Opinion / Politics

Live from CPAC – Andy Mangione on Smart Girl Politics


Teri Christoph
We are back live at CPAC or recorded like fingers likes to say, who is recording me right now. On the broadcast row at CPAC, which is exciting and have another great guest for you, who is Andy Mangione. Senior Vice President for AMAC Action. Which is the advocacy arm of the American Association of Mature American Citizens. Welcome Andy!

Andy Mangione

 Thank you so much for having me Teri.  

Christoph

 How’s your CPAC going?  

Mangione

 It’s going wonderful, very busy, very productive, so inspiring to come here. I love the energy that it’s so diverse, just not only the age group, across ethnic groups. I love all the young people here that they really energize us.  

Christoph

 You could use Energy once you get to Friday when we’re recording, and you need a little bit of energy. Yea no, it’s a great crowd, it’s very, it’s changed over the years and it’s really cool. Could you maybe start off our conversation by telling listeners what AMAC is because it may not be something that everybody knows about?  

Mangione

 Sure, AMAC is an acronym for The Association of Mature American Citizens. We are a right-of-center group for Americans who are age plus. Anyone can join AMAC, but we are the chief competitor to AARP. Here’s the difference, we tell you upfront who we are, and what that is.  

Christoph

 Right.  

Mangione

 And who we are is a conservative group. The premise of our mission statement comprises faith, family, and freedom. We support the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, religious freedom, we support smaller government, strong defense, we support sensible spending, we support getting rid of the government in our daily lives, we object to its intrusion. Our members are very concerned with the solvency of Social Security and health care and that’s the huge umbrella of health care. That’s everything from prescription drug prices to out-of-pocket expenses, high deductibles. So, we are a right-of-center organization we were founded in by a private individual who felt the other group didn’t necessarily reflect his values.  

Christoph

 Right.  

Mangione

 Let’s fast forward now to almost years later we have 2.1 million AMAC members in all 50 states. We’ve been experiencing a surge in membership to the tune of about 5,000 new members a week, and importantly between two and six thousand members are renewing weekly as well. So, when people join AMAC they stick around and they renew, we have a great retention rate.  

Christoph

 Why do you think that if, that’s really good growth, I mean any organization would love to see that growth, what do you attribute it to?  

Mangione

 Well we’d like to think it’s all the marketing that we do, but we also recognize that we are in a very unique political climate. And it’s almost that the crazier our friends get on the on the left, the more people join AMAC. That’s not a scientific, that’s just an observation, but we think the political climate is definitely driving some of this growth.  

Christoph

 Absolutely. Now my groups Smart Girl politics, we started in, so right after the election of. So, we kind of went through the years of Obama and Obamacare and that was obviously during the Tea Party years. Health care was I would say the biggest issue, I mean there’s lots of big issues but obviously one that impacted families a lot would have to be Obamacare and you like your doctor, you keep your doctor, and that didn’t happen. You like your plan, you keep going. It’s just, it’s chaos I think and I don’t even know where we’re at with this, but it seems like Trump is trying to maybe correct some of the ways that we got things wrong and trying to maybe calm it down and make it more something that people can understand and what the options are. Well, how do you where do you think we’re at in? Because we went through some, I think really chaotic years in terms of people not understanding health care ops, and particularly how it affects older people. People on fixed incomes and what their options are. Where, what is the climate, what’s the scene right now in?  

Mangione

 Well, we’re about to have another critical discussion on health care reform in this country and hopefully it’ll take place in a meaningful way. Okay, so we’re about  

Christoph

 Hopefully.  

Mangione

 Hopefully, okay and you know we’ll find out November. I suppose how meaningful the conversation is going to be, because we know what the Democrats are proposing, it’s Medicare for all and I’m sure you’ve beaten this, you know, to death. We know how unsustainable, how unreasonable, Bernie Sanders can’t even explain how to pay for this. He’s just going to tax the rich because you know we have an unending supply of rich people to tax. So that’s, we know where they are on that issue. What’s sad is what the President has done thus far, and he’s done a lot on health care. You’re just not hearing about its Terry.  

Christoph

 Right.  

Mangione

 Okay.  

Christoph

 Right.  

Mangione

 But we’re keeping an eye on it at AMAC. One of the things that he proposed, he actually issued last year an executive order, that would compel hospitals to disclose their secret negotiated prices that they have with insurance companies and also their cash prices. Here’s what he wants to do with that, he wants to empower patients, and these are going to be for shoppable medical services, and those are defined as medical services that are done by multiple providers and are very common. Think hip replacement and knee replacement, okay think those types of services. So, what the President wants to do is give a patient who has to have a knee replacement the option of looking up maybe five or six different hospitals in his or her hometown. Looking at the price, looking at the quality, and then selecting the lowest or the best option, I should say for their family.  

Christoph

 Right.  

Mangione

 Which is wonderful and AMAC is on record as supporting this. So, he instructed HHS to come up with the rule. Let’s put the brakes on this.  

Christoph

 I knew the but was coming.  

Mangione

 Yeah, unfortunately the lobby, the hospital lobby in the form of the American Hospital Association sued HHS and you’re going to love the reason. Sued HHS saying that they’re overstepping their bounds, their authority as an organization, but they’re claiming that this disclosing these prices would be a violation of the First Amendment. Think about this, everybody sees these prices, it comes in your explanation of benefits statement.  

Christoph

 Right.  

Mangione

 After you’ve had treatment, after you’ve received  

Christoph

 Surprise.  

Mangione

 Exactly, and so they’re these this information is disclosed. AMAC recently joined an amicus brief that’s filed in District Court in Washington, DC along with a few other patient advocacy groups to support price transparency. And if we’re successful and we’ll know in the coming weeks, that’s plural. If we’re successful and we’d like our chances here this First Amendment argument not being a legal scholar is pretty weak. Okay, but we’ll know in the coming weeks and if we are successful then the rule stands and the first.  

Christoph

 That’s a pretty big deal.  

Mangione

 It is a huge deal and you’re not – So thank you for having to me to talk about it.  

Christoph

 Yeah, it’s news to me, I’ll tell you that.  

Mangione

 Yeah, so we’re you know, we’re keeping our eye on this. We like our chances, we’re up against you know the hospital lobby wants to keep everything. Try to think about this, you buy a house you buy a car, everything you buy you’re in your life you know the price up front, why not medical services?  

Christoph

 This is true and if I could just share a little bit from my life. I was the insurance holder in my family my husband is self-employed, and I was let go from my job last year, and what we’ve opted to do is to go for one of those Christian health shares and in doing that you kind of learn more about like if you pay cash for things, like it’s been very illuminating about how much is hidden, how much you know, how much you could actually ask for and what you might get if you can negotiate. It’s been quite a learning experience, we personally love it, I mean it’d be nice to have insurance again but for now it’s the right answer for us but it has been quite, you do have to know upfront before you go, like you need to know, you can’t just go in there just assume you’re going to be able to afford it. You have to ask up front, there’s a lot more, it’s a lot more involvement you’ve got to ask for a lot more than you do when you have just normal health care but it’s very interesting how much cheaper it is if you’re going to pay cash on site, how much you can, you know bargains you can get on prescriptions and it’s been such a crazy experience that. I mean, I love it it’s working out really well, but it’s just wow is our system just kind of crazy right now that you don’t know until after you’ve done something, like here you go, like here’s we know what front what we have to pay sometimes we don’t like it we can negotiate and there’s a lot of flexibility with it. It obviously is more for a catastrophic event.  

Mangione

 Certainly.  

Christoph

 Then for every little, you know, time we need to run to you know Urgent Care or something like that, but it’s it does say a lot about where, how wrong things are going right now.  

Mangione

 Exactly right and think about how better educated you are as a health care consumer as a result of this experience and think of everything that you’ve learned. All the President wants to do is give people the information they need, they will be, I use the word empowered.  

Christoph

 Absolutely.  

Mangione

 They will be much more in charge of their health care because their level of involvement will increase dramatically if they’re able to shop for these services and there’s tons of these shopping services.  

Christoph

 That is something people know that, that there’s an option. Like that you can, like oh well this is how it goes and I think probably older people, seeing my mom like well “I can’t negotiate I’m just going to go they say this is what I have to pay and this is what I have to pay” so it is.  

Mangione

 “The doctor told me.”  

Christoph

 So, you’re obviously an action organization, if you got action in the name so what kinds of actions? So how could people get involved? I mean I think hopefully more and more we hear about these things that are happening things that Trump is proposing and things that are being enacted and people, I know people want to take more control over their health care spending dollars and all of that and their options I mean that’s the most important thing. Well you know your health is the most important thing. So what can they do the older people or whoever wants to get involved with AMAC or you know kind of learn more and take action and help get these things and I mean I think one of your biggest challenges has to be letting people know what’s going on because I like you said it’s like it’s news to all of us that these, that Trump has proposed them and HSS is going through with them like so.  

Mangione

 Yes.  

Christoph

 That’s a big whole thing I’m throwing at you, but.  

Mangione

 But it’s okay and thank you, thank you, I’ve been, I’ve been screaming this on radio row for the last two days here at CPAC.  

Christoph

 Scream it.  

Mangione

 Screaming, I mean just letting people know about the executive order and, and it’s really not that difficult to understand. What people can do, they can go to the White House website because they’re not here and they post, they post everything that the president has done with regard to health care. Every executive order, every initiative, it’s all there because they’re not going to read this and read about this in newspaper and we all know that.  

Christoph

 Yeah.  

Mangione

 They’re not going to and even on the so-called conservative stations they may not give the full in depth account of what the President is actually doing on health care.  

Christoph

 Right.  

Mangione

 Okay, so people can, in AMAC Action that is The Association of Mature American Citizens or AMAC this is AMAC Action is the advocacy arm. So, we’re the feet on the street in Washington, we have a grassroots network of about AMAC delegates that we put in congressional districts across the country. Our goal is to have all covered, where they call on their member of Congress much like I do in Washington to talk about the same issues we’re talking about right now. All right so we’re getting the word out on the grassroots level as constituents who are AMAC members make those calls and they’re local member of Congress of that local district office I follow that up representing the organization at large in Washington to present a united front to make sure that our messaging is consistent but on these same issues that we’re talking about. Like price transparency and further transparency in health care. We don’t need to have a huge tear it down builds it back up like Obamacare did. With regard to health care reform, all we need is transparency, all we need is some sun shone on business practices of pharmacy benefit managers, of business practices of group purchasing organizations to see how these folks drive up the cost of the outpatient prescription supply chain and the hospital supply chain. It’s not rocket science.  

Christoph

 Absolutely, do you see anything else coming up in that might you know affect a day to day health care decisions or?  

Mangione

 I think what we’re going to this is an election year.  

Christoph

 Yeah.  

Mangione

 I don’t think, I think there the Congress is working on surprise billing right now and I commend them for that, and we all know what a surprise bill is. You go to the emergency room, your emergency room that hospital there in network. Ah, but you receive treatment from an anesthesiologist who was out of network. So, you get your treatment, you go home, a couple of weeks later you get hit with a surprise bill for that out of network service that you received that you had no choice in receiving. So, Congress is looking to ban these and that’s great. Here’s the problem they’re talking a bipartisan solution.  

Christoph

 (laughing) Which is no solution at all.  

Mangione

 Well the solutions that we’ve seen thus far Teri, favor insurance companies. Look I’m not, we sell insurance I’m not, I’m not down on anti-insurance okay, but we want to see solutions. We don’t want to see insurance company setting usual and customary prices. Alright, based on a network that they’ve created which is an artificial market. We want to see any solution be patient centric and that’s what we’re going to send to Congress in the coming weeks. We’re looking at these proposals, we commend them for banning wanting to ban surprise billing because everybody knows someone, if they haven’t experienced it themselves.  

Christoph

 If you’ve ever had a baby, you will know all of those charges that you’re like I don’t remember been even seeing this person.  

Mangione

 Precisely –  

Christoph

 The special nurse you know whatever, specialized nursing it’s like –  

Mangione

 and she was not in the network. Guess what she was not in network even though the hospital was.  

Christoph

 Hospitals in network. Yeah after having a baby the bill you will see is insane. It’s crazy what yeah, so it’s kind of gratifying to know after so many years of upheaval in the health care market that some common-sense alternatives are coming through. I think people are going to be excited but also that there’s a common sense alternative to AARP shall we say. So, if people are interested especially because Smart Girl kind of skews a little older, there’s ladies, men out there that are in our audience that maybe don’t know, like what should they, how can they find out more about AMAC, AMAC Action if they want to just join you or if they want to take action and help you get these things pass. What’s the best way for them to get involved with AMAC?  

Mangione

 They can go to our website that’s AMAC, amac.us AMAC.US, they could call toll-free – – That’s – – and speak live with one of our member services representatives. It only cost $ to join AMAC and it covers you and your spouse. It covers a household, so we ask people give us a try for sixteen dollars they would receive a tremendous roster of member benefits including all the insurance products that the other guys have in addition to travel discounts, restaurant discounts, roadside assistance. We put out a wonderful magazine that goes out every other month to a million households across the country. Which is in the digital age, which is a heck of a circulation.  

Christoph

 Yeah, that is.  

Mangione

 We hear wonderful things about it they would receive a daily update, a weekly news update, we touch our members so many times.  

Christoph

 They get a lot, that’s a bargain.  

Mangione

 They sure do, thank you for recognizing.  

Christoph

 Yeah no that’s a bargain. Yeah, I got to tell my mom about this one and some of my older siblings.  

Mangione

 You don’t have to be fifty.  

Christoph

 Oh, okay see.  

Mangione

 We’re a -plus organization but we take anyone can join, we are the fastest-growing conservative organization in the country.  

Christoph

 Well that’s good! Well everyone should go check that out because it’s nice to have some choices and these things sometimes. We don’t feel like we have many choices but Andy Mangione thank you so much for joining us from CPAC here on this Smart Girl politics podcast and we’ll have you on again because you, so you can keep us up to date on latest things because we’re sure not hearing about it in the news.  

Mangione

 Thank You Teri, my pleasure.  

Christoph

 Alright thanks.

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