It wasn't a big shock to me when AARP announced that it would be "investigating" deceptively marketed health insurance carrying
the AARP brand, in response to a U.S. Senate investigation. AARP may
technically be a nonprofit, but it also aggressively and profitably
markets commercial services that appear at first to be an AARP benefit.
AARP's "insurance,", from partner company United Health, is just a
capped flat payment for certain medical services. Anyone who fell
seriously ill wouldn't be "covered" and could be left deeply in medical
debt. So why should we trust AARP's self-proclaimed role in national
And why did it take a Senate investigation for AARP to discover that it was hawking a junk "association health plan" that could leave seniors bankrupted by medical debt?
AARP has taken down the page that sells its so-called "50 to 64" health insurance, but the deceptive marketing message remains on its web site.
As of today, the front page of AARP's insurance page describes the junk policy as:
Essential Plus Health Insurance: An enhanced fixed-cash hospital indemnity plan offering a lower cost option to major medical insurance.
Tell me that doesn't sound, on the face of it, like a cheaper alternative to your Blue Cross or Kaiser.
This isn't AARP's first embrace of commerce over consumers. It
endorsed the pharmaceutical industry's version of the Medicare drug
benefit, Part D, barring Medicare itself from bargaining with drug
makers for lower prices. Every real consumer organization opposed that
clause, but AARP's support gave cover for it to pass. This year
beneficiaries are seeing up to 50% premium increases and coverage losses on even common drugs. Coverage for the so-called "doughnut hole" is disappearing.
President-elect Barack Obama has promised to allow Medicare itself to negotiate for lower drug prices, but Big Pharma is gearing up to fight him. It's much harder to get rid of a law that corporations love than to pass a new one. Thanks, AARP.
AARP is also chums with Wal-Mart, other large corporations, the big
Kaiser HMO and SEIU, the service employee union, in a campaign to
"share responsibility" by requiring the purchase of health insurance
without effectively reforming the wasteful, profiteering private health
insurance market that created much of our current crisis.
So beware those who say they're speaking for you in the inevitable
corporate and lobbyist cat-fight over health care reform in D.C.
Sometimes they're worse than the corporate pirates themselves, because
they pretend to be something else. Let your elected representatives
know, when the time comes, what you think.