KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Democrats Woo AARP, Seniors To Support Health Reform Bills

Seniors are a key constituency for Democrats, who are courting the AARP – a 40 million-strong advocacy group for people older than 50, who tend to be active voters – for more active support of health reform proposals, according to news reports. The hope is that their backing will rally members on the ground and sway public opinion.

The Associated Press: "The White House and Democrats are laboring to attract skeptical seniors to their drive to reshape the nation's health care system, leading some to press the behemoth but reluctant AARP to be more aggressive about backing them." Democrats are hoping the senior's lobby will explicitly back their reform plans.

"Though AARP hasn't endorsed Obama's health care drive, many of its priorities are reflected in Democratic bills, including reducing gaps in Medicare prescription drug coverage and eliminating Medicare patients' costs for preventive care. This has led some Republicans to question AARP's true loyalties" (Fram, 9/23).

The Randolph Leader: Members of a local chapter of the AARP are actively fighting health reform myths in Randolph County, Ala. The effort is the grassroots edge of the AARP's nation-wide support for health reform. (The group has not yet endorsed plans because they remain cautious about cost and eligibility issues.) "You probably heard about death panels, abortion, illegal aliens and cutting services," a local official said at a recent meeting with seniors. "[N]one of the above is in any legislation" (Pool, 9/23).

Tulsa World: "In Oklahoma, as in other states, older residents are concerned that health-care reform will mean that the government will ration their care, take away Medicare benefits, and make life-and-death decisions for them." A local AARP chapter there is working to dispel fears over these exaggerations about these issues (Archer, 9/23).

The Associated Press in a separate story: Many older people have other reasons to be worried: "Planning for retirement has never been as complicated - or as important - as it is now." Financial security for many older people has been threatened by last year's financial meltdown. Older people already spend 30 percent of their incomes on health care (Pitt, 9/23).

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