Friday, July 31, 2009

Seniors – Beware the AARP’s Support of ObamaCare

Natalie Sirkin

Seniors beware! The AARP, claiming to represent you, is supporting the Obama Health Reform bill which is financed on your back. Obama maintains that overall the changes in health-care are helpful to seniors and will save them thousands of dollars. Not so. Seniors are the big losers under ObamaCare according to Betsy McCaughey, the expert who has studied all the congressional bills. In an attempt to make the cost deficit-neutral, which Obama declares is the goal, $500-$550 billion is to be taken away from Medicare spending, this at a time when approximately 75,000,000 Americans will be added to Medicare rosters as the baby boom generation ages.

ObamaCare will squeeze funds from Medicare by cutting payments to doctors, nurses, hospitals and drug companies. The result will be fewer doctors willing to take Medicare patients, i.e. to work for a fraction of their legitimate fees. Seniors will be herded into groups, which will receive slower, less personal and less consistent care from doctors and other health care providers. There will be less money for the medical devices that minimize the handicaps of disability.

For starters, ObamaCare proposes that seniors shift from use of specialists to primary-care doctors, on the misconception that the elderly overuse specialists. Betsy McCaughey reports that studies have shown that for heart patients, a shift to primary care results in a higher death rate. Primary-care physicians frequently misdiagnose heart patients, who are more often readmitted to the hospital. The patients not treated by specialists die sooner.

House Bill 3200 mandates that each senior meet every five years with a consultant in advanced care planning who will help in planning for end of each senior’s life. Some of this is reasonable – it is wise to have health care proxies and living wills – but on p. 427, lines 15-24, the government mandates end-of-life orders which can in effect make the government your proxy on end-of-life decisions. Gullible seniors, many of whom may be all too easily influenced by a government representative supposedly advancing their interests, are likely to sign off on agreements they don’t understand in “governmentalese,” the only language in the world that cannot be translated.

Those Obama has put in charge of medical planning for seniors should fill them with terror. There’s Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s brother, who has been appointed to two key posts: health policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and member of the Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research. McCaughey points out that in recent articles Emanuel has explicitly promoted discrimination against older patients. It’s not invidious discrimination (like discrimination based on race or gender), says Emanuel, because everyone was 25 once. On this reasoning, all the hard won rules against discrimination on the basis of age go out the window. Tough luck, if you’ve turned 65. Emanuel has also written that he wants doctors to consider not just the medical needs of his patient, but “social justice.” That’s shorthand for whether the money spent on the patient before him could be better spent on someone else, e.g., someone younger or less disabled. For example, those with dementia, writes Emanuel, are no longer contributing to society.

As for that Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research, as an Investor’s Business Daily editorial notes, it’s modeled on a similar board in England that approves or rejects treatments by dividing the cost of treatment by the number of additional years the patient is expected to live. Sample decision: the English board requires that elderly patients with macular degeneration wait until they are blind in one eye before they can get the costly new drug that can save the other eye. Presumably the Council will decide if it is an “efficient’ investment to permit expensive surgery for elderly patients. A hip replacement if you’re 80? How about Tylenol?

There are now bills in both House (HR3200) and Senate that would shift control over Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers from Congress to the President. Reimbursement rates would be set by an “independent commission,” i.e. an unelected executive agency, which the President would then approve or disapprove. The idea is to insulate Medicare from the pressures – to which politicians have to respond – and that will be sure to flow from outraged doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and seniors.

Even wiping out the access of seniors to many of the medical advances that have made their lives productive and comfortable will not make Obama’s health care revolution “cost-free.” Douglas Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office, to the discomfiture of the White House, asserted that government can’t “save” money on health-care by insuring everyone. The cost will be from $1 trillion to $1.6 trillion over ten years. Elmendorf was invited to the White House for a meeting with President Obama and a phalanx of economic and health-care advisers. Perhaps intimidated, Elmendorf has since issued a supplementary more equivocal statement. Former CBO head, Douglas Holtz-Eakin observed: “They’re leaning on him. CBO was created to do independent analyses for Congress.”

How can an organization representing seniors possibly endorse legislation whose chief victims will be seniors? In backing ObamaCare, the AARP is derelict and deceptive to boot. A trip to its website will give seniors zero information on this legislation, so central to their future welfare – it won’t even tell them the AARP supports it. All there is on ObamaCare is a video of a question and answer session the AARP organized in which Obama reassures seniors that they will come to no harm under his plan and be subject to no rationing of care. Otherwise the website is full of information on discounts available to AARP members, what foods are good for you, profiles of interesting senior citizens, what drug plan is good for you, etc. What makes AARP’s dereliction of duty in failing to provide its members with the most elementary information on Obama’s health care proposals doubly shameful is that there are no other organizations representing seniors: AARP holds a monopoly.

Given its true mission (AARP powers-that-be never saw a proposal for or toward nationalization of health care they did not like), seniors must both put pressure on the AARP to represent their interests in fact, not in rhetoric, and until (if ever) that goal is achieved, make their views heard so as to prevent the AARP from being viewed as the undisputed voice of seniors in this country.

Seniors who want their voices to be heard on this important matter should be deluging their legislators and AARP as well. Send the organization “unsubscribe” notes. Write to AARP, 601 E Street N.W., Washington D.C. 20049. You can list friends and relatives who agree with you. If you prefer to phone (it can’t hurt to both write and phone), unfortunately AARP has pretty well insulated itself from public complaints. Still, you can call 1-888-AARP and if you are patient through its complicated menu, can get a representative (at a call center in Nevada or California). Voice your opinion. Word will get back. There is also a direct phone number to the AARP Foundation in Washington D.C. 1-203-434-6200.

Be heard – before it is too late. Contributing Editor Natalie Sirkin, a senior citizen, has for many years written a regular column for the Citizen News of Sherman, Connecticut.


Anonymous said...

Our letter to AARP:

Due to your recent announced support of the Obama healthcare plan I wish to cancel my membership as of this date.

Enclosed find my destroyed membership card.

AARP has been derelict in it’s policies and deceptive in communicating with it’s members, making it a poor advocate for senior citizens for a long time. You are too focused on sales and left wing politics. The medical healthcare reform you are supporting will destroy our country. The government operated Medicare and Medicaid plans are riddled with waste, corruption and fraud – the same problems will occur in Obama’s healthcare plan. You can’t lower the cost of health care without addressing the impact on costs brought on by malpractice lawsuits. Obama’s plan will ration treatment for senior citizens at the time in our life when we need it most. Selectively providing care to people based on their age is just another word for euthanasia.

Perhaps you should change your name to American Association for Rest in Peace.

Anonymous said...

Bull, you sound more like right wing
conservatives to me. If you really want the facts check with Obama reform 2010. Bet you won't approve of this one.

GS Don Morris, Ph.D./Chana Givon said...

Anonymous-the post is a year old and now you are annoyed? What specifically do you take issue with? Once again rather than debate, your side tries to disparage-does not resonate here-all the best with your anger issues