Mainers Lacking Adequate Access to Prescription Drugs, Health Care Patients & Activists Call Collins' Statements On Reform Misleading
Nationally recognized consumer advocate and author Jamie Court joined with community activists to call upon Members of Congress to reverse their positions against health care reform, and support a national prescription drug benefit for seniors, or renounce their own prescription drug coverage received by federal government employees. Court and other health care reform advocates kicked-off the national campaign in Maine today to highlight Senator Susan Collins' anti-public interest votes on key health care reform proposals.
The local activists and Court, author of Making A Killing: HMOs and the Threat To Your Health (Common Courage Press), joined with patients who have had to travel to Canada to purchase affordable prescription drugs. They asked Collins to make good on campaign statements indicating she supports expanding prescription drug benefits to seniors and people with disabilities. Patients and activists delivered to Collin's office a waiver for her to sign away her taxpayer funded prescription benefits or to reverse her previous votes and support prescription drug benefits for all Medicare enrollees.
Collins has received over $278,000 in campaign contributions from health professionals, insurance, and Pharmaceuticals/Health Products industries. This includes $20,050 from Blue Cross and Blue Shield and $10,750 from the American Hospital Association.
"It's outrageous that taxpayers are subsidizing the prescription drug benefits of Members of Congress who have grid locked reform in the Capital," said Court, executive director of the Santa Monica-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights
(www.consumerwatchdog.org) "Senator Collins has been one of the biggest roadblocks to real reform in Washington DC and she must pledge to reverse her votes or her public statements about the issue will be false advertising."
"I have had to drive to Canada to get prescription medication because I cannot afford medication in my own state," said MPA Chapter member and senior Ray Richards. "Why should Senator Collins get prescription drug benefits as a member of Congress and then vote against expansion of benefits for senior citizens?"
* Though Collins has stated that she supports expanding prescription drug benefits to seniors, her voting record indicates otherwise.
In her Weekly Column Thursday, August 22, 2002, Collins stated, "Prescription drug spending in the United States has increased by 92 percent over the past five years to almost $120 billion. These soaring costs are a particular burden for the millions of uninsured Americans as well as for those seniors on Medicare who lack prescription drug coverage." However, she voted against funding for a Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit (2001, Senate Roll Call Vote 117) and voted against Prescription Drug Benefit Under Medicare (2000, Senate Roll Call Vote 144). Roll Call Vote 117 failed by just two votes (48-51).
* In June of 2000, Senator Collins supported a motion to table, and thus kill, the Managed Care Patient Protections amendment.
The Managed Care Patient Protections amendment, #3273 to the Fiscal 2001 Defense Authorization (S. 549), attempted to attach pro-consumer managed care reform legislation to the Defense Department authorization bill. Adopted in the House in 1999, the legislation was intended to protect the doctor-patient relationship by ensuring that physician decisions prevail over plan objections if upheld by an external review and by eliminating improper physician incentive plans. In addition, it would have: required a timely and independent external grievance and appeals system; held managed care organizations legally accountable for negligence; allowed health care providers to prescribe the right drug for their patients, even if that drug was not on the plan's formulary; and allowed patients direct access to specialists in some cases. Furthermore, the bill's protections would have applied to all 161 million Americans enrolled in private insurance plans. The amendment eventually failed, 48-51.
"On two key health care issues -- Medicare funding and the Patients' Bill of Rights -- Senator Collins' anti-consumer votes help to assure their defeat," said Jamie Court. "Her leadership on these narrow losses could have helped to turn the tide and provide core health care protections. She must change her positions."
Senator Collins voted for the GOP-backed HMO "bill of rights." An estimated 70 percent of Maine residents, most with private medical insurance, were not covered by the GOP plan.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Senator Collins is the 5th leading Senate recipient of campaign contributions from health maintenance organizations (HMO) political action committees (PACs). The recorded $23,000 in contributions is from PACs and does not include donations from individuals. All donations took place during the 2001-2002 election cycle and were released by the Federal Election Commission on Monday, September 09, 2002
Publisher's Weekly called Court's "Making A Killing" one of the most powerful indictments of the managed care industry...must reading for anyone concerned with the health of the U.S. medical system." The Los Angeles Times writes, "There aren't many people who understand the flaws of HMO medicine better than Jamie Court, a tireless consumer activist."(www.makingakilling.org) The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer watchdog group based in Santa Monica, CA www.consumerwatchdog.org