AARP Town Hall on President Obama's Healthcare Plan


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aarp town hall on president obama's

healthcare plan


july 28, 2009

correcting the untruths about obama's health plan.

obama says: "but keep in mind - i mean this is something that i can't emphasize enough - you don't have to participate. if you are happy with the health care that you've got, then keep it."

the truth: the health bills now before congress would force you to switch to a managed-care plan with limits on your access to specialists and tests.

two main bills are being rushed through congress with the goal of combining them into a finished product by august. under either, a new government bureaucracy will select health plans that it considers in your best interest, and you will have to enroll in one of these "qualified plans." if you now get your plan through work, your employer has a five-year "grace period" to switch you into a qualified plan. if you buy your own insurance, you'll have less time.

and as soon as anything changes in your contract - such as a change in copays or deductibles, which many insurers change every year - you'll have to move into a qualified plan instead (house bill, p. 16-17).

when you file your taxes, if you can't prove to the irs that you are in a qualified plan, you'll be fined thousands of dollars - as much as the average cost of a health plan for your family size - and then automatically enrolled in a randomly selected plan (house bill, p. 167-168).

it's one thing to require that people getting government assistance tolerate managed care, but the legislation limits you to a managed-care plan even if you and your employer are footing the bill (senate bill, p. 57-58). the goal is to reduce everyone's consumption of health care and to ensure that people have the same health-care experience, regardless of ability to pay.

obama says: "i want to start by taking a new approach that emphasizes prevention and wellness so that instead of just spending billions of dollars on costly treatments when people get sick, we're spending some of those dollars on the care they need to stay well, things like mammograms and cancer screenings and immunizations, common-sense measures that will save us billions of dollars in future medical costs."

the truth: the truth is that the second most prevalent disease of aging -- cancer -- is largely linked to genetics and unknown causes. it's occurrence increases with age. your risk of being diagnosed with cancer doubles from age 50 to 60 according to the national cancer institute.

the risk of some forms of heart disease can be reduced through healthy living. but other forms are linked to genetics. shifting resources from treatment to prevention will leave patients who become sick inadequately cared for. in addition, virtually all studies show that prevention saves lives but not money. eighty percent of preventive interventions add to medical costs. the reason is simple. most people who take cholesterol lowering drugs or get mammograms wouldn't get sick anyway. louise russell, an economist at rutgers university, concludes that "hundreds of studies have shown that prevention usually adds to medical costs." (health affairs, march-april 2009). the evidence is so conclusive that the only people who claim prevention saves money are politicians.

obama says: "nobody is talking about reducing medicare benefits. medicare benefits are there because people contributed into a system. it works. we don't want to change it."

the truth: the congressional majority wants to pay for its $1 trillion health bills with a $500+ billion cut to medicare. this cut will come just as medicare enrollment increases by 30%. less money and more patients will necessitate rationing.

the assault against seniors began in february with the stimulus package, which slipped in comparative effectiveness research, generally a code for limiting care based on the patient's age. economists are familiar with the formula, where the cost of a treatment is divided by the number of years that the patient is likely to benefit. in britain, the formula leads to denying treatments for older patients who have fewer years to benefit from care than younger patients.

in a 7/17 letter to house speaker nancy pelosi, white house budget chief peter orszag urged congress to delegate its authority over medicare to a newly created body within the executive branch. this measure is designed to circumvent the democratic process and avoid accountability to the public for cuts in benefit.

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