We recently received the following letter from an AARP member in Colorado:
“I am the 52-year-old family caregiver for my disabled husband, my 86-year-old mother with dementia, and my 12-year-old son with multiple disabilities. I have been without health insurance since I left my professional position as a health care advocate to take care of my family—for four years now. After leaving my job, I was unable to afford the COBRA premiums. I looked and continue to look for affordable health insurance. I have been denied coverage on the most minimal of policies, as I have a preexisting condition. I pay out-of-pocket for my monthly medications and my biannual doctor visits. While my family is covered by various state and federal medical coverage programs (Medicaid and Medicare), I am unable to have insurance coverage as their caregiver!”
Stories like this remind us why we must continue to fight hard to improve health care for our members and their families. Unfortunately, such stories are far too common. Indeed, 70 percent of our members provide support for their children, and 40 percent are caring for both their children and one or more parent. Many people are still suffering because they don’t have access to affordable, quality health care for themselves or their families.
Costs continue to rise for American families. Premiums have almost doubled over the last eight years, and without changes they will double again in 10 years. High medical costs still drive people into bankruptcy. People on Medicare face rising drug costs, especially those in the Part D “doughnut hole.” Insurers continue to deny people coverage because of preexisting conditions, or because they deem them a bad risk; they also charge older individuals up to 10 times more than younger people for the same coverage.
As employers move away from providing health and retirement benefits, more and more of the costs are shifted to employees. Only about 49 percent of small-business employees and their families are covered by employer-provided health care, down from about 53 percent just a few years ago.
These trends get lost in debates over ideology, misrepresentation of the facts, and political partisanship. But none of that changes the fact that tens of millions of people are still suffering, businesses are losing their competitive edge—costing Americans jobs—and our economic future is in peril. These problems will not fix themselves. They will continue and worsen until Congress acts. Improving health care and making it more affordable should not be about big government vs. small government, Republican vs. Democrat, or liberal vs. conservative. It should be about the people.
AARP has been fighting for more than 50 years to improve health care for our members and their families. We will continue our fight to stop insurance company abuses, protect guaranteed Medicare benefits, lower drug costs and make sure that no one comes between you and your doctor—not the government or your insurance company. We’re going to keep fighting until the job is finished because we believe your health is worth fighting for.