As Election Day draws near and political rhetoric grows heated, AARP’s support for the Affordable Care Act, known to some as “Obamacare,” is once again the subject of scrutiny by some in Congress and the media. Despite what the critics may say, the simple truth of the matter is that AARP makes policy decisions based on what we believe to be in the best interests of Americans over age 50.
For more than 54 years, AARP has been driven solely by our mission to improve the quality of life for all Americans as they age. As the nation’s leading advocacy group for Americans 50 and older, we work with lawmakers — regardless of political affiliation — at the national, state and local levels to advance the interests of our members and all older Americans on issues including consumer fraud, utilities, age discrimination, health care and Social Security. Our all-volunteer Board of Directors are experts on the issues on which we work and they drive AARP’s advocacy decisions.
As we have found repeatedly over the years, our leadership on high profile and politically contentious issues sometimes leads to accusations from one party or another when our goals of helping older Americans don’t fit with their political interests.
If AARP were motivated by partisan interests during the health reform debate, we could have easily agreed to support early legislative proposals that failed to meet the needs of older Americans. Instead, AARP never lost focus in pushing for measures that addressed the critical health concerns of our members and all older Americans. We are proud that the law includes provisions that we put so much effort into, including measures to close the “doughnut hole” coverage gap in Medicare’s prescription drug program and expand access to health care for Americans over 50 and not yet eligible for Medicare.
AARP’s key priorities during the health reform debate were informed by our policy research and by years of listening to our members and other older Americans. Despite the rancorous, emotional and unfortunately partisan debate, AARP members consistently and overwhelmingly — across party lines — support the provisions we fought for, including limiting insurers from charging much higher premiums because of age, prohibiting denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions, closing the doughnut hole, and improving coverage for critical preventive services like cancer screenings.
As was the case following our leadership in the debates to create a prescription drug program in Medicare and prevent the privatization of Social Security, we will continue to build on these successes to better address the needs of older Americans. For instance, the health reform law didn’t address the Medigap market, which is regulated separately from the under-65 private market. AARP believes more needs to be done to ensure seniors are getting the best value for their dollar and that’s why we continue to work with Congress to improve the Medigap marketplace for seniors.
To be clear, AARP is not an insurer, and never has been — we encourage companies to offer products that will meet the needs of older Americans. Some of these products, which meet our high standards and carry the AARP name, also help provide revenue to AARP — money that we use to keep our dues low and to offer programs and services that help people 50-plus live their best lives.
It’s the size and strength of our membership and the depth of our resources that make AARP effective in responding to the wants and needs of the 50-plus population. While not all of AARP’s members were happy with our work during the health reform debate, more than 1.3 million members and volunteers took action with AARP in support of our work.
For some who opposed the Affordable Care Act, attacks on AARP have become a regular part of a continuing crusade against the law. But our support for the new health care law was based solely on the vital benefits it provides our members and all older Americans. Under our Board’s leadership, AARP will continue our work to make sure older Americans have their voices heard in Washington and on the campaign trail. We invite you to join us.