Huffington Post: AARP's Bait and Switch on Health Care

AARP's Bait and Switch on Health Care
July 16, 2009
By Martha Burk

The Senate health committee has approved its version of a health care bill, largely tracking the House version requiring Americans to get health insurance, with some subsidies to the poor to help them afford coverage.

The Senate finance committee, where the going is likely to get a lot rougher, has yet to act. They have to figure out how to pay the tab and still garner at least a couple of Republican votes.

The health committee bill would establish a number of stringent federal health insurance rules to replace the hodge-podge of state regulations. Insurers couldn't deny coverage to people because of their claims experience or sex. Coverage couldn't be denied because of pre-existing conditions either. And what about age? Here comes the rub -- there's something called "age rating" that has sparked all-out warfare between groups that advocate for older Americans. We're not talking about those old enough for Medicare -- they're likely to remain largely untouched by whatever is approved.

It's the "young old" -- those between 50 and 65 -- who are going to get zapped big time if age rating goes into effect. Essentially it means older folks will pay some multiple of the premiums charged to younger people for the same coverage, just because of their age. Since everybody knows older people are more likely to have pre-existing conditions, it's a back door way to replace exorbitant premiums for prexisting conditions with exorbitant premiums for being older.

But it still ain 't fair. A healthy 55 year old who works out and watches what she eats could be asked to pay double what a 30 year old 350 pound person with diabetes and arthritis would get hit for.

The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), a coalition of 60 national not-for-profit organizations concerned with the well-being of people over age 50, has sent a letter to the Senate finance committee arguing that age rating should be ditched altogether. They point out that for most people of modest means who wouldn't qualify for subsidies, the age-rating schemes could push premium costs to as much as 25% of pre-tax income.

The letter was signed by about half of LCAO's member groups -- not including the 900 pound gorilla AARP. Seems AARP wants to allow this blatantly age discriminatory policy to go forward. True, they would limit it to maybe having 50-somethings pay no more than twice the premium of younger people for the same coverage.

Sounds like they're saying a little bit of age discrimination is ok, as long as it doesn't go too far.

The Older Women's League fought hard to get enough sign-ons to send the letter. That's because the plans would particularly affect older single women, already lower on the income scale and less likely to have employer coverage. They rightly pointed out that if gender rating was on the table, every women's group would be raising holy hell.

So where are the rest of the advocates for those over 50? AARP already rakes in megabucks from its supplemental insurance business - you figure it out. Profits over people - it's the American way.