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Statement by AARP CEO Bill Novelli in Response to the National Press Club Address of Governor Phil Bredesen (D-TN)

For Immediate Release

Contact: AARP Media Relations, 202-434-2560,

AARP welcomes Governor Bredesen's work to bring a national spotlight to the important issue of Medicaid. We share the Governor's belief that Medicaid must be as effective and efficient as possible. Fundamental reforms are required to ensure that poor, sick, disabled and frail elderly – as well as children and others in need – have access to adequate health and long-term care.

We recognize the concerns Governor Bredesen emphasized about the financial challenges facing state Medicaid programs across the country. However, we don't believe that the unprecedented cuts facing vulnerable Tennessee beneficiaries – both in enrollment and services – are the answer.

We are continuing to work with governors and state legislators, as well as with the Congress and other stakeholders to find ways to make Medicaid more efficient and bring spending under control without dropping needy citizens from the program and denying access to needed medicines and services.

Reforms must be based on sound policy; there are ways that have proven effective in many states. These include buying prescription drugs more cheaply, properly managing the care of those with chronic conditions, and redirecting spending more toward home and community-based care and less on nursing homes.

But reforms driven by arbitrary budget goals increase the amount of uncompensated care among doctors and hospitals, which in turn will inevitably be shifted to employers and employees as higher premiums and local governments as higher taxes. The problem is compounded as those with untreated conditions end up needing expensive emergency room or nursing home care.

While Governor Bredesen is confronting Medicaid issues in Tennessee, we all need to address the program and its mission in a larger context. Medicaid is an integral part of the entire health care system. Improving the program means taking a long-range view that includes Medicaid's role, but attacking the problem at its source: our dysfunctional health care system.

The way health care is provided in this country has become grossly inefficient, and often does harm when it is supposed to be doing good. Simply reducing Medicaid spending without addressing the needs of beneficiaries and the impact on the larger health care financing and coverage problems is not a solution.

AARP will work with Governor Bredesen and other state and federal leaders to help ensure that Medicaid is as efficient and effective as possible, and continues to help protect those who would otherwise lack access to health care, particularly the most vulnerable of our members, families and neighbors.

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