Not since the notorious ‘Granny Off The Cliff’ ad of 2012 have Americans been subjected to a political advertisement as deceptive as the raft of commercials being broadcast daily by AARP. While people have become unfortunately more familiar with political scare campaigns over the years — particularly those targeting seniors — the latest effort by AARP is particularly odious. It is distasteful not so much because of its content but because it is so deeply cynical.
The ad features a husband and wife of retirement age sitting in the office of an accountant being told that their health insurance will be subject to an “age tax” and gigantic premiums for preexisting conditions under proposals to repeal and replace Obamacare. It’s a quick and clever ad. It also illustrates a phony ploy designed to protect the crony capitalist model under which AARP reaps billions of dollars in profits.
What many people do not realize is that most of AARP’s revenues do not come from the “members” it purports to represent. The group’s primary source of income is from royalties it receives from its AARP branded health insurance plans, which enjoy exemptions from some of Obamacare’s more onerous taxes and fees.
What many people also do not realize is that AARP, a tax-exempt, non-profit membership organization, charges its own “age tax” policies of 4.95 percent, which is tacked-on to every Medigap health care plan sold under the group’s banner. As detailed in a 2011 House Ways and Means Committee report, the practice reeks of conflict of interest and raises considerable regulatory questions.
This duplicity was laid bare by Christopher Jacobs. Writing in the Federalist, Jacobs notes that AARP received “nearly $3.2 billion in profit over six years, just from selling insurance plans. AARP received much of that $3.2 billion in part because Medigap coverage received multiple exemptions in Obamacare. The law exempted Medigap plans from the health insurer tax, and medical loss ratio requirements.”
That’s a lot of profit for a non-profit, tax-exempt group. With so much money on the line, it’s no wonder that AARP desperately wants to fight any effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. AARP is motivated not by wanting to help seniors but by greed.
Responsibility for the dishonesty in AARP’s latest advertising blitz rests in large part with a man named John Hishta, AARP’s senior vice president of campaigns. Hishta’s pedigree includes working as executive director for the National Republican Congressional Committee and as chief of staff to former Republican Rep. Tom Davis. Given his political bona fides and well known profile in GOP circles, it’s curious that he would be complicit in an effort to torpedo Republican efforts to do away with Obamacare.
If Hishta has indeed sold his soul for a few pieces of silver, he certainly wouldn’t be the first. But the extent to which AARP is deceiving seniors to line their own pockets is breathtaking. According to AARP’s 2015 tax filing, the group reported $1,528,105,289.00 in total revenue that year. With more than $1.5 billion of revenue in a single year, AARP makes more money than the Gross National Product of 21 nations ranked by the International Monetary Fund.
Small wonder AARP is resorting to tawdry scare tactics in an effort to help its bottom line. It has benefitted handsomely from the crony capitalism of Obamacare and captured a sizable share of the market for supplemental insurance programs. It’ll do whatever it takes to maintain that market share, even if it means attacking health care reform plans while charging its own members an age tax. It’s despicable and has to stop.