AARP: Don't let myths stop health reform


POSTED: Tuesday, August 18, 2009

As your recent editorial (”;End Medicare Myths,”; Aug. 12) makes clear, fixing what's wrong with health care is far too important to be derailed by scare tactics perpetuated by special interest groups who will benefit from the status quo.

What is the status quo? Insurance companies denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and charging people unaffordable premiums because of their age. Layoffs leaving people without health insurance. More and more seniors who can't afford the medications they need to stay healthy and can't find a doctor willing to take Medicare patients.

You may have heard the myth that health care reform means socialized medicine. Not true. Health care reform will preserve the employer-based health care system, meaning an estimated 175 million Americans will continue to get their coverage through their employers. Every proposal that Congress is considering would allow people to choose their own doctors and hospitals.

What about the claim that health reform will mean cuts to Medicare? Not true. None of the major health care reform plans currently being considered would cut Medicare benefits. Reform will lower prescription drug costs for people in the Part D “;doughnut hole,”; protect access to doctors, prevent costly and avoidable hospital readmissions, improve quality of care and eliminate billions of dollars in waste that is causing poor care and medical errors.

Or how about the scare tactic that health care reform will allow the government to make end-of-life decisions for you? Absolutely false. Reform will not give the government the power to make end-of-life decisions for anyone, regardless of age. Those decisions will be made by individuals with their families and their doctors. No one, including the government or your insurance company, will be given power to make end-of-life decisions for you.

People need to hear the good things that will happen when we pass real reform. AARP is calling on Congress to guarantee that all Americans have a choice of dependable, affordable health insurance plans and preserve your choice of doctors who can work with you to make the best possible health care decisions for you and your family.

AARP believes health care is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It's not about political gamesmanship. It's about people's lives. It's about the 60-year-old man on Maui who lost his job and is worried about making the COBRA payments to keep his health insurance. It's about the elderly woman on Oahu who already spends 30 percent of her limited income on out-of-pocket costs even with Medicare. Her income is fixed but her medical costs keep rising.

We believe health care reform must fix what's wrong and preserve what's right. Reform must strengthen and improve Medicare, protect people's choice of doctor and insurance plans, and guarantee dependable, affordable coverage.

AARP has worked with members of both parties to introduce bipartisan legislation we will fight to see included in health care reform. But we have to act now, because the financial burden of health care will only get worse over time. If nothing is done, the share of your income spent on your family's health insurance will nearly double by 2016. The full cost will rise from an average of about $13,000 this year to over $24,000 in just seven years.

We can't play politics with health care, especially when people's lives are at risk. Now's the time to talk about what works and what doesn't—to find a common-sense solution to our nation's health care challenges. So please, don't let the scare tactics get in the way of the facts. The time to fix what's broken about health care is now.