WASHINGTON -- The influential seniors group AARP said Tuesday it would be willing to endorse a health care bill without a public option of any kind.

"It's not a priority for us," said David Certner, Legislative Policy Director of AARP, in an interview with Raw Story. "We're more concerned about prohibitions due to pre-existing conditions and cost spikes of up to 10 times for 60-64-year-old seniors."

The AARP isn't opposed to the public plan as it formally endorsed the House bill, which included it.

"Half of our members are already on a public option -- it's called Medicare," Certner said. "So we understand its benefits." But the group hasn't taken a strong position on the contentious provision -- partly, it seems, because of heated internal disputes over health reform, resulting in tens of thousands of members quitting since this summer.

Certner told Raw Story that while the public plan would be helpful, the reforms can still contain costs and extend coverage without it.

"The defining questioning for us is whether or not there's going to be affordable insurance for our membership, without these kinds of exclusions," he said. "It doesn't matter if you get there through private insurance or public insurance."

Seven-figure ad buy aimed at 'distortions and misinformation'

AARP and the American Medical Association this week launched a multi-million-dollar ad buy to slam opponents of health reform who they believe have been dishonest.

The ad, launched Monday, is scheduled to air nationally until December 6, 2009. It's aimed at attacking the "distortions and misinformation" put forth by special interests and members of Congress, said David Allen, an AARP spokesman.

It features a man called a "real doctor" and another named "spin doctor" trading barbs about the nature of the Democratic reform effort.

"I'm here to give you the facts about Medicare," says the former, who declares that it's "not actually true" when insurance companies say "you'll lose your Medicare."

The AARP has declined to single out a party or legislator, but it's clear the group is in part targeting the GOP, which has fiercely opposed the effort. Just 1 out of 177 Republicans supported the House bill, and not a single Senate GOP member backed Saturday's motion to begin debate, which every Democrat and Independent supported.

"We know opponents of health care reform won’t rest," said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond. "We’ll continue to fight for older Americans and to protect and strengthen Medicare, not only for today, but for generations to come."

The AARP's ad follows.

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