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AARP S. Dak. Members to Participate in Health Care Telephone Town Hall

June 17, 2009

Sioux Falls, SD – It won't exactly be "smilin' and dialin'," as thousands of AARP South Dakota members participate in a town hall meeting this evening - by telephone - with South Dakota Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin. Their collective goal is to express their concerns about the nation's healthcare system.

According to AARP South Dakota State Director, Sarah Jennings, her group is pleased that healthcare reform has moved up on the priority list for the President and Congress. Although it is early in the process, with no consensus on details for a new reform plan, she says urgent action is needed to lower costs while keeping patients safe and the quality high. In her view, all Americans should have access to affordable healthcare choices.

"We look forward to working with the administration and with all members of Congress, both parties, to make sure we get a solution, because, as you know, AARP has been saying - throughout our history, but really loudly for the past few years - that it's going to take a bipartisan solution to really fix the healthcare system."

South Dakota has numerous health care challenges, Jennings explains, with more than 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries of the "Part D" prescription drug coverage falling into the so-called "donut hole," in which they are required to pick up the full cost of their medications until they reach a high deductible amount.

"We have people that don't have access to their doctors across the state; folks that don't have health insurance. There are competing numbers about how many uninsured we have in South Dakota, but we have thousands with no health insurance at all. There are also people in South Dakota who don't have enough insurance to be able to actually go get the care they need."

After tonight's first-ever statewide telephone town hall event with Rep. Herseth-Sandlin, Jennings says other members of the state's congressional delegation will be invited to participate in future, similar statewide forums. The phone arrangement allows Herseth-Sandlin to join in from Washington D.C., while AARP members will be called at random to listen and participate.

David Law, Public News Service - SD