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Biggest Losers in Health Care Reform: Senior Citizens

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Senior citizens are by far the biggest losers in health reform, says John C. Goodman, President, CEO and the Kellye Wright Fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis. 

For example: 

  • More than half the cost of health reform will be paid for by $523 billion of cuts in Medicare spending over the next 10 years.
  • Although there are some new benefits for seniors (mainly new drug coverage), the costs exceed the benefits by a factor of more than 10 to 1.
  • As many as 8.5 million of the 11 million seniors in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans may lose their coverage, according to Medicare's Chief Actuary.
  • Those lucky enough to retain their MA coverage will face steep cuts in benefits or hefty increases in premiums, or both. 

In addition to these direct costs there are indirect costs, including new taxes on drugs and medical devices.  Although these taxes don't single out senior citizens, they are the heaviest users of wheelchairs, crutches, artificial joints, pacemakers, etc., explains Goodman. 

To make matters worse: 

  • Severe rationing problems lie ahead, as 32 million newly insured people try to double their consumption of medical care under a reform bill that produces not one new doctor, nurse or other paramedical personnel.
  • Because many of the newly insured will be in private plans paying market rates, they will be more attractive to doctors than Medicare enrollees paying about 20 percent to 30 percent less. 

So how did this happen? Aren't senior citizens supposed to be the most powerful voting bloc?  Aren't they supposed to be represented by the all-powerful AARP? 

Unfortunately for seniors (and indeed all Medicare enrollees), AARP sold out its own members.  Just as the American Medical Association sold out doctors and the labor unions sold out their own members, AARP signed on to legislation that helps AARP but hurts the millions of people who AARP claims to represent, says Goodman. 

Source: John C. Goodman, "War on Seniors," National Center for Policy Analysis, April 21, 2010. 

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