AARP: Does it really support seniors’ interests or its own?

Published 6:07 pm Monday, January 23, 2012

Anyone in America over the age of 50 has heard of or from AARP, and for the most part, how wonderful that organization is in its support of older Americans.
There’s no doubt that AARP’snonprofit efforts have, for at least the first 40 years of its 50-plus year existence since the mid-1950s, been an outspoken voice in support of seniors.
In 1999, AARP founded its taxable, for profit division called AARP Services, Inc., which is a wholly owned taxable subsidiary of AARP.
That organization has never made a very big effort to distinguish which of the activities it promoted and supported were for the good of their members, and which were for its own corporate revenues that are in excess of $1 billion per year.
In 2008, according to their own financial reports, AARP generated $650 million in royalties, $120 million in ad revenue in its publications, $249 million in membership fees and also received $90 million in grants which included two large federal grants. Among its 2008 donors were the IRS, HUD, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor.
Now that doesn’t sound like an arms-length relationship to me. How about you?
And do you know what products AARP sells?  None. It sells its name, the name that was built as a nonprofit supporter of seniors. And it sells it to providers of everything from health products, travel and rental cars, to legal services, Medicare supplemental insurance and long-term care insurance.
AARP and AARP Services share basically the same building and office space, which makes the separation of their for-profit and nonprofit efforts a bit suspect as distinct.
You see, non-profits are typically allowed to lobby to educate legislators but not for the purpose of influencing legislation.
So how does all this benefit AARP more than seniors?  Well, most people don’t know that AARP is made up of both a nonprofit foundation and a hugely successful for profit, billion-dollar business.
Did you know that AARP came out in support of Obama’s $560 billion dollar cut in Medicare in the Obamacare plan? Why would the largest senior-based organization do that? Do you think it’s because Obamacare is a plan with the best interests of AARP’s members at heart.  Absolutely not.
AARP supported Obamacare because with increasing Medicare costs, and reduced Medicare benefits under the cuts proposed in Obama’s plan, millions of seniors on traditional Medicare are going to need supplemental or Medi-gap insurance.  And who do you think is going to make a killing selling their insurance to those seniors?
You guessed right if you said the insurance companies “blessed” by AARP. And it gets worse.
Those on Medicare Advantage programs are going to get squeezed as Obamacare changes the reimbursement payments to them in 2014. And who stands to step in there to push their recommended paying providers? Right again, it’s AARP.
As usual, it’s always about money, and AARP, while they say it has your best interests at heart, also has its own self-interest at heart – more than $1 billion a year in financial self-interest.  I just thought you ought to hear another side of the AARP story.
It’s still up to you but don’t for one second believe that everything AARP does is to improve your life as a boomer or senior.
Ron Kauffman is a geriatric consultant and planner in private practice in Henderson and Polk Counties.
He is the author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease, available at the Polk County Senior Center. His podcasts can be heard at You can reach him at 828-626-9799 or by email at