21 October 2009


Insurance Companies Should Stop Scaring Seniors

As I travel about and speak to various organizations, groups and individuals, I find that many older people are scared and confused, fearful of the change that health care reform may bring.

But this isn’t because they are bad people. They are scared and confused because the big insurance companies are spreading myths and falsehoods to frighten seniors into opposing health care reform. Halloween may be just around the corner, but Texas seniors should demand an end to these scare tactics.

What we are seeing is the 11th hour desperation of an industry that knows momentum is growing to pass a health care bill. While the final legislation is still being written, a political consensus is building to rein in these big corporations who profit by denying medical care and discriminating against those who need help the most.

A few weeks ago Humana sent out mailings to seniors across the country, falsely ringing alarm bells about how retirees would be hurt by health reform. These shameful letters drew rebukes from both federal regulators and the Connecticut Attorney General. What Humana conveniently ignored was how it receives millions in taxpayer subsidies – on average $3.60 per month from every senior – to operate Medicare Advantage programs at a cost nearly 20 percent higher than if Medicare directly provided these same services.

These deceptive mailings were followed by a Washington lobby group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), launching a multi-million dollar television ad campaign [mention here if they are running in your state] to once again mislead seniors about health reform. Curiously missing in AHIP’s slick 30-second spots is any mention of how insurance premiums have risen four times faster than wages over the past decade. The reality is that the only thing at risk in health reform is the outrageous profits these companies are making at our expense.

Here is the truth that Texas seniors need to know: this year we finally have an opportunity to close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole, lower prescription drug costs, help early retirees afford health care coverage, and assist middle-class families with the costs of long-term care. Retirees have much to gain from health care reform.

But older people care about more than just themselves. We worry about our children and grandchildren in these tough economic times. What would happen if they lost their job? Would they be able to afford health insurance, particularly with the sky-high premiums and the prejudice against people with even minor health problems?

It is time to end the scare tactics. Americans deserve the truth – health care reform will help Americans of all ages. It is time for Congress to finish the job.

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