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Lies target seniors as health care debate rages

In August, false claims surrounding health care reform ricocheted across the country—online, on television and radio, and (loudly) at town hall meetings.

Sadly, in an effort to stall much needed reform, some opponents invested their efforts in propagating bogus information that preys on senior citizens’ worst fears.

“The ones that bother me the most are the hysterical claims using words like ‘euthanasia’ and ‘death panels,’ when all the proposed bill says is that end-of-life counseling would be available so seniors know what their options are,” says NEA-Retired President Barbara Matteson. “It’s voluntary and it’s a real benefit. It’s shameful that some would scare us out of it with these outrageous claims.”

Here are five of the biggest whoppers being directed at seniors about the proposed health care bill, followed by the facts:

1. LIE: The proposed reform will destroy Medicare, leaving seniors without adequate coverage—or no coverage at all!

FACT: “Nobody is talking about reducing Medicare benefits,” said President Obama at the AARP tele-town hall on July 28. “[Medicare] works; we don’t want to change it. . . . we do want to eliminate some of the waste that’s being paid for out of the Medicare trust fund.” Examples? The excessive subsidies to Medicare Part D, and overpayments to private health insurance companies that benefit from Medicare Advantage plans.

2. LIE: The proposed plan ignores the special health needs of older Americans in favor of the young, the healthy, and the wealthy!

FACT: Congresswoman Ginny Browne-Waite (R-FL)—who declared on the House floor that the proposed health care bill “essentially says to America’s seniors, ‘drop dead’”—must have ignored the parts that call for: waiving deductibles and copayments for Medicare-approved preventive healthcare services (proven to keep senior citizens healthier in the long run); simplifying the application process for financial relief for low-income seniors; and securing deep discounts for the estimated eight million people caught in the “donut hole”—the prescription drug coverage gap in Medicare Part D.

3. LIE: Seniors will be forced to leave their current doctors, and will face long waits when scheduling with new care providers!

FACT: As the Alliance for Retired Americans explains in its August Fact Sheet, health insurance reform would preserve the right to choose health care providers, while ensuring that doctors are reimbursed fairly for quality care and private insurance companies are no longer overpaid for their services.

4. LIE: Long-term health care costs will soar, stranding seniors when they need medical care the most!

FACT: It’s unclear why Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ) keeps insisting that the proposed plan doesn’t take long-term care into account, but the truth is that if the reform bill passes, an affordable long-term care system (the CLASS Act) would be available to seniors for the first time ever.

5. LIE: The plan promotes the euthanasia of seniors; the Obama Administration supports death panels!

FACT: Just because a certain former Alaska governor put it on her Facebook page doesn’t make it true.  It’s hard to believe that current members of Congress—including John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Virginia Foxx (R-NC)—are among those making such shocking and ghoulish accusations. Major news organizations from the Associated Press to ABC News to FactCheck.org have already debunked this myth. The health care reform bill simply provides coverage that would pay for optional advanced-care planning sessions with medical professionals every five years.

—Amanda Litvinov

Sources: The Alliance for Retired Americans; whitehouse.gov; aarp.org 

The winner of the 9th NEA-Retired Distinguished Service Award, Agnes Chavis of North Carolina, truly embodies the spirit of the award:

She has made conditions better for her colleagues, her community, and for students. Born to parents who were both educators, Chavis taught for 40 years in five schools in Robeson County. She has been widely credited for promoting diversity and awareness of the contributions of American Indians, and has proudly represented her Lumbee tribe. Chavis applied her political savvy to lobbying for NEA on Capitol Hill, and shared her wisdom and experience as a leader in her state Association as an active and retired member. NEA Executive Director John Wilson, also from North Carolina, commented, “Agnes Chavis is my hero…[She] has a big heart and a huge will to make things better.” Congratulations, Agnes!

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September, 2009


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