News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 22, 2010

‘60 Plus’ group, conservative alternative to AARP, seeking to expand in Indiana

TERRE HAUTE — The chairman of a senior advocacy group hopes to tap into a concern over national health care to gain new members in Indiana.

James L. Martin said he started The 60 Plus Association in 1992 “as a competitor with the AARP [American Association of Retired Persons]. We are for limited government and are more right of center philosophically. The AARP is a more liberal philosophy. They sell a lot of products, we don’t. We’re hawking limited government and less taxes.”

The association, based in Alexandria, Va., also targets the elimination of the estate tax, which Martin referred to as the “death” tax.

Martin and Amy Noone Frederick, association president, visited Terre Haute on Wednesday during a three-day sweep of the area to attract new members. They were also to make stops in Vincennes, Evansville, Bloomington, Jeffersonville and Indianapolis.

Frederick said the association has 5.5 million members nationwide, with more than 132,000 members in Indiana. Entertainer Pat Boone is the association’s national spokesman.

The association on Thursday was scheduled to present its pro-senior award to Republican Larry Buschon, a candidate for Indiana’s Eighth Congressional District for “senior-friendly” positions, Martin said. One such position is the repeal of national health care law.

“We have been talking about Obama care for a year, that it will hurt seniors with a half million cut to Medicare. Whether you are for or against the Medicare program, it has been the law of the land now since 1965. We seniors have paid our dues and now face reduced services...,” Martin said.

Martin said with more than 70 million baby boomers near retirement, he thinks seniors could face drug rationing or a longer wait for medical service. “Repeal it and replace it,” Martin said of the national health care law.

As an example of rationing, Martin said the Food and Drug Administration could be revoking its approval of the cancer drug Avastin.

The FDA review, however, applies only to its use in recurring breast cancer. The FDA gave accelerated approval in 2008 based on a study suggesting it halted the progression of cancer for more than five months.

New studies show a delay of one to three months, indicating the benefits of the drug, sold at a wholesale price of $7,700 a month, do not outweigh risks.

If the FDA does revoke Avastin’s approval, doctors can prescribe it as an “off-label” for breast cancer, but many insurers don’t reimburse for drugs not FDA approved.

“They want to de-list it for cost and cost alone...at least not paid by Medicare,” Martin charged.

“Now the FDA is delaying its decision for 90 days, past the Nov. 2 election day. This is the first indication to us of what is coming down the road.”

Avastin was Switzerland-based drugmaker Roche Holding AG’s top-selling cancer drug last year with sales of $5.9 billion, the company reported.

Avastin is approved for several forms of cancer, including colon, lung, kidney and brain cancer. It’s use to treat breast cancer in the United States generated about $855 million last year for Roche.

Martin said the national health care law does contain “some good things. We have been preaching that people should have the ability to have insurance across state lines.

Pre-existing condition [coverage] is a good thing, but these are incremental things we think can be done instead of this 2,000-page monstrosity.”

Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.

com.

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