Berkeley / East Bay

Gray Panthers Newsletter

September 2014

6501 Telegraph Ave.- Oakland CA 94609

Tel: (510)595-9696

September 24 Membership Meeting

The September membership meeting will be on Wednesday, September 24, 1:30 pm at North Berkeley Senior Center.

Omar Rodriguez will talk about the Bay Area Alternative Press

BAAP was established in 1982. It is an all-volunteer association of printers, artists, designers, writers, photographers and others in the publication field who joined together to assist free-of-charge in the production of publicity materials and publications for, and with, organizations striving to improve conditions of low income workers and our nation’s poor and minority communities.

BAAP volunteers teach how to produce printed materials, from design to final printing.

===Gray Panther Committee Meetings====

Board Meeting:
September 10, 2014 2:00pm
At Niebyl-Proctor Library

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Membership Meeting

Next membership meeting will be on September 24, 1:30 pm at North Berkeley Senior Center.

Omar Rodriguez will talk about how the Bay Area Alternative Press provides free-of-charge production and publication materials for and with, organizations striving to improve conditions of low-income workers and nations poor communities.

Living Graveyard

Third Mondays, Noon - 1:00pm.
date subject to change –– check
Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street (two blocks from 12th Street BART)
People lie down on the city sidewalk in front of the Federal Building, covered with sheets to represent the dead. The names of some of the Californians who have died in Iraq and the names of some of the Iraqi dead are read during the event. A gong is sounded after each name.
Please bring a white sheet. A pad to lie on is recommended.
Info: Ecumenical Peace Institute, (510)990-0374.

Tax the Rich Rally

Every Monday 5-6 pm at top of Solano Ave in Berkeley to protest the inequality of taxes in our country. We hold signs saying “Tax the Rich” and “Tax the Big Corporations.” Cars passing by honk in support. Pedestrians take leaflets.

The signs and leaflets present information about the impact of tax inequities in our society, and how we must work together to bring about essential changes so that the rich and big corporations pay their fair share.

Solano Stroll

The annual Solano Stroll will be on Sunday, September 14, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm.

Gray Panthers table will be on the south side near 1714 Solano, between Ensenada and Tulare.

Please come anytime during the day to sit with us and help talk with the people who visit us.

Monthly Peace Rally

Gray Panthers and Strawberry Creek Lodge sponsor a Peace rally,
every 3rd Friday, at Acton and University in Berkeley.
Next rally Friday September 19, 2-3 pm. Come sing, wave signs and listen to approving car honks.
For info, Call 841-4143

Memorial Services

There was a memorial service for Gray Panther member Eva Bluestein at Temple Beth El on August 17. There were 6 Gray Panther members present. Co-convenor Steve Geller gave a short speech, remembering how we Panthers were always glad to see Eva come to our meetings. She kept us up-to-date on the latest atrocities going on in the world. There was a performance of "Autumn Leaves" sung in French.

Become a member of Gray Panthers!

Dues: $35/year ($15 low income)
Send us your name and mailing address.
Traffic Tickets can also be worked off by volunteer work for Gray Panthers

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Report on the July 23, 2014 Membership Meeting

The July membership meeting was held on Wednesday July 23, 1:30pm at North Berkeley Senior Center.

The topic was Social Security and Medicare. About twenty-five people were there.

On July 30, Medicare celebrated its 49th anniversary. Medicare is our only publicly financed, universal health plan, which lifted a generation of seniors out of poverty.

On August 14, Social Security celebrated its 79th anniversary. It was on August 14, 1935 that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act to protect ordinary Americans "against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age."

There were two speakers: Diana Gray and Anubha Batra, from HICAP, the Alameda County agency which provides legal assistance to senior citizens and information about enrolling in Medicare and MediCal. They passed out information sheets and a list of phone numbers.

HICAP's main phone number is (510) 839-0393.
Before calling, people should be ready to say whether they want legal assistance or help obtaining health insurance -- this speeds things up.

Legal assistance includes such things as obtaining Government Benefits, Elder Abuse, Restraining Orders, Custody of a Disabled Relative.

The Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) has people on staff trained to provide free and unbiased community education and individual counseling to Medicare beneficiaries about Medicare, supplemental plans, prescription drugs, Medicare Advantage plans, long term care, appeals, and more. Help is available at about 30 locations throughout the County, Hours are Monday - Friday: 9 to 5.

HICAP has a website:

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We were told that there have been some major changes to Medicare, and there will probably be more later on.
There are changes to cost sharing for dually eligible beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans and increased out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Part A (hospital stays) of $460 to as much as $1000. The rules on Part D (drug coverage) keep changing. HICAP counsellors can help you figure out how all this affects you. We were advised to always appeal a decision to deny coverage. It's worthwhile to do the paperwork; mistakes do happen. "When in doubt, fill it out." You can get help filing an appeal or a grievance. If you get a letter about your Medicare coverage that you don't understand, call HICAP.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) has improved provisions for preventive health care. This includes things like:

We were told that patient out-of-pocket for brand-name drugs went down to 15% (was 50%). Under ACA. it is very important that your doctor fills out forms with the correct diagnostic codes. If you think the wrong codes are being used, get help.

There have been changes for people who have signed up for "Medicare Advantage" with a health management organization such as Kaiser Permanente.

ACA is watching carefully for health care fraudsters. In 2005-2008, Medicare fraud recovery was $6-7 billion. In 2014, recovery was $14 billion. If you think something suspicious is going on, get HICAP help to report it.

There have been changes in coverage of durable medical equipment. This includes things like:

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Bonnie Cediel, from Berkeley Retired Teachers, spoke about Social Security fairness.

Not everyone gets Social Security, because their employer did not deduct FICA while they were working.

Some of the groups affected are:

  • Teachers
  • Government Employees (e.g. City of Berkeley)
  • California Highway Patrol

    We heard about two bad things the federal government is doing: Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

    GPO -- If you receive a pension from a government job in which you did not pay Social Security taxes, some or all of your Social Security spouse's, widow's or widower's benefit may be offset due to receipt of that pension. This offset is referred to as the Government Pension Offset, or GPO. The GPO will reduce the amount of your Social Security spouse's, widow's or widower's benefits by two-thirds of the amount of your government pension. Obviously, the GPO affects women especially. The speakers called GPO "crazy" and said it needs to be repealed.

    WEP -- This is a statutory provision which reduces the Primary Insurance Amount of a person's Retirement Insurance Benefits or Disability Insurance Benefits when that person is eligible or entitled to a pension based on a job which did not contribute to the Social Security Trust Fund. While in effect, it also affects the benefits of others claiming on the same social security record. This is supposed to be a "fairness" provision, to get back at public employees who receive big pensions. WEP started in the early 1980s. We were told that WEP also needs to be repealed.

    A group has been formed to call for the repeal of GPO and WEP. It's called the Committee for Social Security Fairness. They are writing letters to legislators.
    The committee has a website

    After the speakers, Hali Hammer led the audience in parody songs about Social Security and Medicare.

    There was a birthday cake baked by the Senior Center.

    Opposition to AB2145

    Gray Panthers sent letters to State officials opposing the amended AB 2145, which appears to be nothing more than a corporate monopoly power grab to destroy competition from Community Choice clean energy programs. Letters were sent to: Chair of Senate Appropriations Committee Kevin DeLeon, Senator Loni Hancock, Assembly Member Nancy Skinner and Governor Brown.