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AARP Responds to Health Reform Scare Tactics

Commentary by Betsy McCaughey 'rife with gross, cruel distortions'

NEW YORK, Aug. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AARP New York State Director Lois Aronstein issued the following statement in response to recent commentary by Betsy McCaughey in various media outlets on health care reform measures passed or currently being considered by Congress.

"Betsy McCaughey's recent commentary on health care reform column in various media outlets is rife with gross -- and even cruel -- distortions.

"Ms. McCaughey has again launched her customary broadside attack against comparative effectiveness research. She describes this term as 'code' for 'limiting care based on a patient's age.' In fact the term for that is 'age rating,' a practice used by insurance companies to discriminate against older Americans against which AARP is vigorously fighting, and we look forward to her next column to help the cause.

"'Comparative effectiveness research,' on the other hand, is a technical term that just means giving doctors and patients the ability to compare different kinds of treatments to find out which one works best for which patient.

"Some estimates say that only about half of all therapies that patients receive have been backed up by head-to-head comparisons with alternatives. While our country spends more than $2 trillion a year on health care, we spend less than 0.1 percent on evaluating how that care works compared to other options.

"This research has been around (although sadly not enough) for decades, enjoying support from political leaders of both parties, doctors, patients, and consumer advocacy groups.

"The main opponents of this research are those groups with a vested interest in a health care system that wastes billions of dollars each year on ineffective or unnecessary drugs, treatments or tests. Given Ms. McCaughey's position as a Director of a medical device producer, I would hope that any potential conflict of interest has not influenced her commentary.

"More concerning, Ms. McCaughey's criticism misinterprets legislation that would actually help empower individuals and doctors to make their own choices on end-of-life care.

"This measure would allow Medicare to pay doctors for taking the time to talk with individuals about difficult end-of-life care decisions. It would help provide people with better information on the positives and negatives -- both physical and financial -- that different treatments can mean for them and their families.

"Facing a terminal disease or debilitating accident, some people will choose to take every possible life-saving measure in the hopes that treatment or even a cure will allow them more time with their families. Others will decide that additional treatment would impose too great a burden -- emotional, physical and otherwise -- on themselves and their families, declining extraordinary measures and instead choosing care to manage their discomfort. Either way, it should be their choice.

"This measure would not only help people make the best decisions for themselves, but also better ensure that their wishes are followed.

"To suggest otherwise is a gross, and even cruel, distortion -- especially for any family that has been forced to make the difficult decisions on care for loved ones approaching the end of their lives.

"AARP is committed to improving the quality, effectiveness, and affordability of health care for our 2.6 million members in New York State and our 40 million members and their families nationwide. We will fight any measure that would prevent individuals and their doctors from making their own health care decisions. We will also fight the campaign of misinformation that vested interests are using to try to scare older Americans in order to protect the status quo. Profits should never be allowed to come before people in this debate."

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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