Health Care and Seniors

About the time of President Obama's town hall meeting on Tuesday sponsored by the AARP, I got a couple of emails about whether the Democratic plan is "better" for seniors or not.

While I will leave that judgment to the politicians, it's clear that both parties are already involved in a mighty struggle for the support of seniors, especially when it comes to changes in Medicare.

Mr. Obama argued to seniors in person yesterday that his plan will help them the most.

"With the AARP standing on the side of the American people, I'm confident that we can do the right thing once again, and pass health insurance reform and ensure that Medicare stays strong for generations to come," he said.

Meanwhile, Republicans were furiously batting away such talk, charging that the Democrats' plan will actually cost seniors more and limit their treatment options.

"The president told us there are no proposed cuts to Medicare benefits for seniors," said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL).  "Unfortunately, he's just flat wrong."

The questions at the AARP event and those coming to me via email show that many seniors are worried about what the changes will bring.

"I haven't been able to find SPECIFICS on what areas of health care for seniors will be downgraded, diminished or eliminated altogther," wrote Leonard Ross in an email to me.  "Please advise."

If only it was that easy.  This is a classic issue where the two parties look at the same evidence and come to completely different conclusions.

"I've been told it's a "scare tactic" to say seniors would pay more under Obamacare; the scary fact is it's true," said Rep. Brown-Waite.

"Nobody is talking about cutting Medicare benefits," the President said, as he got softball questions to start his AARP town hall.

But Republicans point out that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says that Democrats are going to cut $177 billion from the Medicare Advantage program, which is targeted for poor seniors.

The legislative language on Medicare Advantage changes begin on page 331.

The bill does add for Medicare coverage a series of preventive screening programs, which you can find on page 492 of the Democrats' bill.

Critics say the way the bill is structured, it will mean Medicare payment cuts to nursing homes and hospitals, which will translate into less care, a charge that Democrats reject.

One thing is increasingly clear, this debate will go well into the Fall, giving both sides lots of time to fine tune their arguments.


Remember, you can download the bill yourself at http://bit.ly/nSL2A

About the time of President Obama's town hall meeting on Tuesday sponsored by the AARP, I got a couple of emails about whether the Democratic plan is "better" for seniors or not. While I will leave that judgment to the politicians, it's clear that both parties are already involved in ...

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