AARP AARP States Texas Press

Debunking the health insurance reform myths

by Mary Scott, AARP State President

So you don’t want to see any changes to health care? Well, imagine your health insurance premiums doubling over the next 10 years, the Medicare trust fund going bankrupt and the number of uninsured Texans continuing its meteoric rise. That’s what you will have without meaningful health insurance reform.

Special interests defending the status quo are employing an array of scare tactics, half-truths and outright deception in trying to convince us that the system is not in critical condition.

The reality is that -- with health care costs eating up 16% of our gross domestic product (GDP) and the rising cost of medical care taking a toll on millions already struggling in this economic crisis -- we cannot truly fix our economy until we fix health care.

As a dynamic organization of 40 million members with a long history of fighting for quality health care for all Americans -- including protecting and strengthening Medicare -- AARP has been targeted by those intent on slamming the brakes on any attempts to reform the system. We have not yet endorsed any of the bills moving through Congress but our organization is committed to making health care reform a reality. For too long, our country has settled on a health care system that costs too much, wastes too much and leaves too many without care.

Unfortunately, the myth machine is out in full force today. Rather than addressing the issues with constructive dialogue, some would rather spend their energies misleading Americans. Let’s take a few of their distortions head on.

Rest assured, AARP does not now, and never will, support a proposal that jeopardizes Medicare. Rather, we’re fighting for reform that preserves access to our doctors and assures they will be paid fairly by Medicare, while reducing waste and fraud. And we’re working with members of both parties to close the Part D coverage gap, or “doughnut hole,” for prescription drugs. Reform will help curb skyrocketing prices throughout our health care system, including Medicare.

Make no mistake, there is no provision anywhere to allow Medicare to pull the plug or make you sign a piece of paper forcing you to determine how you want to die. Saying otherwise is inexcusable and cruel. Rather, the provision would allow physicians to be paid for time spent counseling and answering questions about things like “advance directives,” “living wills,” “durable powers of attorney,” hospice care. It’s entirely voluntary and completely up to each patient.

Let’s be clear, despite what those trying to scare off seniors would have you believe, nothing in any of the proposals would lead to rationing of care for older Americans or anyone based on age. And should it ever come up, AARP would lead the fight to kill it.

Contrary to the rhetoric of some fringe groups, health insurance reform is no backdoor attempt at creating “socialized medicine,” where government directly owns hospitals and employs doctors. Rather, the aim is to implement a system much like members of Congress have today. People can choose from a range of quality, affordable private health plans, either offered by their employer, or by the state or federally supervised insurance “exchange.” Plans will have to accept everyone regardless of health or age, and have strict limits on cost-sharing so coverage is affordable for all.

AARP was founded by a retired school teacher who was outraged at seeing a former colleague destitute and living in a chicken coop. For the last 50 years, we’ve been successful by organizing older Americans to make sure that elected officials from the U.S. Congress to City Hall hear the voices of people who have been forgotten in the past.

We have the chance right now to take the steps that will make us healthier, both collectively and individually. It’s an historic opportunity, and AARP will continue to work with any person, any organization, and any political party to see this through.

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