Medicare Advantage Cuts will cost seniors benefits: testimony Video — More Dem Censorship on Healthcare Debate — President Obama Holds a Health Care Town Hall at AARP Original Vidio — GOP Report Charges AARP Getting “Kickbacks” In Dem Health Care Bills — AARP: Helping Seniors Or Helping Itself? — Glenn Beck – Why Does AARP Support Obama Health Care Video — AARP Town Hall Meeting on Health Care – Dallas, August 4, 2009 Video — AARP: The Hype, The Lies, The Facts — CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf on Medicare Advantage Video —Hill, AARP team for telephone town hall — AARP Town Hall Meeting in Florida Filled with Seniors Against ObamaCare – Video 8/19/09
ObamCare would cut payments to private insurers that contract with the federal government to provide insurance to about 10 million seniors on Medicare through the Medicare Advantage program. The bill also would cut about $200 billion in Medicare payments to hospitals, nursing homes and other providers by adjusting the formulas that the program uses to pay these providers.
By Philip Klein
One of the subplots to the health care debate I’ve been following is the cozy relationship between AARP and the Obama administration, as the group has thrown its full-throated support behind the Democrats’ health care push even though their membership comes from the age group most opposed to Democratic health care proposals. Today, House Republicans have issued a report providing evidence that AARP is in a position to recieve tens of millions of dollars in “kickbacks” if Democratic health care legislation becomes law.
President Obama and Democrats have proposed saving money to pay for health care legislation, in part, by cutting $162 billion in payments to Medicare Advantage, which allows Medicare recipients to choose privately-administered coverage. If these changes go through, millions of seniors who have chosen Medicare Advantage would lose their current coverage, forcing them into government-administered plans with less generous benefits. As a result, many of them would have to purchase policies to supplement traditional Medicare. Enter AARP.
In 2008, AARP generated $652.7 million in revenue by selling products like Medigap supplemental Medicare insurance, accounting for over 60 percent of the group’s revenue, according to an analysis of its financial statements cited in the report released by the House Republican Conference.
If the House Democrats health care bill becomes law, the report argues, it would be a boon to AARP, because while Medicare Advantage plans will be required to pay out 85 percent of the money collected in premiums to claims made by policy holders, the requirement would only be 65 percent for the kind of Medigap policies sold by AARP.
“In other words, under the Democrat bill, seniors could pay as much as 20 cents more out of every premium dollar to fund ‘kickbacks’ to AARP-sponsored Medigap plans than Medicare Advantage plans,” the GOP report charges.
But this isn’t the only way that AARP is getting special favors, according to the report.
Earlier this month insurer Humana Inc. sent customers who enrolled in the company’s Medicare Advantage plan a letter warning them that their benefits would be in danger if the Democratic health care legislation passed. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus complained to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which not only ordered Humana to stop sending the letters to its customers, but prohibited any other private insurers from doing the same. Except, that is, AARP — which sponsors a Medicare Advantage program in addition to the Medigap policies it offers, but was exempt from the Obama administration’s gag order.
I have a call into AARP, and will update the post once I get a response.
UPDATE: AARP emailed this statement from its executive vice president, Nancy LeaMond, as a response, though it doesn’t address any of the specific charges raised in the report:
“Any effort to derail AARP’s commitment to reform will not succeed. Similar to “death panels” and other scare tactics, this latest effort is a misguided attempt to talk about anything other than the health care reform this country needs. AARP will continue to work on reform for our members that prohibits insurers from discriminating based on health status or pre-existing conditions, strengthens Medicare by improving quality of care, cutting out fraud and abuse, and closing the so-called ‘doughnut hole’ for prescription drugs.
“AARP was started more than 50 years ago to fight for older Americans and their need for health care – our fight continues today. Over those 50 years our public policies have always dictated every decision we have made.
“The only benefit AARP is looking for in health reform is relief for the millions of Americans who are crushed by soaring prescription drug prices, relief for the millions of Americans who are told they can’t get coverage because they’re too old or too sick, and relief for the millions of Americans who need Medicare strengthened. Period.”
Administration Silences Medicare Advantage Critics—So AARP Can Collect More “Kickbacks”
“There’s an inherent conflict of interest….They’re ending up becoming very dependent on sources of income.”
– Former AARP Executive Marilyn Moon, quoted in Bloomberg article
This week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced it was investigating Humana for providing “misleading” information regarding the Administration’s proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage policies-and prohibited other Medicare Advantage plans from providing similar information on how Democrat health “reform” could take away their current coverage.
Yet the Administration’s edict prohibiting plans from communicating with their beneficiaries failed to include AARP, which sponsors a Medicare Advantage plan but has been a prime advocate of Democrats’ government takeover of health care-quite possibly because AARP has been supporting a health care overhaul from which it stands to gain overall handsomely. Even as AARP advocates for cutting Medicare Advantage plans by more than $150 billion, an analysis of the organization’s operations reveals that it stands to receive tens of millions of dollars at the expense of seniors’ medical care-with Democrats’ full approval:
- The Congressional Budget Office has previously estimated that the cuts to Medicare Advantage plans proposed in Democrats’ government takeover of health care (H.R. 3200) would cause millions of seniors to lose their current plan and enroll in government-run Medicare.
- Because the government-run Medicare benefit is less generous than most private health plans, the independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission found in June that more than nine in ten seniors not in nursing home settings utilize some form of Medicare supplemental insurance. While many of these individuals currently rely on Medicare Advantage plans for the extra benefits they provide to seniors, many would be forced to purchase supplemental Medigap policies should their existing Medicare Advantage plans be taken away from them due to Democrats’ government takeover of health care.
- A review of its financial statements finds that in 2008, AARP received more than half a billion dollars in revenue from selling products like Medigap supplemental insurance policies-$652.7 million in direct “royalties and fees,” and an increase of more than 31 percent from the $497.6 million in similar revenue AARP generated in 2007.
- Royalty revenues now comprise more than half-60.3 percent-of all AARP revenues; a Bloomberg news analysis published in December found that in 1999, royalties comprised only 11 percent of the organization’s total revenues.
- The Bloomberg article-which highlighted what one observer called AARP’s “dirty little secret”-profiled seniors who felt betrayed after paying hundreds of dollars above market price for AARP-branded coverage. One noted that “AARP has great buying power, and people should be able to get the best deal….This is unconscionable, what AARP has allowed to happen.” Another disillusioned senior wrote to the organization’s leadership asking whether AARP had a “‘special relationship’ with [insurance carriers] by which it receives commissions, incentives, rebates, or dare I say ‘kickbacks?'”-and when he arrived at AARP headquarters for a tour, was promptly escorted out of the marble-covered atrium.
- While H.R. 3200 would place strict price controls on Medicare Advantage plans-requiring them to pay out 85 percent of premium revenues in medical claims-Medigap policies face a far less strict 65 percent requirement. In other words, under the Democrat bill, seniors could pay as much as 20 cents more out of every premium dollar to fund “kickbacks” to AARP-sponsored Medigap plans than Medicare Advantage plans.
The higher prices charged by AARP plans, and the organization’s increasing dependence upon revenue from “royalties,” provide tangible evidence why AARP would support cuts to Medicare Advantage that would likely increase their “kickbacks” from Medigap plans. However, it does not answer several key questions:
- Given the myriad new layers of insurance regulation included in Democrats’ government takeover of health care, why does the legislation not include a single provision attempting to impose any new restrictions on Medigap policies?
- Did Democrats “forget” to protect seniors-or were they informed that AARP could not support legislation that would limit its lucrative revenue source?
- Similarly, did CMS “forget” to include AARP among the organizations whose First Amendment rights to inform seniors of harmful Medicare provisions were restricted-or did the Administration only wish to silence its critics, and not outside organizations using “kickbacks” to fund advertising in support of the Democrat agenda?
These questions hint at a more fundamental query: With seniors believing that AARP is “making money on the backs of old people,” who should believe that the organization is looking out for seniors’ interests and not its own?
The Bulletin: By HERB DENENBERG
The AARP Bulletin (September 2009) has a front-page headline on Obamacare: “The Hype, the Lies, the Facts: How to Tune Out the Fear-mongering and Misinformation and Make Sense of the Health Care Reform.” I’d add only one amendment to that AARP headline: “If you want to avoid the hype, the lies, and get the facts on Obamacare, don’t read the biased one-sided propaganda that AARP publishes in its Bulletin.”
The article is supposed to answer the question of AARP readers, “How do I know what to believe?” Anyone who reads the article critically or studies AARP history on this matter, knows they are in the tank for Obamacare, and in the guise of fair and balanced journalism they are presenting the Obamacare party line.
The article starts out by quoting Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of he Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, who runs FactCheck.org, a website that examines specious claims from all sides of the political spectrum. She says that health care reform has “serious consequences to people’s lives and it would be useful if as many people as possible actually understood what the proposals are about.” But, then she identifies the rise of the Internet and the decline of the mainstream press as a prime source of information which have put that prospect at risk.
Poor, pathetic Ms. Jamieson is saying, in effect, that the public was only getting the truth when they were relying on the biased, fraudulent, dishonest, and ultra-liberal mainstream media. That poor, pathetic “expert” who is “fact checking for the public” feels the truth is threatened now that multiple points of view, some of which are the opposing point of view, are presented by the Internet and now that the public is slowly beginning to realize that you can’t trust the mainstream media. (I would agree with Bernard Goldberg that the mainstream media is no longer mainstream. Until a good alternative description emerges, I’ll call it the biased, fraudulent, dishonest, and ultra liberal mainstream media.)
So, the AARP article is doing its readers a great public service by demonstrating that you can’t trust the AARP, FactCheck.org, Ms. Jamieson, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania if you want fair and balanced information about such matters as Obama and Obamacare.
The article goes on to perpetuate every fraud and deceit that people like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the leadership of the Democratic Party have put forth to stigmatize and demonize dissent. For example, the article asks, “Could rumor-mongering affect the outcome? Recent violent interruptions at lawmakers’ town hall meetings suggest it might.” So, the AARP, which is supposed to represent senior citizens, is joining the chorus that sees those who oppose Obamacare and who exercise their First Amendment Rights at Tea Parties as mobsters, prone to violence, Nazis, Brown Shirts and all the rest. They are proving that AARP, the Democratic leadership, and the mainstream media believe in the First Amendment only for those in agreement with its radical, far-left policies.
The AARP and its editors and officers clearly have no conscience and no sense, as they would not carry forward such blatant propagandizing for Obamacare and hurl insults at their own membership. If they are in the business of informing their diverse membership, they should provide both sides of an issue, not just give the appearance of doing so while residing in the pocket of the pro-Obamacare forces.
No wonder AARP been losing membership by the tens of thousands. Sometime ago, it was estimated at 60,000 members lost and that figure is probably much higher by now. Their stance on this did not surprise me. I have already reported in one column how they, along with AMA and others, have sold out to Obama and Company to support his vision of health care reform. I’ve also reported how the AARP is not in the business of representing the interests of senior citizens, but is, in fact, a phony membership organization in the business of selling its members insurance, credit cards, mutual funds, and other services. In fact, facing the first page of the propaganda piece in question is a full-page ad for life insurance sold by AARP. The same issue carries ads for AARP mobile home insurance, AARP Medicare insurance supplements, and AARP auto insurance.
I want to be fair to AARP and its article on health care reform. It did have four words of truth in it. The inside headline reads, “The Assault on Truth.” Of course, that was intended to characterize the critics of Obamacare. However, it perfectly characterizes the article in question and AARP. Let me give you a few examples involving the questions asked and answered by the article:
Will The Government Take Over Health Care So We End Up With Socialized Medicine?
The answer is the standard party line: “No. Neither the president nor the congressional committees have suggested anything remotely resembling a government takeover of health care.”
This answer is based on the fact that Mr. Obama says he doesn’t want the single-payer, government-takeover system that is used in Canada. The article fails to state that Obama has long been on record as favoring the discredited single-payer system and has even said we will have to get there gradually. But the article doesn’t explain that you can have a government takeover without a single-payer system.
When you look at what some of these proposals do, you will see they involve the federal government deciding what kind of policies will be written, what kind of rates will be charged, what kind of government insurance companies will be established, what kind of end-of-life counseling will be provided for senior citizens. What’s more, when you start setting up dozens of new agencies and commissions to control the health care system and to decide on what is the “best” medical practice, you don’t need single-payer to bring about a government takeover. When you grant insurance to 47 million “uninsured,” you assure a shortage of health care providers that sets the stage for rationing. As Dick Morris pointed out, contrary to the view of Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs, “You don’t have to be a medical school graduate to figure that out. That’s an elementary school problem.”
If that’s not quite enough to convince you, when you populate the White House with radicals, communists, socialists and advocates of such things as compulsory abortion, compulsory sterilization, and providing medical care based on quality of life years remaining, meaning seniors will be locked out, you are setting the stage for something worse than single-payer.
The article also tries to refute the fact of government takeover by saying “socialized” medicine is also off the table. The article says socialized medicine involves government ownership of hospitals and employment of doctors, as in the United Kingdom. It says that’s not contemplated. But, again, when government and federal bureaucrats control virtually every aspect of the health care system, you don’t need formal ownership. Comprehensive control is the equivalent of government ownership, of socialized medicine, and of the discredited systems of Canada and the United Kingdom.
To put the reader at ease the article says that government run health care can’t be so bad since, after all, Medicare is government run health care and everybody loves it. The article omits the fact that Medicare is $38 trillion in the red. Yes, trillion with a “tr”) and by Obama’s own admission is overrun by $500 billion of waste, fraud and abuse. Obama says Medicare and Medicaid are responsible for our deficits. So what does he do? He proposes the vast expansion of the Medicare and Medicaid programs to further balloon our deficits and our health care inflation.
Will Private Insurance Be Outlawed Or Wither On The Vine?
Needless to say, the AARP article answers, “No. Obama and the congressional committees say their objective is to build on the current system – keeping employer-sponsored group insurance and giving more consumer protections to people who are employed by small businesses or buy insurance as individuals.”
The AARP article argues that those with employer-sponsored insurance are ineligible for the public plan. But the article forgets that many employers would stop giving coverage, as the penalty for not providing it is smaller than the cost of providing it. Even the New York Times, a lap dog for Obama, in an editorial dedicated to selling Obamacare, admitted that the public option would likely be less costly than many alternatives.
The article also ignores the fact that the public option, a government insurer, would be subject to rules made by the government, so the umpire of the marketplace would be on the side of the government insurer. That is not likely to produce a level playing field for private insurers.
Finally, the article ignores the ways proposed in Republican-sponsored bills that would encourage competition. For example, opening up a nationwide market for health insurance would be an obvious and easy way to increase competition. Now, the consumer is limited to companies admitted to do business in his state. The insurance exchanges, proposed in many bills, would also make sense, as they would ratchet up competition.
Incidentally, it is important to remember that with or without a public option or some variation of it in the form of co-ops, Obamacare still involves a government takeover. So, don’t think it is a big deal to delete the public option. The bill spells catastrophe with or without that provision.
All the other questions asked in the article also provide the wrong answers. For example, “Will Medicare be eliminated or gutted to pay for reforms?” The article answers, “No. It’s inconceivable that any lawmaker would commit political suicide by proposing to get rid of Medicare.” But the AARP article forgets that Obama has said that he would cut $500 billion in waste, fraud, abuse, and inefficiency out of Medicare. We’ve heard that line since the days of President Nixon, and we’re still waiting for that waste, fraud, abuse, and inefficiency to be eliminated. If Obama knows how to do it, what is he waiting for? Why hasn’t he proceeded to cut that waste, fraud, abuse and inefficiency out of the system to prove he knows what he’s doing and can give more than campaign speeches? He’s been in office about seven months, and yet he’s done nothing to solve this problem which he says is bankrupting the country and is responsible for the deficits. When you cut $500 billion out of Medicare and grant coverage to 47 million previously uninsured, you’re going to have to ration medical care, and that means rationing medical care for senior citizens.
The biggest barrels of red ink have been generated by Medicare and Medicaid to the tune of tens of trillions of dollars. So what does Obama do? He proposes, in effect, to vastly expand Medicare and Medicaid and to compound our problems.
The president and chief executive officer of AARP, in an editorial accompanying the article in question, endorse the lies, hype, and exaggeration in the article by writing that there has been too much fear-mongering and misinformation involved in the debate. They continue to give the false impression that they are above the fray, but then echo the party line coming from Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress. AARP and its leadership have continued to demonstrate they are the ones getting in the way of a fair, balanced, and honest debate on heath care reform.
Madison Courier: Staff, Wire Services, 8/24/09
U.S. Rep. Baron Hill will have an hour-long “tele-town hall” about health care reform at 6:40 p.m. today with AARP members in the 9th District who are called, answer their telephone and choose to participate.
Using a Virginia company, Citizen Dialog, AARP will call about 25,000 of its 97,000 members in Hill’s district at the same time, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported today. Numbers called will get a recorded message inviting them to participate.
Indiana AARP expects about 4,000 9th District AARP members to participate, but only about two dozen of them to get a chance to ask questions, according to the newspaper.
Hill’s office announced that he will have public forums next week during the last week of Congress’ August recess. The locations and times have not been announced.
“I truly believe these forums will provide for a productive back-and-forth discussion,” Hill said in a press release. “I look forward to hearing the comments, concerns and suggestions from the participants.”
The telephone conference is one way Hill has been communicating with selected groups of constituents instead of having in-person town-hall meetings open to everyone. Members of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association chapters 381 and 1777 will meet with him for an hour Tuesday in New Albany. It is open only to NARFE members and other active and retired federal employees.
Hill has been widely criticized for shunning public town hall meetings and instead meeting with small, selected groups. He has said he wanted to avoid the unruly, argumentative forums and protesters that other congressmen faced when they went home to their districts to gauge public opinion on health care reform legislation that is before Congress.
Here is video from Brevard County, Florida, where an AARP Health Care Town Meeting was overwhelmingly attended by those opposed to any form of Universal Health Care. An AARP representative led the meeting, and heard from many AARP members furious at the group’s implied, if not official support of ObamaCare legislation.
When one woman in the crowd stood and said she favored “Universal Health Care for all,” she was “heckled and called a communist.”
The video also has an update at the end about area residents “still fuming” about Democrat Alan Grayson’s Town Hall Meeting recently where he held the meeting in a Union Hall with only 126 chairs. Ninety-five of the chairs were occupied by Democrats who had attended a meeting scheduled in the meeting before the Town Hall Meeting. They just stayed put, filling up most of the chairs. A huge crowd of those opposed to ObamaCare were left outside. On this video, Grayson says he did not think that many would show up for the meeting, so it was held in a small place.
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