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En español | As I reflect on the current health care debate, I am reminded of a quote about the definition of politics by the late Groucho Marx. “Politics,” he said, “is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
Even though the measures proposed in the Senate failed, that doesn’t mean the health care debate is over. It is clear the “remedies” that were proposed by both the House and Senate bills would have resulted in higher costs and less care, especially for older Americans, and huge windfalls to pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies.
That’s why AARP conducted an all-out effort to urge senators and representatives in Congress to vote “no” on these bills. We ran an extensive campaign urging our members to contact their lawmakers and held tele-town halls across the country. AARP volunteers and staff in every state made more than 400 visits to their congressional representatives, expressing opposition to the bills. AARP members continue to make their voices heard.
Don’t get me wrong — the Affordable Care Act is not perfect. Aspects of the law need to be fixed in order to lower costs and maintain vital protections and coverage that millions of Americans rely on. But instead of overcharging older Americans and threatening access to affordable coverage, Congress should focus on bipartisan solutions that will increase coverage, lower costs and improve care. There are many ways to reduce health care costs that would not harm ordinary people. For example, AARP has long advocated for Medicare to be allowed to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
We urge Congress to follow the advice of John F. Kennedy, who as a senator in 1958 said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past — let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” Our responsibility for the future is to create a world-class health care system that is affordable and gives all Americans access to the care that they need.
Politics has also been described as the art of the possible. We believe it is possible to craft a health care bill that provides all Americans quality, affordable care. But that requires getting the best ideas from all stakeholders and having full and open debate.
We urge Congress to turn the page on fighting over “Obamacare” and “Trumpcare” and open a new chapter working together on commonsense solutions to increase coverage, lower costs and improve health care for all Americans. Not only is that the right answer, but it would also prove Groucho wrong.
Jo Ann Jenkins is CEO of AARP.