Holding signs reading “fix Bush’s Medicare part d disaster�, this afternoon, members of the Florida consumer action network, the AFL-CIO, and the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans gathered in front of congressman Mike Bilirakis’ office on North Dale Mabry in Tampa, to deliver a message about the Medicare prescription drug program.

ACT-Tony “It is a catastrophe and the congress must fix it..�

Tony Fransetta is state president for the alliance of retired Americans in Florida. They have over 200,000? Members statewide. Fransetta says his group is getting phone calls from angry seniors who were promised their problems would be solved and have seen no action as the months go buy.

ACT-Tony “In this area there are thousands of people who were to get it back…they aren’t getting it back, so we have a stopgap that needs to be corrected..�

The entire group is upset about the donut hole, the almost 3,000 dollar gap in coverage which many seniors have found themselves in as the first year of the new Medicare prescription drug plan progresses. Retired schoolteacher Frank Lupo says he believes that contributions to Bilirakis and other republicans from pharmaceutical companies were influential in getting the Medicare bill passed.

ACT “What kind of insurance do you know that you don’t get anything for it…�

Many people, including local resident Jan, also took issue with the fact that Medicare can’t negotiate with the drug companies for lower prices, like the VA can.

ACT-Jan “I can’t even afford the premium, I make too much, but every penny goes out on bills, so I go without blood pressure medicine, im lucky to be alive..�

The plan was to deliver 2700 hundred signed petitions from Floridians across the state, demanding that the part D bill be fixed. Jack Cose, the 2nd VP of the Florida association of retired Americans, carried the petitions

ACT “I was on a plane and he wasn’t receptive, but hell hear about this..�

The dozen or so citizens crowded into congressman Mike Bilirakis office, only one staff assistant was present, and Bilirakis himself is in DC.

ACT “My rooms not very big..we'll crowd in here..what group..this is not the main district office…we understand..�

Dianne Trimis, Bilirakis’ staff assistant asked the group if they were with

ACT “What we are here about is Medicare part d is a disaster..they haven’t got it back..are you aware of problems..constituents have contacted us yes…from our haven’t been taken care of..�

Bilirakis assistant asked the photographer for a local newspaper to stop taking pictures.

ACT “Do you have enough pictures…no keep taking pictures..the donut hole..these petitions are throughout Florida..why this office…the congressman should be on TV demanding an investigation�

Fransetta continued to try and get some answers about seniors who haven’t had their billing problems fixed.

ACT “These are dual eligibles..legislatives matters are out of dc office…its DC…WHY IS THIS NOT THIS OFFICE...ill take your questions..legislative issues go to dc where someone who more expert than I ..its legislative issue..ok..let me get some papers so I can get your names and addresses�

Throughout the 15 minutes in Bilirakis office, the assistant reiterated she could not do much more than pass on the petitions.

ACT “we would like to have a meeting..that goes through his scheduler…cant you help make it happen..�

WMNF asked several members of the group what they thought of the events in Bilirakis office and what if any value it might have towards changing the Medicare law.

ACT-Guy “She was intimidated, but it could have been better..�

ACT-Jan “We’ve gotta start somewhere to make a change, Bilirakis helped this bill so hes gotta fix it…I think the office staffer was would have been nice to be better received instead of just blowing us off..�

ACT “The point is to raise the issue we have photos on our website, were educating our members and were doing all we can as Americans in a free society..�

ACT-Tony “Most things good that happen are political action..and Bilirakis has to meet the public tide, the will of the people wasn’t done, the uproar will cause them to do something or they wont have a job..�

The Florida consumer action network is planning a sign waving protest Friday morning, outside the hotel where vice president Dick Cheney is scheduled to make an appearance at a fundraiser for Gus Bilirakis, who is running for his fathers congressional seat as Mike Bilirakis plans to retire and the end of this term. That protest is from 9 to 10 am, in front of the Westshore Wyndham hotel, at 4860 West Kennedy.

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