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5 Health Care Lies Being Spread to Seniors

Anti-reformers caught trying to misinform America's elders.

By Amanda Litvinov

Over the past few weeks, false claims surrounding health care reform have ricocheted across the country—online, on television and radio, and (loudly) at town hall meetings. Sadly, health reform opponents are propagating bogus information that preys on senior citizens’ worst fears, not only to push them to oppose health care reform, but to cast doubt on the Obama administration’s commitment to the welfare of older Americans.

“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 optional end-of-life counseling would be available so seniors know what their options are,” said NEA-Retired President Barbara Matteson. “That’s a real benefit for seniors and it’s shameful that some would scare us out of it with these outrageous claims.”

 Here are five of the most common and most egregious lies directed at seniors about some of the health care proposals currently under consideration, followed by the facts:

LIE #1: The proposed reform will destroy Medicare, leaving seniors with inadequate health coverage—or no coverage at all!

FACT: “Nobody is talking about reducing Medicare benefits,” said President Obama at an AARP tele-town hall. “Medicare benefits are there because people contributed into a system. It works; we don’t want to change it.”

In fact, the reform proposal aims to strengthen Medicare, making its services easier to access, and ensuring its solvency for future generations. This will be accomplished by improving the information flow between care providers, thereby eliminating the need to repeat tests and paperwork, and cutting wasteful spending, including the overpayments made to private health insurance companies that profit from the Medicare Advantage plan.

 Bob Kocher of the White House National Economic Council and a former medical doctor talks more about how the reform package would affect Medicare on the White House’s health care reform info page.

LIE #2: The 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-covered preventive health care services; simplifying the application process for financial relief for low-income seniors; and securing deep discounts for the eight million seniors caught in the “donut hole,” the prescription drug coverage gap in Medicare Part D.

LIE #3: 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 every person’s right to choose health care providers, while ensuring that doctors are reimbursed fairly for quality care and private insurance companies are no longer overpayed for their services.

LIE #4: 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) has publicly denied that accessible long-term coverage is part of the proposed bill, but if the reform bill passes, an affordable long-term care system (the CLASS Act) would be available to seniors and disabled people for the first time ever.

LIE #5: 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)—as well as the former lieutenant governor of New York Betsy McCaughey are among those making such shocking and ghoulish accusations.

Major news providers and organizations from the Associated Press to CBS News to The Chicago Tribune to have already debunked this myth. For the record: Neither the President nor Congress supports euthanizing seniors. The health care reform bill simply provides coverage that would pay for optional advanced-care planning sessions with medical professionals every five years.

NEA knows that quality health care is essential to keeping the nation’s educators, students, and retirees active and prepared for learning, teaching, and mentoring. The Association’s vision of a successful health care reform package would make quality, affordable health care coverage a reality for every person in America.  The reform must guarantee a choice of plans and providers, and a government-sponsored public option should be established immediately.

Take action on health care reform: Tell Congress to demand a public option and to reject proposals to tax employer-provided benefits.

“My bottom line is that I don’t want the insurance and pharmaceutical companies to win again, like they did with Medicare Part D,” says Matteson. “Seniors should read as much as they can to stay informed.”