Most people think of AARP as a benign, non-profit organization that advocates for older people and provides various discounts and benefits. But in recent years the AARP has increasingly waded into controversial political issues, like endorsing Obamacare, pushing the CDC's ever-evolving positions on COVID-19, and promoting LGBTQ advocacy.
Critics now question some of the AARP's latest advocacy positions because of its business partnership with "Big Insurance." Tax documents reportedly show AARP earned more than a billion dollars in royalties in one year from their business partners, notably United Healthcare. "AARP, supposedly representing its members, is getting $350 million from United Healthcare," says Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government. "So it would be ridiculous to assume they're not going to take the exact same position on issues as United Healthcare."
One of those key issues is prescription drug pricing, for which AARP supports allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug makers. Manning argues while that is good for insurers like United Healthcare, it amounts to "price fixing" that will limit the drugs and treatments available to patients. "It's a very dangerous position that AARP is taking, because it really is harmful for their members' long-term health," he tells KTRH.
KTRH reached out to AARP for a response to these criticisms and received the following response: “Since our founding, AARP has engaged with the private sector to help advance our social mission, including by licensing our brand to vetted companies that are meeting the needs of people as they age. Our subsidiary, AARP Services Inc., manages these relationships that make quality offerings available to our members."
The statement continues, "AARP advocates for policies that are in the best interests of the 50-plus without regard to how it may impact revenue or any provider agreements. Our track record shows many instances where we have opposed the interests of the insurance, pharmaceutical, and nursing home industries and more."
Manning isn't buying it. He warns consumers to be wary of whatever the AARP is pushing. "AARP is not necessarily recommending the best healthcare plan for you, they're recommending a healthcare plan that, if you use it, is really good for them," he says.
"It's akin to signing up for Facebook and realizing that you're actually the product, you're not the customer...with AARP, it's exactly the same thing."