Thursday, August 20, 2009

AARP and the Gray Panthers

AARP has found itself smack in the middle of health care/insurance reform debates. Some 60,000 or so of their members have expressed dissatisfaction over AARP's position by voting with their feet.

The Washington Post offers some questions from members and AARP's response. Here are just a few.
Q. As a breast cancer survivor, I could not buy health insurance at any price.

A. About 1 of every 4 60-year-olds can't even get insurance because of a pre-existing medical condition -- and we agree with you that this must change.

I certainly understand the position of the individual who could not find health insurance. But I also know the other side of the coin.

While it is noble to talk about ending the practice of underwriting medical conditions it is also very costly to do so. A true "guaranteed issue" policy when implemented across the board is priced about twice as high as medically underwritten policies. This is illustrated in states that have prohibited carriers from medically underwriting new applicants.

A few states, Kentucky and New Hampshire, flirted with guarantee issue then later abandoned those laws when the number of carriers willing to participate declined, premiums skyrocketed and so did the number of uninsureds.

The idea of affordable health insurance and full coverage for pre-existing conditions are mutually exclusive ideas.
Q. Disabled and under age 65 - What is AARP's position here with the new proposals?

A. For those under 65, as you know, some disabled persons are eligible for Medicare. This will not change, and we support the current coverage. For those not eligible for Medicare, we strongly support doing away with insurance company practices that prevent those with a existing medical condition from getting insurance.

Why impose new rules on insurance carriers that will increase premiums for everyone? Why not just support legislation that allows those with pre-existing conditions to buy in to Medicare?

We already have a system that will cover some people through Medicare. Why not simply expand it for anyone with a pre-existing condition?
Q. Prescription Drug Coverage - Many of the disabled (like myself) reach the "doughnut hole" gap in Q1 of each year. Then no more medicine. It was better before Part D as the Drug Companies offered accommodating PAP. What is AARP's position?

A. For those with high drug costs, we strongly support closing the so-called doughnut hole (or coverage gap in part D)

AARP seems to think this can be done at no cost.

Again, why increase premiums on everyone when the solution would be to either allow those who have higher needs to buy more coverage, or simply suggest they drop Part D and go back on PAP's.
Q. Why is AARP supporting a program that MUST take from Medicare to provide insurance for other groups?

A. AARP opposes any cuts to Medicare benefits. We do support savings in the Medicare program that will help lower costs, such as those changes that will weed out waste and inefficiency in the program.

This begs the question, why do people think we need an overhaul of the current health care system to eliminate fraud and waste? If you know there are abuses in the Medicare system, attack them rather than waiting on some mythical reform legislation to compel you to do the right thing.

Some seem to think the solution to what ails us is to scrap everything, including things that work, and start all over from scratch. Using that logic we should scrap all cars and trucks, not just the clunkers, and use horse drawn carriages and wagons.

We have an energy crisis and a global warming crisis (at least according to some). But I don't hear anyone saying we need to live like Laura Ingalls.
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