Se­niors' health care still a con­cern

The Progress-Index - - OPINION -

Re­cent polling sug­gests that health care is still very much at the fore­front of vot­ers’ minds as we head into the home­stretch be­fore the midterm elec­tions. For se­niors and their fam­i­lies, the cost and af­ford­abil­ity of pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tions re­mains a chief con­cern.

See­ing the writ­ing on the wall, Wash­ing­ton’s elite and the spe­cial in­ter­ests they serve have co­a­lesced around a pre­dictable set of mes­sages aimed more at scar­ing se­niors than find­ing ac­tion­able so­lu­tions to help them. It’s a cyn­i­cal ploy, and one that se­niors and vot­ers should not mis­take for any­thing but a profit-driven en­ter­prise.

Case in point, a new six­fig­ure ad cam­paign from Pa­tients for Af­ford­able Drugs Now and AARP that calls on se­niors to push back against car­toon­ish car­i­ca­tures of “big pharma.”

What’s the pol­icy? How does this mes­sage ben­e­fit se­niors? A ca­sual, viewer would be hard pressed to an­swer those ques­tions amid the dra­matic mu­sic, fly­ing money and pho­to­shopped cigars.

Pulling back the cur­tain re­veals this push for what it is; an at­tempt by the in­sur­ance in­dus­try to safe­guard its prof­its to the detri­ment of Amer­ica’s se­niors. The strong de­sire by the in­sur­ance in­dus­try to ob­fus­cate and trick se­niors to act against their own self-in­ter­est can­not be dis­en­tan­gled from these ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing tac­tics from AARP and Pa­tients for Af­ford­able Drugs Now. With un­de­ni­able ties to the in­sur­ance in­dus­try, se­niors should take this lat­est ad­vo­cacy push with a grain of salt.

Through re­cent lit­i­ga­tion AARP was ex­posed as hav­ing made nearly 52 per­cent of its to­tal oper­at­ing rev­enue off com­mis­sions for new or re­newed poli­cies with its in­sur­ance part­ners. This kind of skim­ming by AARP was also brought to light in a class ac­tion law­suit in which se­niors al­leged the “non-profit” AARP, along with its busi­ness part­ner United-Health­care In­sur­ance Com­pany, ar­ti­fi­cially in­flated Medi­care sup­ple­men­tal health in­sur­ance charges for profit. The re­sult? Se­nior cit­i­zens lost mil­lions of dol­lars.

Wash­ing­ton has known this se­cret for years. In a 2011 in­ves­tiga­tive re­port by Reps. Wally Herger, R-Cal­i­for­nia, and Dave Re­ichert, R-Wash­ing­ton, ti­tled “Be­hind the Veil: The AARP Amer­ica Doesn’t Know,” the au­thors found an or­ga­ni­za­tion run amok and lack­ing ba­sic scru­tiny. Not much has changed in the in­ter­ven­ing years. AARP still runs a for-profit in­sur­ance arm that sub­se­quently fun­nels money back into AARP for ad­vo­cacy cam­paigns like the one in ques­tion. These con­flicts of in­ter­est are, how­ever, masked by an im­age of “se­nior em­pow­er­ment,” which falls apart when you sim­ply fol­low the money.

Pa­tients for Af­ford­able Drugs Now, on the other hand, is staffed by many for­mer Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble for the in­sur­ance com­pany sweet­heart deals present in the Af­ford­able Care Act, which AARP strongly sup­ported in 2010 over the over­whelm­ing ob­jec­tions of its mem­bers.

While it’s easy for bad ac­tors in our health care sys­tem to hide be­hind mean­ing­less plat­i­tudes and scare tac­tics, a closer look re­veals lit­tle sub­stance to their claims. With­out the right in­cen­tives in place, care­fully bal­anced mar­ket­places get cor­rupted, cre­at­ing per­verse in­cen­tives and price dis­tor­tions that ul­ti­mately cost con­sumers more.

Health care will be a crit­i­cal is­sue come Novem­ber, es­pe­cially for se­niors, but we should turn a skep­ti­cal eye to­ward the mes­sages with a clear in­dus­try bent com­ing from the Wash­ing­ton swamp. Se­niors should not be sold snake oil and told it is medicine. Law­mak­ers, to that end, should also care­fully re­view the facts be­fore tak­ing AARP and Pa­tients for Af­ford­able Drugs Now at their word. Putting pa­tients be­fore prof­its will al­ways re­sult in push­back from spe­cial in­ter­ests, but this is the vi­tal work that we sent our rep­re­sen­ta­tives to Wash­ing­ton to do.

Matthew Kan­drach Pres­i­dent, Con­sumer Ac­tion for a Strong Econ­omy

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.