MoveOn targets Herger on drug plan

Carrying a big blow-up of a spurious $95,150 check, a group of about 35 demonstrators gathered outside the north Chico office of Rep. Wally Herger on May 11. They chided the congressman, urged him to do better by seniors, then tore up the check.

The check, they said, represented the amount big drug companies have given Herger’s campaigns over the years. Herger supported the Bush administration’s Medicare drug plan, called Part D, which has greatly benefited the drug companies while confusing and confounding the elderly, protesters said.

They called on the congressman to extend the deadline for signing up for the plan. “If you don’t sign up by May 15, you can’t sign up for six more months,” said Michael Goloff, a Chico member of the Internet-based political-action group, which organized the demonstration. “Then, you have to pay 6 percent more for the rest of your life.”

The demonstrators excoriated Medicare Part D as unnecessarily expensive, controlling and confusing. It also has a big gap in coverage, called the “doughnut,” that kicks in at $2,500 in any given year. After that, the patient pays everything.

Several folks spoke of their personal experiences. When Kathleen Faith, a home-schooling teacher, tried to help her 84-year-old mother sign up, she found it “very confusing. I’m a smart woman, and I really struggled.”

Dr. Robert Zadra, a Chico psychiatrist, said many of his elderly patients were having a terrible time understanding and signing up for the program. “I have so many different patients who are taking so many different medications, it’s really impossible,” he said.

Fran Peace, a long-time aide to Herger, agreed that it’s a complicated plan. “My mother is 89,” she said, “and I helped her sign up. At the beginning it was very confusing.”

Herger’s office got a lot of calls at first from people who were similarly confused, Peace said. She determined that the best thing to do was “line up all your prescriptions with the dosages, then call Passages [Adult Resource Center, 898-5923]. They really help and will find out which plan is best.”

She noted that recent data showed that, out of all the eligible beneficiaries in Herger’s district, 71 percent had signed up for the plan. “It’s working; we’ve gotten plenty of testimony. It’s saving people money.” The phones in the office stopped ringing a couple of months ago, she said.