Has the AARP Gone Senile?

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Posted: Jul 23, 2009 2:20 PM
In today's Wall Street Journal, Betsy McCaughey writes:
The Congressional majority wants to pay for its $1 trillion to $1.6 trillion health bills with new taxes and a $500 billion cut to Medicare. This cut will come just as baby boomers turn 65 and increase Medicare enrollment by 30%. Less money and more patients will necessitate rationing.
One might ask themselves, "Where is the AARP to stand up for seniors and decry this ludicrous proposal?!"  As President Obama proudly pointed out last night, the AARP actually supports his plan.

Say what?

Let's look at exactly what's at stake for America's senior citizens if the Obama administration is successful.  McCaughey points out:
The assault against seniors began with the stimulus package in February. Slipped into the bill was substantial funding for comparative effectiveness research, which is generally code for limiting care based on the patient’s age. Economists are familiar with the formula, where the cost of a treatment is divided by the number of years (called QALYs, or quality-adjusted life years) that the patient is likely to benefit. In Britain, the formula leads to denying treatments for older patients who have fewer years to benefit from care than younger patients.
As disturbing as this policy sounds, it gets much worse:
The House bill shifts resources from specialty medicine to primary care based on the misconception that Americans overuse specialist care and drive up costs in the process (pp. 660-686).  In fact, heart-disease patients treated by generalists instead of specialists are often misdiagnosed and treated incorrectly. They are readmitted to the hospital more frequently, and die sooner.

Jeffrey Borer, chairman of medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center [adds]: “Seldom do generalists have the knowledge to identify the symptoms of aortic valve disease, even though more than 10% of people over 75 have it. After valve surgery, patients who were too short of breath to walk can resume a normal life into their 80s or 90s.”
So, in terms of the best possible treatment, generalists might be ok, but specialists are exponentially better.  So why would the AARP support a program that would significantly limit senior citizens' access to these specialists?  Furthermore, why on earth would the AARP would ever support anything like this:
While the House bill being pushed by the president reduces access to such cures and specialists, it ensures that seniors are counseled on end-of-life options, including refusing nutrition where state law allows it (pp. 425-446). In Oregon, some cancer patients are being denied care by the state that could extend their lives and instead are afforded the benefit of physician-assisted suicide.
A government program to help convince our aging loved ones to kill themselves? If you weren't considering it before, now might be a good time to rescind that membership with the AARP.