AARP Exodus Illustrates Obamacare’s Effects On Seniors

Jillian Bandes
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Posted: Aug 21, 2009 12:01 AM
AARP Exodus Illustrates Obamacare’s Effects On Seniors

After news broke this week that over 60,000 AARP members had left the organization because of its support of Obamacare, the group launched a massive media campaign to try and restore its image and integrity. But many think that the organization is merely going through the motions to try and gain back members while simultaneously trying to back the President’s health reform proposal – which will most likely hurt the quality of care that seniors receive.

"Sen. Corker believes the AARP has thrown its constituents under the bus by supporting the administration's proposal, which takes money away from Medicare, an already insolvent program, and leverages it to create a new entitlement program, further jeopardizing a program our seniors depend upon and adding to our country's burgeoning deficit,” said Laura Herzog, press secretary for Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

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The AARP has held several town hall events to discuss the health care proposals, with the most widely publicized event occurring on August 4 in Dallas, Texas. The YouTube video of that event has received over 230,000 views and shows the leader of the town hall walking out after members continued to voice their disappointment with the President’s health care proposals.

On Wednesday, David Certner, legislative policy director at AARP, held a special online Q&A session on the Washington Post where he seemed to push the idea that organization was trying to walk the fence as much as possible while preventing further fallout.

“The AARP has not endorsed any particular bill. We are working with the Administration and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to craft the best bill possible for our members,” he told a questioner in Ridgefield, Connecticut. “We agree 100% that older Americans must be protected in any reform bill, and we are working to ensure we get an improved Medicare program.”

He also pushed back against the perception that the organization was suffering while claiming that members who had left had done so in part out of ignorance.

“While we regret that we have lost members -- some of whom probably do not fully understand AARP's position -- we are happy to report that we have gained over 400,000 new members over this same time period,” he said.

Dennis Smith, a senior fellow in health care reform at The Heritage Foundation, has attended town hall protests in Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee, says he has seen widespread feelings of disenfranchisement from seniors over Obama’s proposals and the way the AARP has dealt with them.

“From the town halls I’ve done, that are widely attended by seniors, there’s a lot of disappointment, with Obama’s current proposals and with the AARP not working in their interests,” he said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), another member of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, expressed similar feelings, saying that the current reform health care would be a net loss to seniors.

“At a time when Medicare is $38 trillion in debt and on a path to bankruptcy within the next decade along with a broken physician payment system that threatens access for millions of seniors, the last thing we should do is use it as a piggybank for more government expansions and spending,” he said.