President takes health care fight on the road

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WASHINGTON (NNPA)—“Seniors have sacrificed” the commercial begins before highlighting hardship experiences unique to the “Greatest Generation” such as World  War II and the Great Depression. “And now, seniors are now being asked to sacrifice again. Congress plans to pay for health care reform by cutting $500 billion from Medicare.”

The commercial was produced by health care reform opponent 60 Plus Association, a nonprofit organization that bills itself as the “conservative alternative to AARP.”

That advertisement goes on to claim that America’s seniors will endure longer waits for care and that cuts will be made to vital medical tests such as cat scans and MRIs. It also rehashes former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s controversial and false claims of government-sponsored “death panels” by saying that the government will decide “if older patients are worth the cost.”

While 60 Plus Association did not respond to repeated requests by NNPA for an interview, President Obama addressed that specific claim head on during his town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Aug. 11.

“A myth that we’ve been hearing about is this notion that somehow we’re going to be cutting your Medicare benefits,” Obama said at the town hall. “We are not. AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare, okay?”

It is true that President Obama called for a reduction in spending for Medicare and Medicaid to offset the cost of health care. But the cost is up to $300 billion over the next decade and coverage and benefits will not go anywhere, says Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform.

While AARP has not endorsed a particular bill per se, AARP says it absolutely supports the cuts as they are meant to streamline Medicare and weed out costly waste, fraud and abuse that is currently stifling the health care system.

PRESIDENT OBAMA AT TOWN HALL MEETING

President Obama’s town hall was part of the White House’s stepped up efforts to address the inaccuracies and so-called “myths” that are being circulated by critics trying to derail health care reform.

And death panels aren’t the only untruths raising public concern. Vegetative wait periods for care and dire warnings that the push for health care reform will open the door to full-fledge socialism are among much of the misinformation being put out from right-wing propagandists to stir public ire and spark incessant anger at town halls.

A majority of these claims are false, according to the fact-checking website of Politifact.com. The White House and supporters of health care reform such as AARP are touting such rhetoric as “baseless smears” and are confronting conservatives head-on with heavy-handed campaigns aimed at debunking such nonsense. The White House recently rolled out a new website http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck.

And AARP followed suit on its own site as well.

The president erred when he stated that AARP endorsed the proposed health care bill. That’s not true according to a statement released by the country’s largest member organization for seniors.

“While the president was correct that AARP will not endorse a health care reform bill that would reduce Medicare benefits, indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate,” the statement read.

AARP spokesman Jordan McNerney said that AARP will not formally endorse any particular bill because all the bills are being legislated and many components of the proposals will change throughout the process. “But we are supportive of and committed to health care reform,” he said.

The president’s inaccuracy aside, McNerney said that his advocacy group has bigger errors to address.

“We won’t stand idle when opponents of health care reform attempt to scare or mislead the American people—and older Americans in particular—about what fixing the system really means,” said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond in a statement. “The truth is we need to fix health care, whether it’s ensuring affordable coverage for Americans age 50 to 64 or improving benefits for people in Medicare. It’s time for the public to get the real facts.”

McNerney said AARP members have been most concerned about health care reform becoming socialized medicine, whether it will mean rationed care, whether it will hurt Medicare, be unaffordable and, of course, whether  the government could really make life-and-death decisions for individuals. These are the myths that the group will focus on knocking down in its multi-million dollar campaign.

“We’ve already started national and local ad campaigns,” McNerney said. “We’re doing interviews to get the word through the press. We’re doing massive e-mail blasts, organizing events and we have offices in every state so we can spread the word pretty effectively.”

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