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Thursday, September 3rd 2009

How The AARP Got It Wrong

For an organization touted for an apparently powerful lobby, especially on health care, how has the AARP gotten it so wrong, so often?

They failed miserably with their support of Hillarycare and they appear to be failing on reform now.

[zdvideo width="500" height="400" theme="gray" border="no"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNrUAve-opU[/zdvideo]

Amidst reports on defecting members, the AARP continues to support healthcare reform centered on a public option.

Here’s the reality however: America’s Medicare beneficiaries are scared about rationing.

The closer a health care system is to a global budget (and don’t kid yourself the public option is a backdoor to a single payer system) the more overt and systemic its rationing becomes. And one of the places such rationing is going to preferentially occur is at the end of life.

Now, if we’re rational about it such rationing is defensible. But hard to argue that to many elderly, especially with opinions on end of life care being what they are in this country.

I’m not talking about ‘death panels’ but we should be realistic. Expectations in the United States for end of life care outpace a good chunk of the rest of the world and the utilization of healthcare resources and dollars at the end of life in America is profound. The value of such jusn’t in there, it does not change outcomes. Despite that the American elderly are more likely to expect everything be done, that the money be paid, that the technology be used.

That do everything mentality may have to change the closer America gets to a global budget system. And yet the AARP is trying to convince their constituents that such rationing isn’t coming; that their expectations can remain the same as the American healthcare system is reformed.

It is a poor message.

I think part of the problem is that the AARP no longer has a constituency. It is not an advocacy group for retired people anymore, there are almost no shared characteristics for individuals over 50 that necessitate a specific advocacy group. That 52 year old gentleman who is working and insured and years from retirement has little in common with that 55 year old laid off from his job and stressing over his health bills who has little in common with that 72 year old who is retired and getting his care paid for by Medicare.

Who is the AARP representing on this issue?

As well, the AARP has long had a conflict of interest in lobbying on healthcare because so much of its operating budget comes from selling packaged healthcare services which it has lent its name to. Medicare part D plans and others.

The AARP once again has misjudged the mood of its members and the country and, to be blunt, simply needs to get out of the debate.