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Florida Seniors Applaud 'Myth-Buster-in-Chief'

September 15, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - With all eyes this week on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, which is expected to act on health care reform, advocates for Florida seniors credit President Obama with playing a key role as 'myth-buster-in-chief' in his speech to a joint session of Congress.

AARP Florida state operations manager Jeff Johnson says Obama was right to challenge myths about so-called death panels because, he says, they are simply not mentioned in any version of health care reform. He says the President's decision to set the record straight that reform will not cut Medicare is also of vital importance to seniors.

"There's great concern being taken to make sure that benefits are not cut, that people are able to keep the benefits that they have, that they be able to still choose the same doctors that they have right now."

The Medicare prescription-drug coverage "doughnut hole," is another issue AARP is watching. It's a gap in coverage that can cost people thousands of dollars. Johnson says Obama made it clear that the House bill would close the doughnut hole over time, and the Senate is talking about reducing the cost of brand name drugs by 50 percent for people who are in the doughnut hole. He says both would be huge steps forward.

"It has forced people, just as when they had no drug coverage, to make tough choices that are really not good for them, between food and medicine, or not taking prescriptions that are recommended for them."

Some Republicans said the President fell short on details about costs and how the plan would be paid for, but Johnson disagrees, adding that he is more concerned about other costs.

"While there may be costs, whether they be financial costs or political costs, the cost of doing nothing is much, much greater. We have got to recognize that the current path is unsustainable, and we need to fix what's broken while we protect what works."

An AARP survey found 77 percent of political independents over age 45 had concerns about health care reform going into the speech, but that 72 percent felt the President had addressed their concerns.

The survey is at www.aarp.org

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL