Don’t derail health reform with myths

Posted Aug. 14, 2009, at 6:40 p.m.

As health care continues to be one of the most talked about issues today, I hope consumers are not being misled by some of the myths and scare tactics perpetrated by special interests. These groups are hoping to derail health care reform by saying it will cut Medicare benefits, ration people’s care or be a government takeover.

First of all, none of the major health care reform plans currently being considered would cut Medicare benefits. Reform will actually close the Part D “doughnut hole,” protect access to doctors, prevent costly and avoidable hospital readmissions, and improve the overall quality of care. Right now, preventable hospital readmissions alone cost Medicare billions of dollars.

Second, none of the proposals would ration care. The fact is it would ensure that Americans get to choose their doctor and their insurance plan.

Third, health care reform will not be a government takeover. All of the main proposals being debated by Congress would preserve the employer-based health care system, meaning an estimated 200 million Americans will continue to get their coverage through their employers.

Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to travel to Washington, D.C., and I met with Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Democratic Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree to discuss health care and learn more about what health care reform will really mean for Mainers.

I was encouraged to hear that all of them understand that the cost of doing nothing on health care is just too high. In Maine, the cost of inaction means more of the same: 20,000 50-64-year-old Mainers have no health insurance; 18 percent of Mainers on Medicare are readmitted to the hospital just 30 days after they leave; 91 percent of our Medicaid dollars spent on long-term care services go to placing our loved ones in institutional settings when nearly 90 percent want to stay in their homes at about a third of the cost of institutional care.

Sen. Snowe has been a leading voice for solutions and common ground on the Senate Finance Committee, and I am confident she will continue to promote results, not propaganda.

Sen. Collins has approached the health care debate fairly, stating her concerns about cost while at the same time offering productive solutions. She co-sponsored legislation to help reduce costly hospital readmissions by providing people with the follow-up care they need when they go home from the hospital. This legislation is a money-saver that produces better health outcomes and keeps people in their homes. Sen. Collins co-sponsored legislation to insist on a pathway to bring generic versions of lifesaving biological drugs to market, a plan that could save individuals and Medicare billions of dollars.

Don’t let the special interest groups who are trying to block progress on health care reform fool you with their myths and scare tactics. Again, none of the proposed reforms would force you to give up your current coverage, ration care or hurt Medicare.

Letting the myths get in the way of fixing what’s broken with health care will hurt all of us. We need an American solution to our health care challenges, and we need to work with our lawmakers to make sure we get one.

Suzanne McCaw lives in Burnham. She is an online activist with HealthActionNow.org who was one of 50 participants chosen by AARP out of 1,600 survey participants to travel to Washington, D.C., and meet with Maine’s federal delegation.

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