Advocacy / AMAC In The Media / Politics / Radio Interviews

Hospital Billing – Andy Mangione on The Steve Gruber Show

Steve Gruber

You know here’s the problem when it comes to medical service. It’s a lack of clarity when it comes to billing. Now, we’ve talked about this many times as have so many people, because, you know, can you imagine paying thousands of dollars more for surgery at one Hospital over another because the one hospital does not post its pricing? I mean, that is a big concern. Why would you do that? Answer is, you probably wouldn’t. Joining me is Andy Mangione, Senior Vice President for AMAC. That’s the Association of Mature American Citizens. The conservative version of an organization for those over the age of 50. Andy, welcome to the program.

Andy Mangione

Good morning, Steve. Thanks for having me.

Steve

Good to have you Andy. Glad to have you here. So, how do we get – I mean, we’ve had this conversation. On this program, people talk about it all the time. If there were just truth and billing. If we knew what we were paying for, and pick your service, and it wasn’t just we go to the hospital and spin the wheel and hope for the best, because, that’s kind of the way it works right now. You have no idea what you’re paying for anything. How do we get past that?

Andy

Price transparency. And the President is taking a hard look at this. If everything was transparent as the sticker price on an automobile, or the price of a house, not only would health care prices drop, but you would empower patients. And we’re talking in – emergency situations are what they are, but if you have to have a knee replaced, why shouldn’t you be able to shop four or five hospitals in their hometown, see who’s got the best price, who offers the best service, and then make an informed decision and take care of yourself? This is where the President wants to take us. But there’s a strong Lobby that’s fighting against this.

Steve

You know that’s what we do with every other purchase, isn’t it Andy? We go, we look and see what’s out there. We might go with the cheapest, we might go with something we like better because it has some features that we’re willing to pay more for. Maybe the hospital is a nicer facility. It’s closer to our home, maybe were willing to pay for that convenience. But if you don’t know what the price is that all, you’re just operating in the dark, and I think it’s important the President looks at this. Now on the other – yeah – on the other side of this, my concern is, I don’t like government price controls pretty much anywhere. I don’t think we ever see – this is the most you – this is you know, one size fits all. That’s a dangerous place to be as well, is it not.

Andy

Absolutely, and especially – I mean the price controls are bad. Written with regard, government price controls always are. In the past, what we’ve seen in other countries, consistently lead to rationing. So, we do not want any mandated federal price controls, particularly in private health care.

Steve

Well, let’s talk about AMAC for a second and your role in pushing for some changes. For anybody that doesn’t know, tell them what AMAC is, first of all.

Andy

AMAC is a right-of-center member benefits organization with a business model that’s identical to the other folks – the AARP people – So, we’re a member benefits group, but we’re a right-of-center group, and we tell you that upfront. Part of – the premise of our mission statement, Steve, is Faith, Family, and Freedom. We advocate for lower taxes. We want to curb out-of-control spending. We believe the Constitution is the greatest document ever created by man. We believe in religious freedom. We support the Second Amendment. We tell you what we’re lobbying for, and we lobby for our members and they drive our decisions. So, we’re an organization. We don’t sit around a room and pick and choose the issues that we’re going to support. Our members tell us that. And we started about 13 years ago, and we built AMAC into an over two-million-member organization that has members in all 50 states. We are experiencing a surge in membership – it only costs 16 bucks to join AMAC and it covers your household, that’s for a year. [Right, right.] As I mentioned before, we’re experiencing a huge surge in membership.

Steve

A counterpart or a counterbalance maybe – a counterweight to AARP is the way you put it, and I think that’s a fair way to put it. And with more than two million members, you start to have some clout when it comes to lobbying for transparency in medical bills, for example. So, you’ve got some pull, Andy.

Andy

Yes, we do. It’s been a long road, but yes, we do. We have the – I’m part of the team that goes to Washington, I was in Washington last week. People there know who we are. We average about, members – that’s an average per congressional district. So, when I walk into a congressional office – some districts have as many as , depending on, you know, on the state – but when I walk into an office and talk about those types of numbers the member of Congress realize that, number one, that there’s an alternative that they can tap into. When they want to speak with this demographic, and also there’s a voting bloc of AMAC members in their district. Do you think people realize that there’s an alternative to AARP? I mean they’ve been out there for so long and they’re, you know, their mission, I guess, is pretty well known by a lot of folks, in many regards. But I think that the thing that people don’t realize about AARP that you’re being upfront about with AMAC, is that they lobby too, and they often lobby on the left side of the ledger, for different pieces of legislation, right?

Andy

It’s interesting that you say that. We would love to work with AARP, Steve. We find ourselves about degrees on the other end of the spectrum with regard to how to solve the problems that are facing America. Let me give you a quick example. Last year, the President issued a rebate rule where he wanted pharmacy benefit managers to share the rebates they received from pharmaceutical manufacturers. They wanted to share these rebates with Medicare beneficiaries at the point of purchase to lower their out-of-pocket expenses. We thought this was a good idea and we supported it. AARP – their leadership – despite their members supporting this, lobbied against it. I think that gives you a good indication of where they are in the political spectrum.

Steve

Yeah, and so, let’s be honest – plenty of folks, and in fact I would hazard a guess, the conservatism is stronger in people over 50 quite clearly than it is than people under 50, based on, I don’t know, watching the debate in Nevada last night for example. It gives me the impression that maybe people over 50 have a tendency to be more conservative. Call me crazy, Andy, but that’s where I’m going with it.

Andy

I’m not going to call you crazy, Steve. I think that as we get older, we’ve been paying taxes for a long time, you have a fiscal sense, you know on the faith defense as well, but yeah, I would say that’s a safe observation.

Steve

So, besides the push to have more transparency and honesty and pricing when it comes to health care issues, what other sorts of things do you dig into it AMAC?

Andy

We dig into the solvency of Social Security. The last thing we want to see to make Social Security solvent is a tax increase. And we’ve crafted a plan that would make Social Security solvent for generations without raising taxes. It does call for some structural changes – courageous structural changes – but it doesn’t cut benefits.

Steve

Let me ask you about that. What kind of structural changes? What would you do to make Social Security solvent for the next several decades or longer?

Andy

The biggest component would be an age setback. So, we would take a look at extending the age back, to receive your benefits, for a couple of years. We also would take a look at people’s incomes – some people call this means-testing. But keep in mind that we’re looking at making Social Security solvent without raising taxes. Right now, generations – the Millennials and probably the folks in generation Z, although they’re younger – they don’t believe that Social Security is going to be around there. Unless our children and our grandchildren increase taxes.

Steve

You know when I was in my 20s, I wasn’t convinced Social Security would still be around. It hits here, but it does need structural changes. And I think you’re right about raising the age to collect Social Security, maybe one month per year so it’s not drastic, it’s not a shock to the system, but I’m sure that’s something you guys have talked about. I’ve got to leave it right there. Andy Mangione, Senior Vice President for AMAC, The Association of Mature American Citizens. Real quickly, Andy, where can people go find out more right now?

Andy

They can go to our website at www.amac.us – or call 888-262-2006

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