Why AARP Supports Health Care Reform

The coming health reform bill, (please pardon my reference to this bill as being related to actual health reform) is going to garner the support of AARP.    I felt the need to vent on my opinion as to why.


Health insurance and health care is a very tricky and confusing subject.  Let me admit publically, if I haven’t before, I wouldn’t have a career if health insurance was easy.   One might argue that my bias would be to promote my own agenda.   I respect that potential conflict and have never taken issue with anyone questioning my ethics.   I purposely steer clear of any opinion on subjects that would impact, either positively or negatively, my income.   That said, other special interest groups do not appear to be as noble.   Thus, the subject of today’s blog post, those good folks at AARP.  


AARP is a special interest group with interests in Media, Insurance, and Financial products. AARP is  bigger than most regional health insurance companies  and has the largest circulation of any magazine.    They don’t represent themselves as a magazine company like TIME, an Insurance company like Aetna or United Healthcare, A mutual fund company like Fidelity, or even a federally funded private company .   Yet they are all of these.   Their public policy, allegedly representing the wholesome interests of seniors, is really just another marketing group profiteering off the backs of seniors.  Business week Magazine wrote in 2005 that their products are typically not scrutinized for cost and quality.  


AARP public policy has consistently stood on the side of issues that increase its revenue and profit.   Over the past 10 years, AARP has increased their insurance revenues by several hundred percent.   They did so by branding and associating their name with insurance products from United Healthcare and Aetna.   When Medicare Part D – the  Rx Drug part of social security, they were obviously advocates for the program, but were also positioned to add hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to their income statement, per yet. They did, and good for them too!   They are a very successful business and they continue to brand themselves in ways to increase revenue and profitability.     What AARP is not, is a social conscience.  Much like a Union tries to negotiate on behalf of its members for the most possible without being concerned for the profitability of the owners, AARP lobby’s for interests that are good for their own bottom line.  


One of the main arguments from insurance companies, and against this reform bill, is the level of benefit funding for Medicare Advantage Plan members .   The insurance companies were not only criticized for telling their members that Government cuts would result in benefit cuts,   HHS actually issued a gag-order preventing insurance carriers from disseminating that information to its members.   It was seen as a conflict of interest with questionable conclusions. 


Those who have Medicare Advantage plans, have no need for a Medicare Supplement.  Thus millions of seniors who took Medicare Advantage coverage from insurance companies, do not need or buy a Medicare Supplement from AARP.   “Coincidentally”, those  millions of seniors who get Medicare Advantage  benefits from insurance companies, and who’s benefits stand to be cut significantly with this reform bill, don’t appear to be represented in AARP policy papers.  Not one single article from AARP this year on the negative impact from the health bills.   If Medicare Advantage benefits are cut, the prospect of millions of seniors abandoning this coverage will then need a Medicare Supplement.   Hey!!! AARP sells that !!!  


Medicare.gov, a government website describes Medicare Advantage plans as “They generally offer extra benefits, and many include prescription drug coverage”.  So  why doesn’t AARP care about these seniors?   It seems easier to understand if you consider that AARP is not a social conscience, but a financial services and insurance company.


If you assume that I might have a bias, I would also assume that a company whose royalties tripled after Medicare Part D passed, and who would stand to increase revenues by as much as $400 million per year if the House Health care bill is made law, might have a biased opinion. 


AARP is disingenuous and their endorsement of the House Bill is self serving.  Shame on AARP.      

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