With the November elections looming just around the corner, organizations that claim to be non-partisan politically are being tested. Non-profit AARP is one of those supposedly non-partisan organizations trying to influence its membership during this Presidential election. I’ve been a member of this organization solely so I could take advantage of member discounts. But as time goes on it is becoming more obvious AARP interests appear to be more or less rooted in profits of their insurance service products sold by AARP Services, Inc. rather than lobbying for the best interests of seniors.
After receiving their monthly AARP Bulletin via email, I became skeptical. I was aware that during the President’s push for “Obamacare” (Affordable Care Act) through an overwhelmingly democratic Congress, AARP had supported the legislation. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law March 23,2010. According to a Newsmax.com editorial, that effort cost AARP 300,000 members because most older Americans were against the President signing the bill into law. Nancy Pelosi’s words became infamous as she stood in front of television cameras and proclaimed, “we must pass the bill before we can see what’s in it.”
As time went on AARP vacillated on their advocacy for the protection of Social Security. According to the Wall Street Journal, John Rother agreed to cuts to Social Security, a reversal of their 2005 position, when President Bush’s plan called for privatizing Social Security. Rother said, “The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens.” The reality is, we have more people older and who are living longer, so we need to make changes. Everybody recognizes that. And we’re certainly willing to talk about a package of changes that will keep Social Security strong for the long term.
The strength and stability of Social Security has been on my radar since the 1990’s. In my opinion Congress has a history of using Social Security, to bankroll entitlement programs. That is how I believe Social Security became synonymous with entitlement programs. In December 2010, President Obama struck a deal with Congress to try and stimulate the deteriorating U.S. economy with the Payroll Tax Holiday Act for 2011 and 2012. This tax is set to expire at the end of December, having failed to stimulate the economy. What it did do is add to the dire circumstances of Social Security’ solvency. According to William Perez the Act was intended as a “temporary reduction in the Social Security tax rate”. Employees would pay 4.2% of their wage earnings for Social Security tax, instead of the normal 6.2%. Employers’ contribution would remain at the full 6.2%. It was to be implemented no later than January 31, 2011. If a person made $50,000 a year the 2% difference would yield $1000 in tax savings during the year. The flawed reasoning behind this move produced no new directly related jobs although President Obama assured America it would. Perez explains, to keep Social Security from losing revenue, which this Act did, Congress mandated the expected revenues be transferred from the general fund to the Social Security trust funds, to make up for the tax reduction.
What slays me about the Payroll Tax Holiday Act of 2011 & 2012 is that AARP was once again endorsing another flawed and costly plan of President Obama, which jeopardized the investment we all make in Social Security during our working years. Most recently, AARP has reversed their stand on the Act. In a Washington Post article, David Certner of AARP said, “More should be done to support an economy that he acknowledged is still rocky.” AARP, having second thoughts on its support of President Obama’s failed policies, does not want to risk underfunding a revenue stream that’s projected to be “depleted within the next 25 years,” according to the Social Security Administration. AARP’s position on the mandate that took general revenue funds for the first time in history and put them into the Social Security Trust Fund to make up for the lost revenue from the Payroll Tax Holiday may undermine, Social Security’s protected status, and lumps it in with other entitlements. Here’s a remark by AARP’s Certner that every senior needs to remember: “Social Security is a separate, off budget program, with a dedicated funding source- messing with the formula shouldn’t even be a part of the budget debate,”
With another potential down turn coming for the economy, AARP doesn’t want this tax cut renewed. The Post article later informs us that AARP submitted a letter to the White House, Senate and House arguing that it would “undermine confidence in Social Security and put at risk the program’s dedicated funding stream and the hard-earned benefits of millions of Americans and their families.”
AARP clearly builds support for Barack Obama and his policies and is a powerful lobbying group.
The term partisan is defined by Merriam- Webster Dictionary as “unwavering or strong support for a party, cause or person; especially: one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance.” For AARP to claim to be a non-profit, non-partisan organization, there could be no bias or prejudiced, or dogged support, especially during the 2012 Presidential race. If an organization is to be non-partisan while informing such a large segment of the general population (seniors), much effort and thought needs to go into all their communication and lobbying efforts. Before any other interest, their mission of advocacy on behalf of people over the age of 50 must be the number one priority.
AARP is arguably one of the most powerful lobbying groups ever to influence legislation at the federal level. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, from 2004 to September 2012, AARP has spent almost $170 million dollars lobbying at the federal level. Last year they had 56 lobbyists on their roster; this year their roster numbers decreased to 40. It is not unusual for spending amounts and numbers of lobbyists working on behalf of a special interest group to decline in an election year. During the years noted, AARP maintained a standing in the top twenty lobbying groups with massive influence at the federal level, including both houses of Congress, and the Executive Branch (President’s Obama’s Administration).
With a current membership approaching 40 million members, the sheer numbers imply trust. Even seniors who are not members of AARP might associate such a large organization and membership with good intentions on behalf of seniors.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, people in the age groups 45 to 64 year old are growing quickly. There was a 31.5% increase in the population between 2000 and 2010. As reported, by the 2010 U.S. Census: 45 to 64 year olds (81,489,445) represent 26.6% of the total U.S. population and 65 years old and over (40,267,984) represent 13.0 % of the population. Combine those two age groups and we see why an organization, with a quality of life social missions such as AARP has courted seniors in America. We represent well over a third of the American population.
U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) reported that AARP collects yearly dues, which account for about 20% of their profits. Additionally, on the senator’s website, AARP’s $458million in health insurance revenue in 2011 would rank it as the nation’s sixth most profitable health insurer.
AARP is made up of two organizations, one being their charitable non-profit arm, AARP Charitable Foundation. The largest portion of AARP is their organization, managed wholly for profit, AARP Services Inc. They offer an array service products and member only discounts, on all types of insurance including life, health, home and car, for which AARP makes a profit.
Seniors expect AARP to be the beacon, the one organization to earnestly delve into senior’s issues. During this Presidential Election Campaign I found this not to be the case. My parents became members of AARP, so I was aware of their insurance products, mainly, homeowners and auto insurance. I knew they had a website and that they advocated on behalf of seniors. I never considered they were political lobbyists with so much influence in Washington and the country. I imagine like so many people I didn’t care to take the time to connect the dots or follow the trail or crumbs.
Now that I have researched just a small portion of their influence and connection with President Obama especially on the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), I take their advice and bulletins with a grain of salt.
One of those bulletins recently featured an article titled “President Obama and Romney: Where They Stand on Your Issues”. The article appeared so weak that I researched the connection between AARP and President Obama.
The AARP Bulletin article was a brief interview with Barack Obama in the oval office and an interview with challenger Mitt Romney by email. The article was very superficial and based on clever remarks rather than examining President Obama’s four-year record of decisions. While there were similarities in the subjects discussed with the candidates, anyone reading the article could see the favoritism extended to Barack Obama.
When asked about Medicare, President Obama tried to divert attention to Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, insinuating he was someone who would change Medicare and harm seniors. What President Obama did not say, nor was he asked to elaborate on, was: Why did he make changes to Medicare? Instead, he rattled off that he included “preventive health services” for Medicare recipients under Obamacare. This provision may have been added to the legislation but only for impact with unknowing voters. I have known Medicare beneficiaries who used preventive care services in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s; they were already available through Medicare.
Later President Obama said in the interview, “My goal is continue these types of reforms that will produce a better bang for our health care dollar and will make sure beneficiaries aren’t seeing higher out of pocket costs, but at the same time are able to control Medicare costs over the long term…”
President Obama is a reformer. Within Medicare he reduced the amount of reimbursement a provider receives (doctor, hospital, lab, x-rays, etc.). This will make it difficult for some Medicare recipients to find a doctor who can afford to take such reduced payments. It will also make it harder for doctors to stay in business. President Obama, the Reformer, has added regulations to Medicare aimed at doctors and hospitals and other providers. These regulations cost the providers more money to implement and maintain. Then, if the regulations are not maintained, the provider is fined thousands of dollars for every violation. Doctors may not be able to afford to be in private practice; so then what? Finding quality doctors may be like an Easter Egg Hunt—and some doctors, unfortunately, will be rotten.
President Obama’s reference to “better bang for our health care dollar” means cost effective health care. By utilizing the cost benefit analysis approach, President Obama’s Independent Payment Advisory Board of 15 bureaucrats decide where to make cuts, what procedures, treatments, tests, therapies and care will be available through the Medicare program. Healthcare decisions made for you is a socialist approach to government healthcare, and affects a person’s quality of life. Obamacare, as well as changes to Medicare, have resulted in increases to Medicare supplemental healthcare insurance (Medi-gap) premiums. Since being implemented (beginning in 2010), healthcare insurance policy premiums have increased, a minimum of 19% to as much as 30% in one year, per individual qualified Medicare Beneficiaries who are neighbors.
Challenger Mitt Romney brought this to President Obama’s attention in the second debate. President Obama knows that is happening, but chose to deny it. His plan of National Healthcare, run solely by the government, is his grand goal as President. It is government-controlled healthcare. President Obama has eliminated $716 Billion dollars from Medicare, and defended it in the AARP Bulletin article, saying, “Those savings did not affect beneficiaries.”
My answer is, not true, Sir! Any time I have $100 dollars in a budget and a portion of that money is taken away, it affects my quality of life and what I can and can’t buy. In the case of $716 Billion dollars being cut, President Obama says the “reduction in costs came from providers and insurance payments.” We know cutting reimbursements to doctors can put them out of business and cause there to be fewer doctors and less quality care available to seniors.
The $716 Billion dollars cut from Medicare—signed by Mr. Obama and the largely democrat controlled Congress on March 23, 2010–went toward paying for Obamacare. Within those 2500 pages of unread legislation were many new taxes to pay for the law’s implementation.
“Republicans have argued major changes are needed to save Medicare and Social Security so the trust funds that finance them don’t run out of money in the long run,” the AARP article stated. Mr. Obama countered by saying, “I am open and eager to work with both parties… I will reject proposals that slash benefits for current beneficiaries or undermine the basic structure of the system.” True to form, the reporter for AARP lets the statement slide without a follow up question. According to Conservative 50 Plus Alliance, in 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was signed, the total Medicare budget for Part A, Part B, Part C, and Part D was $510 Billion dollars.
I’m not brilliant or a President, but it certainly seems to me, funding “Obamacare” with Medicare dollars undermines the basic structure of the system.
Forbes magazine looked closer at the relationship between AARP in an eye-opening article called, “How the AARP Made $2.8 Billion By Supporting Obamacare’s Cuts to Medicare”. The gist of the article is that, according to Forbes, Mr. Obama has had a “long and successful relationship” with AARP.
Now it would seem these two have gone their separate ways. After the first Presidential debate October 3, 2012, where President Obama mentioned he had AARP’s support on Obamacare, AARP released a statement the next day asking him not to mention them again.
Thanks to its cuts to Medicare Advantage, Obamacare is expected to expand the number of seniors buying ‘Medigap’ supplemental insurance plans with AARP controlling 34 percent of the market for such plans. According to a 2011 House Ways and Means Committee report, AARP stands to make between $55 million and $166 million from Obamacare in 2014 alone.
If it wasn’t for the freelance AARP reporter writing such a weak article I may have not looked deeper. There are too many strings connecting Mr. Obama to AARP, one of the most powerful lobbying group to influence the future of seniors. There appears to be ethical conflicts of interest and President Obama is using the opportunity to further his agenda by taking benefits away from seniors, while gaining unwavering support from AARP for his decisions.
It is time to stand up, be strong and say, “No more smoke and mirrors!” Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will take the issues seniors face and make good decisions to protect—and ultimately save– our quality of life.