Dark secrets of AARP finally exposed to light

Executives, employees backed Obama, Dems by 14-to-1 ratioPosted: November 10, 2009 8:25 pm Eastern

By Chelsea Schilling © 2009 WorldNetDaily

When the American Association of Retired Persons – one of the wealthiest advocacy groups in the U.S. – began backing the $1.2 trillion House health bill despite concerns about Medicare cuts, death panels and assisted suicide, many members shredded their membership cards, saying the organization no longer represents their interests – but AARP's history of left-leaning activism on a host of issues may surprise its constituents.

AARP's Nov. 5 health bill endorsement left many seniors wondering why the powerful group that claims to represent their interests would call for an estimated $500 billion in cuts to Medicare, a system many seniors have indicated that they would like to preserve.

"After carefully monitoring developments in Washington and studying the various legislative proposals, AARP's all-volunteer Board of Directors – made up of working and retired doctors, nurses, business people, and teachers – has decided to endorse the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962/H.R. 3961) because it delivers on key priorities we've been fighting for," an AARP announcement stated.

But while many seniors enjoy AARP membership discounts on health and car insurance, vacations and advice on financial planning, the group has a history of left-leaning political stances and activism.

Why the AARP health 'reform' endorsement?

AARP collects royalties on "Medigap insurance," a privately purchased insurance coverage that helps pay some of the health-care costs that Medicare doesn't cover.

However, seniors have the option of joining Medicare Advantage plans, allowing them to use Medicare funds to purchase private insurance plans that offer extra benefits and lower copayments than the Original Medicare Plan. An estimated 10.2 million seniors have enrolled in Medicare Advantage.

When seniors enroll in Medicare Advantage plans, they often drop Medigap policies because Medigap plans won't pay deductibles, copayments or other cost-sharing under the Medicare health plan. The switch slashes Medigap revenues – and simultaneously impacts AARP royalties from Medigap insurance.

However, Sec. 1161 of the House bill would slash payments to Medicare Advantage health plans used by 20 percent of seniors and cause them to lose some benefits, including vision and dental coverage.

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, one of the leading health-care policy organizations in the country, told WND's Radio America AARP saw that it would lose revenue if it didn't stop the Medicare Advantage programs.

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"The House bill would dramatically cut money out of Medicare Advantage programs, forcing people to need the Medigap policies that are such a big cash cow for the AARP," she said.

"Seniors are going to have higher costs in Medicare. Because of the cuts in Medicare, they are going to have ever more need for these Medigap policies. So the AARP, therefore, will be able to make even more money off of us," Turner explained. "The legislation both kills competition that the AARP has with these Medicare Advantage programs, and it boosts the number of people who need the Medigap insurance because Medicare is going to become an even more deficient program than it is now if you take half a trillion dollars out of it."

Following the money trail

According to the AARP website, the group promises seniors it will be a "voice in Washington and in your state, representing you on issues like Medicare, Social Security and consumer safety."

But the majority of the money AARP collects doesn't come from its annual $16 membership dues.

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