We’re excited to announce the launch of a new regular feature on our blog, the PAL Coalition Member Spotlight. Here, we’ll be introducing you to our coalition members and giving you the opportunity to hear from them about the work they do and the pressing concerns of their members.
For our first spotlight we couldn’t think of a more dedicated group than the United Senior Action of Indiana (USA), an organization that has grown to include more than 17,000 seniors and over 100 senior clubs working together on issues of importance to seniors. United Senior Action mobilizes seniors to advocate on a broad range of issues, including nursing homes and community-based alternatives, utility and telephone rates, prescription drug prices, health care and more. They also link members and others to Rx for Savings, where consumers can safely order medications from licensed pharmacies in Canada and other countries.
Please enjoy our interview with United Senior Action of Indiana’s inspiring Executive Director Michelle Niemier.
PAL: What is the mission of your organization?
Michelle Niemier: Since 1979, United Senior Action (USA) has been uniting Indiana seniors and their families into a powerful voice to impact policies affecting our lives and our community.
PAL: What inspired you to become involved in the organization?
MN: If you are personally asking “me,” even after 19 years with the organization, I am inspired each and every day by the deep-felt passion our members have for justice and their willingness to take action on behalf of others. United Senior Action challenges the status quo making us immensely unpopular with those in power. Nonetheless, even those who wish United Senior Action would simply go away respect us as protecting our integrity is of utmost importance.
PAL: How does the high cost of prescription drugs affect your members?
MN: On the surface, most would conclude drug costs are of major importance to our members because they are older. In fact, however, I strongly believe seniors in this country would be willing to continue sacrificing (skipping doses, not buying groceries, struggling to pay their utility bills) by paying exorbitant prices if they truly believed that, as a result of their sacrifice, more research and development would be done. Our members do not want their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to face Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease, etc. However, as we all know the high costs Americans pay for their medicines is certainly not going predominantly to research and development. This fact angers seniors to the point of near revolution.
PAL: What is one thing you think should be done to change the way drugs are priced or marketed? MN: Safe importation of medicines from countries with as good or better safety requirements would dissolve the stranglehold drug companies have on all American consumers. Even better, accessing the world market would not cost consumers a dime. Unlike Medicare Part D, which will cost our members’ grandchildren $800+ billion.
PAL: What does your organization do to educate your members about prescription drug issues?
MN:As an activist organization, our members use grassroots networks (retiree groups, churches, health fairs, etc.) to educate members about prescription drug issues. Our newspaper, The United Senior Advocate, has a well-earned reputation for fair and timely information and is our top means of calling members to action.
PAL: How does litigation play a role in your organization’s fight against Pharma’s illegal pricing schemes?
MN: Litigation is an effective organizing tactic for our organization. While our members would prefer that drug companies would just “wake up and change their ways,” we know they won’t without public pressure. PAL lawsuits are grounded in legal and public policy, making those actions effective.
PAL: What are some of the most pressing needs of your members? MN: As with all grassroots organizations, our limited resources often leave us isolated from similar organizations around the country. Through the PAL project, United Senior Action members are able to stand together with action-oriented, risk-takers, thus giving USA members a stronger, louder voice.
To learn more about USA, visit their website.
If your organization is one of the 130+ that are members of the PAL coalition, and you’d like to be featured in a PAL Member Spotlight on the PAL blog, please let us know. If your organization is interested in joining the PAL coalition, go here for more information.