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Current financial crisis demands health reform

Skyrocketing health care costs have Ohio’s working families struggling to make ends meet and are pushing our employers to the brink.

As wages tighten and unemployment rises across the state, soaring medical costs are squeezing individuals and families – forcing some into bankruptcy.

We’re seeing major industries forced to close or impose drastic layoffs, finding the soaring cost of health insurance is putting their businesses (and our nation as a whole) at a global disadvantage.

Our current health care system costs too much, wastes too much, makes too many mistakes and returns too little value for our money.

Still, some members of Ohio’s congressional delegation are telling us that we cannot afford to fix our broken health system, we need to wait. That doesn’t make sense.

Now is the time to fix the system that if left unchecked will only worsen. We can’t afford the cost of doing nothing.

As state president for AARP Ohio, I can assure you that we will be working across the state and across the nation to convince our leaders to take on real health care reform now and ensure that all Americans have access to their choice of quality health care plans that they can afford. AARP believes we must:

Make affordable health care coverage options available to everyone, especially people ages 50-64 who are among the fastest growing group of uninsured

Keep Medicare affordable by rewarding doctors and hospitals for quality rather than quantity of care

Promote prevention and healthy behaviors

Eliminate fraud, waste and abuse

Improve care coordination for people with chronic conditions, help them stay in their homes and out of institutions

Cut administrative costs by replacing paper records with a secure online record system

Use research to help doctors and patients determine the most effective treatment

Reduce the cost of prescription drugs through bulk purchasing for Medicare and Medicaid

Increase the use of generics, including life-saving biologic drugs used to treat diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis.

By making health care reform an important priority in his address to the nation and by providing funding for it in his budget, President Obama began building the momentum necessary to spur action on health reform this year. AARP believes that all of us – individuals, providers, purchasers, insurers, and government – have a role to play. We encourage you to join us in urging Congress to act now on comprehensive reform to bring down costs, improve quality, and ensure that all Americans can get affordable, quality coverage.

Please join us in telling U.S. Senators George Voinovich, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and all of our U.S. Representatives – including Democrats Charlie Wilson and Zack Space – to end partisan bickering, put their best ideas on the table, and work together now to make health reform a priority met this year. You can learn more and find contact information for your congressional representatives at www.dividedwefail.org

Joanne Limbach, who lives in New Philadelphia, volunteers as state president for AARP Ohio and as a member of the AARP National Policy Council.