America is closer to achieving meaningful health insurance reform today than it has been in more than four decades. But over the last month there's been a lot of misinformation swirling about senior death panels, euthanasia and rationing of care for sick seniors.
It's important for all Americans, and seniors in particular, to educate themselves about the health insurance reform bill being considered in Congress, and to know what it will and won't mean for their medical care.
Efforts underway to reform the system will not prevent America's seniors from getting the care they need. It won't cut corners to cut costs.
What health insurance reform will do is prevent overspending and waste on care that doesn't actually improve seniors' health. It will target waste, fraud and abuse that do not improve care. Here's how:
• Reform will emphasize prevention and wellness. Instead of spending billions when people get sick, reform will make sure they get the care they need to stay well.
• It will make sure that doctors are rewarded for providing quality care, not for the number of procedures they perform.
• It will eliminate billions in unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, who are already making handy profits.
• It will close the doughnut hole in Medicare Part D, which costs seniors so much money every year.
The reforms proposed in Congress would also protect your choice of doctor, lower prescription drug costs, support coverage for early retirees and lower cost for low-income seniors.
Still, there are many myths out there about health insurance reform, and it's important we examine those, too.
For starters, a lot of seniors are concerned about a provision in the House bill that would provide counseling for end of life care. This provision would allow senior citizens access to optional counseling and information on preparing a living will, providing medical power of attorney, and - if they are seeking this kind of advice - end of life decisions.
It would actually empower individuals to make the best decisions for themselves and their families and better ensure that their wishes will be followed, not make difficult decisions for them about the care they'll receive at the end of their lives.
Claims that the bill encourages euthanasia are a cruel and appalling distortion of the truth. In fact, the concept has been part of federal law since 1990 - but now it would be paid for by Medicare, rather than out of seniors' pockets.
Reform will not destroy America, mean higher taxes for seniors, increase long-term care costs or cause the elderly to lose their prescription drug coverage.
It's great that so many Americans are talking about health insurance reform. But it's also important that they have the facts about this important bill. We cannot continue to believe the distortions spread by insurance companies motivated by profits.
• Scott Watts is president of Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans. For more information, visit www.