State AARP reinforces group's endorsement

AARP South Carolina joined its national organization's endorsement of U.S. House legislation designed to reform the country's health care system.

Members of the 550,000-member group met in Columbia Thursday during the nationally teleconferenced announcement. State AARP leaders said pending House legislation would keep Medicare strong and ensure access to doctors, while also lowering prescription drug costs and providing affordable health coverage.

The House is set to vote on the reform plan Saturday.

"AARP started this conversation more than two years ago, with the twin goals of making coverage affordable to our younger members and protecting Medicare for seniors," said Jim Love, AARP South Carolina spokesman.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act will bring improved benefits for people in Medicare, Love said, and needed reforms in the health insurance market so that every American can purchase health coverage.

Over the summer, AARP South Carolina lost members as concerns were raised in boisterous town hall meetings that seniors would be harmed by the reforms.

Love maintained that the losses had more to do with the economic downturn than the fears raised at those meetings.

"We're hoping they will hear our side now and see how it benefits them," Love said. "We think we're getting the message out."

Love said AARP South Carolina will gives its members information about the health reform package through its publications, paid advertising, phone calls and e-mails.

In a related development, the House Energy and Commerce committee has released a report outlining benefits of the House legislation for specific congressional districts. For example, it said that in Rep. Joe Wilson's 2nd District, it would improve employer-based coverage for 484,000 residents, improve Medicare for 114,000, provide credits to 186,000 households to help pay for health insurance, and "protect up to 800 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs."

Details are available on the committee's Web site. Visit energycommerce.house.gov and do a site search for "district by district impact."

- Roddie Burriss and staff reports