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Oregon AARP: Health Care Bill Fits the Bill

November 6, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. - The U.S. House is getting ready to put health care reform to a vote. The Affordable Health Care for America Act is scheduled for consideration this weekend, and AARP, the nation's largest lobbying group for seniors, has endorsed the plan.

Joyce DeMonnin, director of public outreach for AARP Oregon, says the House legislation would expand coverage to some groups of Oregonians who are having a tough time getting it.

"Right now, we have over a hundred thousand people age 50 to 64 who are uninsured. Most of these people are working and just cannot afford health insurance; whereas another 85,000 people in this group are trying to buy coverage in this individual market that is very expensive."

The bill also does a lot to protect and strengthen Medicare for people ages 65 and older, says DeMonnin, including phasing out the so-called "donut hole." That is the name given the coverage gap causing some seniors on Medicare to have to pay their drug costs out of pocket. The proposal also would not allow insurance companies to deny or charge more for health coverage based on a person's age or pre-existing conditions.

While Oregon has already done a lot to revamp its own health care system, DeMonnin says the federal bill goes further.

"Oregon really is a leader in so many ways in health care reform, but there are still many 'fixes' that need to be done. We still have many adults who are not insured, and it doesn't really address the needs of people in Medicare, or younger people who don't have insurance, that are adults."

Opponents of the bill and its related pieces of legislation say it will be too expensive and nothing is being done to control medical costs. However, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated the plan would save money within ten years. The American Medial Association joined AARP this week in endorsing the legislation. Any House bill still would have to be combined with Senate legislation to create a final bill.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR