AARP Under Scrutiny for Dual Roles

The largest political interest group in America has also been one of the strongest proponents for health care reform, but more recently their role in the debate has come under heavy scrutiny from congressional republicans.
Formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, AARP has long been seen as the umbrella of protection over some of America’s most vulnerable citizens. Notoriously trusting and not always aware of the dangers of technology, AARP lobbies for seniors and retired persons, and members often receive discounts from private service providers based on agreements with the powerful group.
Their interest in health care reform is easy to explain on its face. Older persons require frequent medical care, and especially end of life services are the most costly of all health care expenses. But it’s recently been discovered that the Association holds other stakes in the health care reform before congress.
According to The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, lawmakers are at issue with a number of “medigap” plans bearing the AARP name. “Medigap” refers to a plan which provides additional coverage on top of government Medicare or Medicaid.
Reccomendations and plans from congress to slash competing programs could result in a huge leap in the purchasing of AARP supplemental plans.
Furthering the concern is AARP’s status as a non-insurance firm. This means that new laws regarding earnings caps for insurance providers (and their top executives) would not be applicable to AARP and its figureheads.
AARP spokespeople have argued that any profitable gains from their various AARP-brand credit cards, supplemental health care plans, etc. allow the group to further their service with lobbying and other consumer advocacy functions.
This represents a huge problem both ethical and functional that can be difficult to see. AARP frames itself publicly as having no bias, or only a bias towards the consumers for whom they advocate. Yet we begin to see that they have many business interests by which most normal people’s best faculties could, and have been, overcome.
There are a lot of nice ways to say it, but the fact is senior citizens are some of the most taken advantage of in our country. Defrauders abound and the internet has made it all too easy. It’s deplorable that an organization like AARP, which purports to advocate for retired persons and seniors, should be perceived even momentarily as a threat to defraud them further.
AARP should take every necessary step towards immediate transparency if there’s any truth to the statements of their spokespeople. They need to identify concrete reasons why, if it is indeed true, the plans that seem to benefit them financially are also those that provide the best services to the people they represent. Otherwise an association with a generally stellar reputation for honesty and service could be tainted with scandal and greed.

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