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AARP Stepping Up to Provide the Real Facts on Health Reform

Health care reform has become a hotbed of conversation. You have heard a lot of rhetoric, but just exactly what are the facts and how could health care reform impact you and your family? The atmosphere has been superheated lately by a bitter debate over health-care reform. AARP has long advocated for access to affordable, quality health care for all Americans.

We continue to work with both Republicans and Democrats, and continue to work with the administration to achieve what is right for healthcare reform. AARP is stepping up to provide the real facts on health reform. Let’s start at the very top: Our current health system is broken. It costs too much, delivers too little and will only get worse if we don’t adopt fundamental, common-sense reforms.

Naysayers are trying to scare you with myths about health reform—myths they believe will help them stop changes to our current system, for all kinds of reasons.

One persistent myth is that health reform equals socialized medicine. Some say if reform is passed, you won’t be able to buy private insurance, choose your doctor, your hospital or your treatment.

It’s just not true. Most Americans now get health coverage through their jobs. The House and Senate plans now being debated both leave employer-sponsored coverage in place and with it, broad choices for people to pick their doctors and hospitals.
The High Cost of Doing Nothing

Then there’s cost. Some say we can’t afford reform, especially in a recession. Actually, one big reason to act is to help revitalize our economy, especially here in South Carolina. Nearly one in three Americans say they can’t afford to save for retirement because of high health costs. That will have disastrous consequences for South Carolina’s future unless it’s fixed.

Suppose you already have coverage. What could you gain from health reform?

Ask yourself this question: If you lose your job and health benefits, could you afford COBRA coverage that would cost four to six times more in health premiums just as your income plunged? Health reform would provide affordable coverage for those who lose jobs or just don’t make very much money. It’s also designed to stabilize future cost increases.

Another myth involves talk of “rationing health care.” Unfortunately, some vulnerable, seriously ill people are being frightened by this cynical falsehood. Actually, nothing in current proposals would let government override your doctor’s judgment about your treatment.

There is also a misconception making the Internet rounds stating that seniors would be offered the opportunity for “euthanasia.” In fact, this bill provides a new optional Medicare benefit to help individuals and families talk with their doctors in advance about difficult choices every family faces when loved ones near the end of their lives. This bill helps prepare for their care needs before they are in a crisis and ensures that their wishes —whatever those are—are respected.

Opponents also attack something called “comparative effectiveness research”—Washington talk for giving doctors and patients more data on what treatments work, what doesn’t and what they cost. The myth is that this will hurt care. In fact, it will help people make the best possible health care choices for themselves and their families. We look at “comparative effectiveness research” in magazines like Consumer Reports every time we want to buy a television or toaster – why wouldn’t we want the same information about our health care choices?

Here’s another whopper: You gain nothing if health reform passes, particularly if you already have insurance. The truth: If you’re 65+ and belong to a Medicare Part D plan, passage of health reform would cut your costs for brand-name drugs by half once you reached the “doughnut hole” or Part D coverage gap. Other parts of bills being debated would close the “doughnut hole’ entirely over time.

If you lose your job and health benefits, could you afford COBRA coverage that would cost four to six times more in health premiums just as your income plunged? Health reform would provide affordable coverage for those who lose jobs or just don’t make very much money.

Other provisions would forbid insurers from denying you coverage for pre-existing conditions or from dropping your coverage if they think your care is getting too expensive.

Finally – and of particular interest to AARP – some say that health reform means slashing benefits for seniors. AARP will fight with the strength of our 40 million members against any legislative proposals that unfairly harm people on Medicare.

Congress can and should save health-care dollars, however, by finding savings that won’t undermine care for beneficiaries. With no reform, you’ll pay much more for health premiums, still fear developing a pre-existing condition, still pay too much for health care that is too often of poor quality, and still have to worry that you’re only one serious illness away from being financially wiped out, even if you still have insurance.

Americans have waited long enough for health care to be fixed. Everyone – individuals, businesses, health professionals and government – has a stake in improving access to affordable, quality health care for all generations. Now it’s up to our elected leaders to get the job done. It’s time to fix this broken system.

Re-printed compliments of Imara Woman Magazine, Columbia, S.C.

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