WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Democratic Presidential candidate and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich issued the following statement today regarding the Presidential forum in Davenport, Iowa tonight from which he was excluded: "AARP, the sponsor of tonight's Presidential debate on health care reform, was instrumental in the passage of Medicare Part D legislation which took price controls off what pharmaceutical companies charge Medicare. It ensured big profits for the industry and, at the same time, dealt Medicare a crippling financial blow. That action led to massive cancellations of AARP memberships by senior citizens. "AARP is one of the top lobbying groups in Washington, according to Open Secrets, exceeding Ford, GM and the NRA. In 2005, it spent more than $36 million on lobbying, second that year only to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Regrettably, some of those lobbying activities are increasingly aligned with for-profit insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. This year AARP signed an agreement with insurance giants Aetna and United Healthcare that will gain the organization more than $4 billion dollars over a period of seven years. "Is it appropriate for AARP to be sponsoring a Democratic Presidential debate on health care while excluding the one candidate who wants to dramatically change the system from which AARP profits mightily? AARP is a marketing arm of the for-profit insurance industry. They undermine Medicare, then drive their members to an array of products offered by the private insurance companies. Their mission is to keep private, for-profit insurance companies in control of the American health care system. One way to do that is to try to limit the discussion regarding health care reform options during a Presidential debate. Every candidate on the platform tonight is dedicated to preserving the for-profit health care system and their relationship to it. "Candidates who have received millions of dollars in contributions from the for-profit health care industry or whose financial interests are enhanced by the privatization of Medicare will be talking about their plans to preserve the role of for-profit companies at a forum sponsored by an organization expected to make $4 billion selling private health insurance. This is less a Presidential debate, than it is a carnival of special interests. AARP has changed. It used to advance the interests of the elderly. Now it advances the interests of pharmaceutical and insurance companies. "I am the co-author of legislation (HR 767) establishing a national, not- for profit health insurance system that would cover all Americans, without premiums, deductibles of co-payments. No one would be denied coverage, and no one would be denied services. "Under the plans proposed by two of tonight's participants, Senator Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards, private insurance companies stand to make even more money because Americans would be forced to buy insurance coverage and the federal government would subsidize the insurers to make their policies more affordable. These plans would gouge the consumers and the taxpayers. "I'm not afraid to take on the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists and allies. Americans have an absolute right to quality health care without worrying about how to afford it. We spend over $2 trillion a year on health care, and we still have 47 million people uninsured and another 50 million who are under-insured. If we took the profit out of health care, we would have more than enough to cover every American for everything. "No other candidate has the ability, the willingness, or the political independence to tackle the real problem. This may be the one time that being denied a seat at the table is a badge of honor. "A New York Times cartoonist once referred to AARP as the 'American Association of Republican Politicians.' Tonight's Democratic Presidential debate should be watched with that in mind."
SOURCE Kucinich for President 2008