who are currently taking the medication. The chart below is taken directly from MS LifeLines and explains the assistance for those who are newly prescribed and those who are currently taking Rebif.

How to get started on MS LifeLines Access Made Simple

I asked if MS LifeLines was prepared for the fact that many will be asking for assistance due to the stipulation of going without insurance for 6 months prior to applying to the new high risk pools and indeed, could they be receive Rebif at no charge? The answer was yes, and yes, they already do offer assistance of free medication, up to one year, for those without insurance. MS LifeLines also stressed to me the importance, they feel, of making sure those who do need Rebif and cannot afford it, do get help, including the Medicare Part D “Donut Hole.”

Rebif is made by EMD Serono, Inc., an affiliate of Merck KGaA, and by Pfizer Inc. Stock quote for Merck here. Quote for Pfizer here.


Analyzing Patient Assistance Programs for Multiple Sclerosis: Shared Solutions and Copaxone and Update*

The Foundation will be highlighting all the patient assistance programs available through the pharmaceutical companies that make the disease modifying drugs for Multiple Sclerosis.

What we want to know about these programs is:

  1. How easy is it to apply?
  2. What is needed to apply?
  3. How easy is it to receive the assistance?
  4. Do they really work in terms of helping MS patients with financial assistance?
  5. What is offered?

We started first with Copaxone, a daily injectable made by Teva.

Teva Neuroscience, has a patient assistance program called Shared Solutions. I called them today to find out what assistance they may offer in helping MS patients pay for Copaxone, especially those who do not have insurance and specifically, the group of people who must go without insurance before first applying to the new high risk pools.

The answers I received were disappointing and upsetting.

First, the cost of Copaxone per month is, according to Shared Solutions, anywhere from $3500 to $3700 per month.  Not sure why there is a $200 discrepancy as that was not clear to me.

Second, they do not offer an online application process, you must call and request an application. Now if you want to apply to be part of Team Copaxone (a marketing arm for Teva) then you can apply online. More information is here.

But back to Shared Solutions. The terms of acceptance for their financial assistance were not given over the phone as they had to look at each application.

Next, they only offer a $50 copay to help you if you are insured with a group or private plan. Knowing full well some people receive paltry co-pays on their prescription drug coverage, the $50 copay assistance is insulting. And considering the daily cost of Copaxone at $3500 per month which comes out to $117 per day, the copay does not cover the full cost of one injection!

Also, they do not help anyone who receives government assistance as that “is not our company policy.” That was the answer Shared Solutions gave me when I asked why they do not help those who receive government assistance.

Disappointed with the answers I received, I did request that Shared Solutions contact me regarding implementing a program to give out the drugs for free for those who need them for the six months before this certain group of MS patients can apply to the new high risk pools. This Foundation would be willing to work with Shared Solutions to get MS patients their much-needed therapies. It’s in Shared Solutions court right now. Here is the Copaxone link and the link for Insurance Assistance for Copaxone.

From their website:

If you do not have insurance or if you need help paying for COPAXONE®, Shared Solutions® can refer you to other financial assistance programs.

And so it was I was referred to their other financial assistance program, Assist-Rx. Assist-Rx has taken over for NORD. While they were as helpful as possible, Assist-Rx has been overwhelmed with applications and is simply at a standstill. Their number is 877-422-4412. Being inundated with applications, as I was told by Assist-Rx, obviously proves the need for payment relief and the need for more coordinated efforts on the part of MS patients. This Foundation is willing to step-up.

But we have another obstacle. Coverage for prescription drugs is left up to the health insurers and there are no provisions or regulations to help the consumer, even the ones who are well-insured, to make sure they can get affordable coverage. More information about the soaring costs of these drugs and their effectiveness here, here and here (this last one is a discussion but we too had the same reaction–how much less would it cost if they stop with all this expensive to-make and to-mail CD, DVD, calendar and other marketing promos they send out?)

So, what happens when you do not have insurance to cover all or part of your Copaxone, or your COBRA is about to run out and you still don’t have health benefits? What if you do not qualify for Medicaid or you are too young for Medicare? If you fall into one of those groups, then you have no place to turn.

This Foundation aims to change that.

Teva stock quote can be found here. More Teva information can be found here.

*Update, November 8, 2010: Shared Solutions contacted me today and we spoke about their patient assistance programs. They were unaware that Assist-Rx was overwhelmed with applications and said they would look into it further. They were not certain what, if anything, they would be doing regarding the Affordable Care Act and the 6-month waiting period prior to applying to the new high risk pool. In fact, I was told they were not fully certain of what the new law would bring, so I explained the guidelines for the high risk pool. I was told that my request to supply MS patients free of charge during this period, would be looked into by the people at Teva who can make those decisions. Also, please know that they do offer more extensive co-pay assistance than $50 per month, you must ask when applying.