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Sponsor of Presidential Health Care Forum Has a $4 Billion Conflict of Interest: Kucinich

AARP deal with private insurers raises serious questions

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The sponsor of tomorrow night's Presidential forum in Iowa focused on health care reform has "a $4 billion vested interest in preserving the role of private, for-profit insurance companies in the health care industry," Ohio Congressman and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said today.

According to published reports, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) "will net AARP $4.4 billion over seven years from the insurance giants United Healthcare and Aetna" with whom the organization signed agreements earlier this year. Under the AARP brand name, the organization will promote Aetna insurance policies to its members between the ages of 50 and 64 and United Healthcare policies for Medicare-eligible members.

Kucinich, the only Democratic candidate proposing a national, not-for-profit health insurance plan that would eliminate for-profit insurers from the health care system (HR 676), was specifically excluded from tomorrow's forum by AARP.

"It's clear that they didn't want me upsetting their multi-billion dollar applecart," Kucinich said. "The health care plans of the invited candidates preserve and promote the interests of for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies at the expense of tens of millions of everyday Americans who either can't afford coverage or are being over-charged for the inadequate coverage they struggle to afford."

Kucinich said AARP's sponsorship of the Presidential forum "is like having Haliburton or Blackwater sponsor a Presidential forum on doing away with no-bid government contracts to private contractors; or an oil company sponsoring a forum on reducing the world's dependence on oil."

Kucinich emphasized that he was not taking issue with the 38 million members of AARP. "Millions of trusting AARP members have bought Medicare-supplemental and prescription drug insurance plans from AARP, believing that they were getting a good deal. The 'AARP name' was like the 'Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.' It turns out, however, that AARP is taking a $4 billion cut by steering its members to profiteering private insurance companies trying to capitalize on fear and confusion."

His plan, he explained, "would cover every American, with no premiums, no deductibles, and no co-payments. No one would be denied coverage or services."

"The fact that Senators Clinton, Obama, and former Senator Edwards are pushing plans to keep the for-profit private insurers in business and in control may explain why they are willing to participate in this fake and tainted debate," Kucinich said.

He also questioned the decision by Iowa Public Television to televise the Presidential forum and simulcast it to other PBS stations in other states. "Profit-driven and politics-driven media conglomerates are controlling what we see on TV and what we hear on the radio. Public broadcasting should represent a higher, more ethical standard," he said. "In this case, public broadcasting will shamefully promote private interests."

SOURCE Kucinich for President 2008
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