LANSING -- "No one should be denied coverage"
And with that, AARP CEO A. Barry Rand made the group's much-anticipated announcement Thursday.
"The AARP is proud to endorse the Affordable Health Care for America Act," Rand declared from a press conference in Washington, D.C.
Eric Schneidewind, state president in Michigan, looked on via TV conference. "The legislation that AARP is supporting today will guarantee that you will have affordable, quality health care," he said.
Specifically, the House bill now endorsed by the nonpartisan group would:
1. Subsidize insurance for poor Americans
2. Create health insurance exchanges, which would include a government-run option
3. Cap out-of-pocket expenses
The goal of all that? Lower health-care costs and insure the nearly 40 million Americans still without coverage.
And the reasons for support from the AARP were numerous.
"It protects and strengthens Medicare," Rand said.
"It should save money over time," said Schneidewind, noting the bill's emphasis on preventive care and deals with hospitals, as well as drug and insurance companies, to lower their fees.
And perhaps the key issue for the group: The House bill would substantially close the so-called "doughnut hole" in prescription drug coverage for seniors.
"If you use a lot of prescription drugs, you're paying thousands of dollars for those drugs, even if you're pretty low-income," Schneidewind said.
The one sticking point left for advocates for seniors is long-term care, like stays at a nursing home or assisted-living facility.
Lansing resident Jone Small, for example, recently had a hip replacement. At 76, she's covered by Medicare and Medicaid but says if there are any problems with her new hip, or other expensive health issues, and she'll be sunk.
"They pay a certain percent, but then there's the other that's not paid, so therefore - I have no means to pay that other 20 percent or whatever," she said.
A problem the AARP is hoping the House bill can help solve.