Last week, I detailed the cozy relationship that AARP has developed with the Obama administration. Today, the nation's largest organization of older Americans has devoted the front page of its website to promoting a telephone town hall meeting with President Obama at 1:30. You can register to attempt to ask a question here.
The group already has a Q&A up trying to counter legitimate concerns about his proposals. A sample:
Why is AARP not standing up for seniors when Obama says he will cut Medicare to help pay for health care?
The proposed changes to Medicare will help to get fraud, waste and abuse out of the system and create payment incentives to reward doctors and hospitals for the quality, rather than the quantity, of care they provide. They will not cut the benefits our members rely on in the traditional Medicare program, but will help to keep it affordable to make sure you get the care you need.
Isn’t this socialized medicine?
No. In socialized medicine the government directly owns the hospitals and directly employs the doctors. No one in Washington is talking seriously about anything like that. What health reform will do instead is provide people with a system much like the one members of Congress enjoy today. They will be able to choose from a range of quality, affordable private health plans, and possibly a publicly run option as well. These plans will have to accept everyone regardless of preexisting conditions or age. There also will be sliding-scale subsidies for people with moderate to low incomes to make sure the coverage is affordable for everyone.
If you can't tell much difference between the spin given by AARP and what you hear from Obama himself, that's because there isn't any. AARP has essentially turned the organization into a de facto branch of the White House media operation. The group, which bills itself as nonpartisan, has thrown its full weight behind Obama's health care proposals even though they would slash Medicare spending by $622 billion. As a conservative, of course, I'm all for reining in entitlement spending, but this is a group that spreads fear whenever Republicans try to do anything about the issue, no matter how modest. As I previously noted, in 2006, when Bush proposed far smaller Medicare cuts of $105 billion over 10 years, USA Today quoted an AARP spokesman as saying, "The Congress, in an election year, is not going to pass these disastrous provisions."
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