AARP Telephone Townhalls Help Answer Questions

Thanks to those of you who posted your thoughts in the comments over the weekend. A lot of the concerns posted in the comments are ones we heard during last week's telephone townhalls that we hosted (and more than 400,000 of you attended) so I thought it might helpful if we posted up those questions and answers.
You can check out the whole article from the folks at Bulletin Today here.
From the article as well - here are some of the typical questions and answers fielded during the town hall meetings.
Why is AARP not standing up for seniors when Obama says he will cut Medicare to help pay for health care?
The proposed changes to Medicare will help to get fraud, waste and abuse out of the system and create payment incentives to reward doctors and hospitals for the quality, rather than the quantity, of care they provide. They will not cut the benefits our members rely on in the traditional Medicare program, but will help to keep it affordable to make sure you get the care you need.
Isn't this socialized medicine?
No. In socialized medicine the government directly owns the hospitals and directly employs the doctors. No one in Washington is talking seriously about anything like that. What health reform will do instead is provide people with a system much like the one members of Congress enjoy today. They will be able to choose from a range of quality, affordable private health plans, and possibly a publicly run option as well. These plans will have to accept everyone regardless of preexisting conditions or age. There also will be sliding-scale subsides for people with moderate to low incomes to make sure the coverage is affordable for everyone.
Will I lose access to my doctor?
No. The legislation will include a much-needed fix to the Medicare physician payment system to prevent an unwarranted 20 percent cut in their rates that otherwise would take effect next January and threaten access to doctors. It also will increase pay for primary care doctors to help preserve access to them, and promote training of more primary care doctors and nurses and geriatricians so we have enough health professionals to treat everyone.
Will there be rationing of health care to seniors based on age?
Absolutely not! That's a very harmful myth that opponents of reform are spreading to scare seniors. Nothing in the proposed legislation would lead to rationing of care for older Americans or anyone, and if it did, AARP would be leading the fight to kill it.
Is there mandatory end-of-life counseling for all seniors? Why?
No. This is another myth that reform opponents are using to scare people. What the bill does is let physicians get paid by Medicare for counseling people about things like advance directives, living wills, durable powers of attorney, hospice care and other steps people can take to make sure their wishes about how they want to be cared for at the end of life are known and followed. It's entirely up to the doctor and patient whether this counseling takes place, and completely up to patients whether they take steps based on the counseling to put their end-of-life wishes into legal documents. Facing a terminal disease or debilitating accident, some people want every possible life-saving measure in the hopes that treatment will give them more time with their families. Others will decide that additional treatment is not what they want and decline extraordinary measures. Either way, it should be their choice; all this does is help them make informed decisions about these issues with their doctor.
Will I be losing Medicare as the result of reform?
No. If you like the coverage you have, you can keep it, and that includes Medicare and your medigap coverage. Reform will help curb skyrocketing inflation throughout our health care system, including Medicare, so that Medicare coverage remains affordable for both you and the taxpayers who help foot the bill.
Will I be able to keep my current insurance coverage, which works well?
Yes. If you like the coverage you have, you can keep it.
Will preexisting conditions continue to exclude people from coverage?
No. There is broad, bipartisan agreement that health reform should ban insurers from discriminating against people based on any preexisting health problems.

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