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AARP Tells Health Care Summit Attendees: We Have Come Too Far to Stop Now

February 19, 2010

AARP Media Relations,, 202-434-2560

AARP Tells Health Care Summit Attendees: We Have Come Too Far to Stop Now

WASHINGTON—AARP CEO A. Barry Rand today wrote to President Obama and Members of Congress invited to attend next week’s bipartisan health care summit. In his letters, Rand noted AARP’s top health care priorities, including closing the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole,” placing strict limits on health insurance age discrimination and strengthening the country’s long-term care system. The complete text of his letter to the President follows:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for calling together this bipartisan meeting on health care reform on February 25. As you prepare to meet with congressional leaders, we would like to take this opportunity to restate our priorities for health care reform. AARP believes any final health reform bill should contain the following critical elements for older Americans:

* strengthen Medicare and protect and improve the program’s guaranteed benefits;
* lower drug costs for seniors by closing the Medicare ‘doughnut hole’ coverage gap;
* crack down on insurance company abuses, especially those that deny affordable coverage due to pre-existing conditions or discriminate based on age; and
* provide people who need long-term care the services and supports that help them remain in their homes and communities.

Health care costs continue to be one of the chief concerns facing older Americans and their families, and without reform, the problem will only get worse. This issue has plagued our nation for decades, and the political and policy obstacles have proven difficult to overcome, but far too much progress has been made to stop now. On behalf of AARP’s members, I urge you to work together to enact health care reform legislation this year.

Skyrocketing costs run rampant throughout our entire health care system and threaten the sustainability of Medicare—a vital program upon which more than 46 million Americans who are older, living with disabilities, or on very limited incomes rely. Health care reform must strengthen Medicare and make it more affordable, both to ensure that current beneficiaries can get the high quality care they need and to sustain it for future generations.

AARP strongly supports payment and delivery system reforms that promote prevention and care coordination, and reward health professionals for the quality rather than quantity of care they provide. Legislation passed in both chambers includes provisions that would not only improve the quality of care in Medicare, but save money for both beneficiaries and taxpayers in the long-run.

For AARP members who rely on Medicare coverage, however, it is critical that some of these targeted savings be re-invested in the Medicare program right away, such as to lower prescription drug costs by closing the Part D coverage gap or “doughnut hole” and to improve coverage for preventive services. AARP does not support Medicare savings that do not strengthen Medicare or are not re-invested in improving the health care system.

For AARP members who are not yet eligible for Medicare, improving health care insurance markets across the United States to make it more affordable is a top priority. Many older Americans, especially those with pre-existing conditions, cannot secure health coverage, at any price. Industry data show that insurers deny coverage to between 19% and 29% of applicants age 50-64. Health care reform must make coverage affordable—especially for older Americans—by barring insurers from discriminating based on preexisting conditions, placing strict limits on age rating, capping out-of-pocket costs, banning annual and lifetime coverage caps, and providing premium subsidies to those who need them.

Finally, there is no comprehensive system of long-term care or long-term services and support (LTSS) in this country. Yet millions of older adults currently or in the future will receive care or provide long-term care. Currently, there is a lack of affordable public and private financing options for individuals to pay for the services needed to help them with basic activities—such as eating, bathing, and dressing. Medicaid is the largest payer of long-term care in the U.S., yet it has a bias toward institutional settings, rather than home and community-based settings, where individuals prefer to receive services and where services can often be provided at a lower cost. Action is needed now, as part of health care reform legislation, so that consumers have more choices, do not impoverish themselves to get the services they need, and so that an infrastructure is in place to provide assistance to the growing number of older adults and younger people with disabilities who need LTSS.

We thank you for your leadership on these issues of vital importance to our members and all Americans, and we look forward to working with you to enact health care reform this year.

Addison Barry Rand

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.7 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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