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Roger Gitlin: Cut up that AARP card and send it back

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Posted: August 7, 2010 4:24 p.m.
Updated: August 8, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Last April, I read with great interest a column by Paul Strickland titled “Save our seniors” (April 16). Strickland referenced the then-newly passed health-care legislation — aka Obamacare — that cuts some $528 billion from Medicare, that includes $136 billion from Medical Care Advantage.

Strickland correctly identified AARP, the so-called senior advocacy group, as supporting the reformed health care legislation. AARP most definitely sits in the conflict-of-interest couch quite comfortably. As a senior, I am more than keenly interested in who’s looking out for me as I graciously mature.

Chief Executive Barry Rand exclaims AARP has fought for health care reform and health security for all its members.

If you are 50 or older, keep reading. Your blood will slowly boil. Formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, in 1999 the organization simply became AARP. Total revenues exceed $1 billion annually from referral fees, travel packages, radio and television programs, insurance and medical plans and advertising. Yearly dues account for a very small part of this gigantic company’s income.

I recently cut my card up and returned it to AARP headquarters in Washington, D.C. If you are a member, I am asking you to do likewise. Destroy your AARP card and drop out of this arguably partisan, self-serving organization. AARP is definitely not looking out for your best interests

AARP fails abysmally to serve the needs of seniors, while at the same time claiming it does exactly that. AARP is an enthusiastic supporter of Obama’s widely unpopular health care plan, and in doing so makes millions by endorsing insurance companies and health providers that fill the chasm of the newly compromised health care legislation.
AARP welcomes illegal immigrants to join and take advantage of so-called AARP discounts and insurance programs.

Your dues support this leftist-lobbying business.

Here’s a little history on AARP: In 1958, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus founded the National Retired Teachers Association, which promoted her philosophy of productive aging, and in response to the needs of health insurance for retired teachers.

Within a decade, the nonprofit organization became the American Association for Retired Persons.

I oppose AARP because the company makes huge profits from selling branded medi-gap policies. AARP reaps the benefits of conscientious seniors who wisely purchase additional insurance to cover their medical needs which no doubt would become necessary as seniors age and coverage wanes.

AARP is a hybrid company. The AARP Foundation operates as a nonprofit entity. AARP Services, Inc. is wholly managed to make as much money as it can. It is wrong for this crossbred AARP to take advantage of seniors without full disclosure.

According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, AARP holds a major conflict of interest in supporting the Health Act, because AARP “derives income from the sale of health and life insurance policies,” by licensing its brand to insurance relationships such as New York Life, and benefits financially through the act’s passage into law.

BusinessWeek magazine reported many of the funds and insurances companies AARP markets provide considerably less benefit than seniors could secure on their own. That only makes sense. Why pay for an AARP-endorsed product when the insurance company you just wrote a check to “kicks back” a referral fee to AARP? Where’s the disclosure?

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said: “The limited benefit insurance plans offered by AARP through United Health provided inadequate coverage and were marketed deceptively. ... One plan offered $5,000 for a surgery that may cost two or three times that amount.”

Around the Santa Clarita Valley, I polled a number of seniors who were not too shy to express their opinions. Dr. Gene Dorio, a geriatric and internal medicine doctor who manages Housecall for Seniors, has known of AARP‘s deceitful ways for many years. AARP’s California chapter supported a California ballot measure a decade back that would have raised the already sky-high taxes in California.

Dorio dropped his membership back then and he encourages you to do the same. He also said AARP’s total support of Obamacare proves it is a left-wing organization designed to raise money for left-wing causes.

Here are other comments from around Santa Clarita:
n “AARP is a for-profit organization posing as a retiree advocate group.”

n “My husband and I object to the California branch of AARP and its sponsorship of political ads. That’s a misuse of membership dues.”

n “AARP has never taken a stand for seniors to fight taxing Social Security, imposed by Clinton/Gore.”

n “AARP offers me nothing I can get on my own.”

n “We went to a health-care forum in Alhambra last year. There were all kinds of ‘trucked-in’ union members who were wearing AARP T-shirts and passing out brochures. Nobody spoke English.”

n “AARP acts exactly like a big union. They don’t give a rat’s ass for their members. I get the same discount with AAA.”

Comments came in from out of Santa Clarita area, too. One man from Crescent City commented: “AARP’s support of health legislation angered me to the point where I cancelled my membership.”

I did not receive one positive comment about AARP. Not one.

Send your card back: AARP, attention: Barry Rand, CEO, 601 E. St NW, Washington, D.C. 20049.

Roger Gitlin is a retired teacher, founder of the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minutemen and state director of the Patriot’s Coalition. He can be reached at His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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