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realclearworld

The Judas Goat

The AARP is scrambling to maintain its "neutrality" in this year's Presidential race:

“While we respect the rights of each campaign to make its case to voters, AARP has never consented to the use of its name by any candidate or political campaign. AARP is a nonpartisan organization and we do not endorse political candidates nor coordinate with any candidate or political party."

The statement from AARP Senior Vice President John Hishta, in reaction to Obama's statement during the October 3rd Presidential debate, indicating that his $716 billion in cuts to Medicare were supported by the AARP:

"AARP thinks that the savings that we obtained from Medicare bolster the system, lengthen the Medicare trust fund by eight years. Benefits were not affected at all."

President Obama goes on to suggest that the AARP has been critical of Governor Romney's health plan:

"And this is the reason why AARP has said that your plan would weaken Medicare substantially. And that's why they were supportive of the approach that we took."

Well, the AARP may claim the mantle of a non-partisan, disinterested advocate for seniors, that is just not the case at all.

The AARP nay wish to represent themselves as a disinterested, non-partisan advocate for seniors, but if I had to pick a term to describe the organization, and their relationship to the current health care issue, I'd call them a Judas goat.

What is a Judas goat?

The Urban Dictionary:

A Judas goat is a trained goat used at a slaughterhouse and in general animal herding. The Judas goat is trained to associate with sheep or cattle, leading them to a specific destination. In stockyards, a Judas goat will lead sheep to slaughter, while its own life is spared. Judas goats are also used to lead other animals to specific pens and on to trucks.

Why would I compare the AARP to a Judas Goat?

This is why:

The 40-million member AARP will support the $1.2 trillion health care bill heading toward a vote in the U.S. House, a potentially critical endorsement, the Associated Press is reporting.

The powerful seniors lobby has been in a difficult position on health care legislation this year. It has generally supported revamping the system but has also lost tens of thousands of members over concerns about how the current proposals in Congress would affect Medicare.

AARP threw its weight behind health care reform that will be paid by cuts to Medicare?

How does that make sense?

After all, President Obama himself has targeted Medicare Advantage for cuts which would be used to fund health care reform, and his cuts are "draconian" in scope:

As to the supposedly draconian nature of Mitt Romney’s Medicare cuts, they’re only exceeded by the severity of the Medicare cuts in…Obamacare.

According to the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare will reduce Medicare spending by $716 billion between 2013 and 2022, relative to prior law. These cuts directly affect current retirees. By contrast, both the Romney and Wyden-Ryan plans only affect retirees younger than 55. In other words, for better or worse, President Obama cuts Medicare more than Romney would.

So why would AARP support such a plan?

Because the chief alternative to Medicare Advantage in today's market is AARP's own Medigap plans. Offering fewer benefits at higher premiums, the royalties generated by AARP from the group that provides most of the policies marketed under its brand last year, exceeded $222 million dollars; an amount nearly equal to the dues collected by AARP during the same period of time.

Obama plans to eliminate AARP's competition in return for their endorsement:

We’ve got to eliminate programs that don’t work, and I’ll give you an example in the health care area. We are spending a lot of money subsidizing the insurance companies around something called Medicare Advantage, a program that gives them subsidies to accept Medicare recipients but doesn’t necessarily make people on Medicare healthier.

And if we eliminate that and other programs, we can potentially save $200 billion out of the health care system that we’re currently spending, and take that money and use it in ways that are actually going to make people healthier and improve quality. So what our challenge is going to be is identifying what works and putting more money into that, eliminating things that don’t work, and making things that we have more efficient.

AARP leads its membership to the slaughterhouse, and lives to benefit from it.

There's no Judas Goat like an old Judas Goat.

Update

It seems that my figure on royalties collected by AARP from insurance companies was actually the total collected from ONE company...UnitedHealthCare.

Here's the actual amount:

The seniors group used to rely primarily on membership dues, but it now collects about 60% of its revenue from royalties on AARP-branded health, life and auto insurance as well as other arrangements, up from about one-third in 1999, according to the AARP. Last year, AARP collected $652.7 million in royalties, 63% from UnitedHealth Group alone, according to the group's financial statements. By comparison, it received $249.3 million in membership dues.

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