The AARP Sellout of its Membership

No doubt you thought, as I did along with and thousands of others, that AARP was dedicated to causes affecting senior citizens. Not so! During the 1990s Newt Gingrich and other powerful Republicans began courting the AARP leadership and so by Bush’ second term the deed was done; they were wed. AARP policy ceased to be dictated from bottom up; now it is from top down. Advocacy for members gave way to insurance business and profits. Now it would push to position Medicare as a private rather than government run program.  The Bush Congress pushed for a 270 billion dollar cut in Medicare benefits–to improve the budget’s bottom line.

The formerly Democrat leaning AARP became the darling of the GOP.

One of the crowning achievements of the Republican Congress was passage of the Medicare Spending Bill that could not have passed without AARP support. Some highlights (or low lights) of the bill are:

  1. Prohibition against buying drugs in Canada. I was personally buying drugs from Canada at about what the cost is now through Medicare and Supplemental Insurance. The difference is that now we all pay the difference (with tax dollars) whereas before there was no difference to be paid. The drug companies and Canadians made a profit and I got the same drugs in the same packages as now. Of course I had to have a prescription as I do now. There were no problems or mix-ups. Now all drugs used by me carry the same maximum price—not the approximately one third paid before.
  2. The bill gave subsidies to insurance companies and HMOs. Remember that AARP is first and foremost an insurance company.
  3. The government cannot negotiate for a lower price on drugs it purchases for its various programs. Is it any wonder that the budget for the war, VA, and various military programs around the world is record breaking? AARP says it is now trying to get this part of the bill repealed—fat chance.

And from Wikipedia

In an editorial column in the Los Angeles Times, critic Dale Van Atta wrote that AARP does unauthorized lobbying for its membership, and lobbies against the best interests of its membership. Van Atta says that by lobbying for the above-mentioned Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, AARP leaders betrayed the membership.

According to an Annenberg Public Policy Center report, critics have said AARP had a conflict of interest in supporting the Act, because AARP “derives income from the sale of health and life insurance policies,” by licensing its brand to insurance dealers such as New York Life,and would benefit financially from passage of the legislation.

Business Week magazine says that in the past questions have arisen about whether AARP’s commercial interests may conflict with those of its membership, and characterizes many of the funds and insurance policies that AARP markets as providing considerably less benefit than seniors could get on their own.

In summary, AARP is a non-profit organization that proclaims its dedication to membership issues as part of the promotion of its business agenda. In the 1990s it changed its name from the American Association of Retired Persons to just AARP, an acronym it had used since its inception. Think about it. The people, the membership, have been replaced by an acronym. And when the chips are down AARP will use its membership for its own institutional ends regardless of the detriment to its members.

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