AARP, the powerful advocacy group representing Americans over 50, has over 35 million members. Their mighty collective voice is heard in every issue and every election.
Now, as a national health plan is being fought for and against, AARP's voice is being heard again. And loudly.
Insurance and drug companies together have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby and advertise against the national health plan.
Everyone in Washington knows that health care reform will heavily impact older Americans. The mid-term elections could be swayed by this voting bloc, relative to how politicians vote on health care.
Inside the AARP there's been a struggle as well. Approximately 60,000 members quit between July 1 and August 18, 2009, in a controversy that arose over AARP's support for health care reform. (However, AARP, according to Media Matters, gained 400,000 members during the same period.)
And, as Congress fights to the final votes over health care reform, AARP's health professionals and expert staff takes their stand.
And here it is---
"While AARP is pleased to see that the House plan includes many of the proposals that are most critical to protecting Medicare and ensuring Americans age 50+ have access to stable, affordable health care, we know the fight isn’t over. That’s why we’re going to keep working with members of the House and Senate to ensure our priorities are included in any final health care reform bill."
AARP reports that their members are deeply concerned, pro and con, about how they would be affected by health reform. Myths abound in the media, including some outright lies about the plan, including the "death panel" type fabrications that so terrify citizens.
As the process moves forward, AARP is monitoring the debates for their membership. Who voted how, for instance. There will be payback, one way or another.
AARP's website provides an information flow on all the issues of health care reform. Many in their vast membership study the site to learn where AARP stands on the big issues and provisions of the bill as it evolves toward rejection or passage.
AARP is waging its own campaign. There is a new AARP-AMA Ad--- "Debunking Medicare Myths."
And AARP cites these health plan proposals, as improving care for older Americans and their families. In AARP's statement, these include:
Ensuring seniors can see the doctor of their choice or find a new doctor if they need one by improving Medicare’s payment system to doctors;
Protecting and strengthening Medicare for today’s seniors and future generations of retirees.
Ensuring that no one—not government or your insurance company—can come between you and your doctor
Lowering drug costs for seniors by closing the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole.”
Taking steps to reduce waste, fraud, abuse and inefficiency in the Medicare program.
Requiring Medicare and insurance companies to provide for important preventive services (like screenings for diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis free of charge for those who don’t have coverage.)
Preventing insurers from denying affordable coverage to anyone because of their age or health.
Limiting how much your insurance company can make you pay out-of-pocket.
Providing affordable health insurance options for those who don’t have insurance or can’t afford it.
Providing benefits to help seniors and people with disabilities live in their own homes and communities.
For AARP's views on the latest health plan developments, go to www.aarp.org/getthefacts." If you are still confused, or want questions answered, you can interact with AARP at 1-866-AARP-449 (1-866-227-7449). Or go to healthactionnow.org.
So, its obvious that AARP's staff of experts (on aging issues and health and wellness) has an enormous influence over the debates now raging in congress.
How will it all turn out? The fight to pass the original Medicare Bill, decades ago, was equally confusing. But it passed.
And today, medicare is a safety net Americans virtually take for granted, hardly considering it an entitlement.
Will advocacy groups like AARP sway the vote, and will the new national health plan be a safety net for all American citizens?
The Affordable Health Care for America Act, and the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act, recently passed by the House of Representatives, contains critical components AARP has been fighting for.
Here is what AARP says they want most for their member's rights: "We're fighting to guarantee that you'll never be denied coverage because of your health or age; To prevent anyone from coming between you and your doctor; To make sure your health care does not take a back seat to insurance companies; And to make sure seniors and future generations have the health coverage they need when they retire."
Soon, we'll know if the United States will join most of the rest of the so-called "First World," instituting it's first national health plan.