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Seniors Groups Attacked for Health Care Mailings

October 22, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two groups under investigation by postal inspectors are soliciting money from the elderly with letters claiming that President Clinton’s health reforms will lead to medical rationing.

Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark., chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, described the groups Thursday as modern-day snake oil salesmen.

″They seek to prey upon seniors’ uncertainty about health care reform,″ Pryor said in a speech on the Senate floor. ″Like sharks, when these groups sense fear, they attack.″

The two Fairfax, Va., groups - United Seniors Association Inc. and The Seniors Coalition - sent thousands of letters recently to senior citizens asking for donations and suggesting that retirees’ medical benefits could be rationed under the president’s plan.

″There will be regulators making medical decisions,″ warned a letter from The Seniors Coalition. ″There will be delays and waiting lines.″

A letter from the United Seniors Association asks readers to help it ″stop Clinton and Congress from destroying the best health care system in the world in the name of so-called ’reform.‴

Spokesmen for the groups defended the mailings and suggested Pryor is attacking them for political reasons. Both represent a conservative point of view; Pryor is one of Clinton’s closest allies in the Senate.

″These are questions that need to be addressed before we go and completely trash our health care system,″ said Jake Hansen, director of government affairs for The Seniors Coalition.

Both groups are under criminal investigation by the Postal Inspection Service, postal inspector Larry Fryer said Thursday.

Fryer declined to describe the scope of the investigation but said the FBI is working with the Postal Inspection Service in its probe of The Seniors Coalition.

Hansen said The Seniors Coalition’s lawyers have been assured that the group is not a target of the investigation. He said the investigation focuses instead on the activities of someone who used to be associated with the group.

″If something has changed, we’re not aware of it,″ he said.

Steven Allen, director of communications and public policy for United Seniors, said the group hasn’t heard from the Postal Service since Jan. 14 and ″we consider the matter closed.″

Allen accused Pryor of ″intimidation″ and said the senator has said things about United Seniors that are ″demonstrably not true.″

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