AARP Says Governor Otter on Wrong Page With Health Care Reform

Jan 05, 2010, 09:00 ET from AARP Idaho

Gov's Threats to Fight Reforms and Sue U.S. Puts Interests of Insurance Companies and Rx Industry before Idaho's Health Care Crisis

BOISE, Idaho, Jan. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ - As Congress readies to merge the Senate and House health care reform bills, some states, including Idaho, are stepping up to serve as the latest roadblock. Before even seeing the details of the final legislation, Idaho's Governor "Butch" Otter recently announced he would fight reform efforts and possibly sue the United States over the constitutionality of the issue.

AARP is calling that a move in the wrong direction for tackling the state's growing health care crisis, and says the constitutional challenge is a scare tactic and unfounded.

"Governor Otter's announcement to rail against health care reform is premature, unnecessary and, if successful, would do much more harm than good for hundreds of thousands of Idahoans struggling with high health care costs," said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho. "This move puts the interests and profits of insurance and drug companies before the needs of Idaho families, businesses and retirees buckling under insurance premiums and rising prescription drug prices."

In Idaho, 221,000 people are uninsured - the overwhelming majority (88%) of which are employed. Roughly 27% of Idaho's Medicare beneficiaries fell into the prescription drug coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole" last year, where they had to pay full price out of pocket for their prescriptions - leaving many to stop taking their medications or cut pills due to costs. While 400,000 residents spend about 10% of their incomes on health care, 100,000 spend upwards of 25% - for older people health care costs eat up about 30% of their household income.

Without any action on health care reform, health insurance premiums will increase 40% in the next few years and double by 2016. Brand name prescription drug prices, which soared by over 9% in the past year, are expected to continue to rise.

"To simply say 'no' to health care reform can only serve to make Idaho's health care crisis worse; the cost of inaction on this issue is too high," added Wordelman. "We're calling on Idaho's elected officials to set partisan politics aside and work to make the final health care reform bill the best it can be - that's what Idaho deserves."

Both the Senate and the House bill would: lower drug costs; help the uninsured and businesses have more affordable access to health insurance; ensure people with pre-existing conditions have access to health insurance; hold insurers more accountable to consumers; protect choice of doctors; and hold down the costs of coverage. AARP has committed to making the final health care reform package even stronger by working to permanently close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole as the Senate bill is merged with the House bill. Both the Senate bill and the House bill have moved forward without support from Idaho's Congressional delegation.