Impact of AMA, AARP Endorsements on Health Care Reform Vote

Armen Hareyan's picture

Just before the House of Representatives plans to vote on health reform, the Democrats have seen a boost for their proposals. Yesterday, two prominent organizations expressed their support for healthcare reform. The AARP (American Association for Retired Persons), which is the United States' leading lobbying group for senior citizens, has decided to back the Democratic bill. Also significant is the support from the doctors' professional organization, the American Medical Association (AMA). Both of these endorsements give greater weight to the Obama's administration's recommendations, including the possibility of a public option. However, will they manage to convince their constituents that reform is the best idea?

Statistics show that one out of two Americans over 65 is a card-carrying member of AARP. As a result, they have collect millions in dues each year--money that can be spent on lobbying politicians and the public. AARP plans to flex their financial muscle with television advertisements highlighting what they believe are the benefits of health reform. Despite their backing of reform, senior citizens have been the most vocal in their opposition. Yesterday, several thousand people joined Republican politicians like Representative Michelle Bachmann in a protest outside of Capitol Hill. They intend to sway the House's vote, which is expected to occur this weekend. Their strategy might work on some Democrats from conservative districts worried about their re-election chances next year.

According to the AARP, health reform will strengthen Medicare--a pivotal issue for seniors, who believe that the bill will be paid for through cuts to existing programs. In addition, an AARP spokesperson pointed to the bill's potential for helping seniors pay for their prescription drugs. It must also be remembered that AARP's membership roster includes many 50-to-64 year olds, a demographic that has suffered in this recession. They are most likely to be laid off and lose their employer-sponsored health insurance, yet are too young to sign up for Medicare.


While the American Medical Association has agreed to back Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's bill, their support for health reform is less enthusiastic. Their support is contingent upon Congress also passing a separate bill preventing a reduction in Medicare's payments to doctors. Without the law, the payment cut is expected to occur next year. There are also some state medical associations, as well as medical specialists' organizations, who oppose a public option. These organizations believe that such a plan would drive down payment rates; admittedly, Democrats promise that the increased competition from a public option would result in lower health care costs.

The Obama administration is hailing these endorsements and hoping that they convince some representatives on the fence regarding this vote. The AMA's endorsement, especially, is seen as proof that doctors aren't worried about medical decisions being made by federal bureaucrats. Their endorsements are unlikely to convince Republican opponents who consider health reform an attack on their freedoms, but may impact some wobbling Democrats.

On the other hand, maybe their support came too late, after months of debate that have allowed opinions to become set in stone. We will find out as early as Saturday if the AARP and AMA helped Pelosi receive the 218 votes needed to pass her bill.

Written by Yamileth Medina for VitalOne Health Plans Direct, LLC.