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Fight for your health care rights

No, you don't have to sit back and watch while your health care benefits go up in smoke. Under ERISA (Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974), private employers must disclose any discretion they reserve to terminate or reduce benefits. Be sure to carefully review any documents you've received from your employer or health care provider concerning your medical insurance benefits.

Don't like what you see or want to make sure your benefits don't go south? Then get active. Jim Norby, 79, is president of the National Retiree Legislative Network. A former employee of Northwestern Bell Telephone of Omaha, Neb., Norby and his associates -- all volunteers who've experienced loss of retirement benefits -- are working to change health care for retirees.

Norby says few people facing retirement realize what's really happening on the health care front: Millions face the loss of, or have already lost, health care benefits. "What are they all going to do? Go work at Wal-Mart greeting people to pay for medical benefits?" he asks.

Even Wal-Mart couldn't afford that many greeters. Norby says it's time to organize and demand change. "This is seen as a liberal cause, but it's not," Norby says. "It's a fundamental problem."

Here's what political activists say:
Individuals with common interests will have to come together and organize, or put their muscle behind an existing organization that advocates for health care changes.
Candidates for national office must be closely examined for their stance on health care issues. Older people tend to vote with more regularity. They need to understand the power they wield.
Americans must demand the right to legally purchase prescribed pharmaceuticals from outside the U.S. and demand that generic drugs be easier to access domestically by reducing the timeline for drug patents to no more than five years.
Advocacy organizations must support tort reform that will allow physicians and hospitals to lower their operating costs and pass the savings on to patients.'s corrections policy
-- Updated: Oct. 1, 2007
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