Issues & Insights

Why AARP Is This Year’s ‘Seniors’ Shame Of The Union’

There was little doubt that President Joe Biden would claim the ludicrously named Inflation Reduction Act as an accomplishment in his State of the Union address. American seniors ought to be outraged that he did. And they should be equally outraged with the AARP, the self-proclaimed advocate for older Americans, whose aggressive advocacy for the misguided spending bill possibly served as the political lynchpin ensuring its passage.

Hand in hand with Democrats, AARP told seniors that Biden’s IRA would lower their drug costs and improve their health care. The organization lobbied hard for the legislation, hosted supportive events for Democrat members of Congress, and spent millions in ads pitching the IRA as a historic milestone beneficial to the health and well-being of older Americans — it’s anything but. Instead, the IRA is a monumental betrayal of everything AARP purports to stand for — earning AARP the “Seniors’ Shame of the Union” award for serving as the captain of the disastrous bill’s cheerleading team.

The IRA — which, again, AARP went to great lengths to pull across the finish line — raids nearly $300 billion from Medicare, labels it “drug savings,” and then uses it to fund subsidies paid to big insurers, costly electric vehicle tax credits, and other spending unrelated to Medicare. Worse, the IRA prioritizes spending for Democrat’s pet projects before applying “savings” to lower drug costs for seniors in Medicare.

So, in the end, liberal Democrats got a big multi-billion piggy bank funded by Medicare cuts to pay for favored spending programs such as Obamacare expansions and Green New Deal handouts for wealthy consumers. Meanwhile, big health insurance corporations got rewarded twice. On the front end, new subsidies extended to higher-income people to pay for non-Medicare private health coverage (rather than reforms to drive down premiums). And on the backend, new government drug price control schemes will pad the record profits of big insurers-PBMs in the short-term.

Meanwhile, the IRA pushes seniors to the back of the line in terms of benefiting from the Medicare “savings” Democrats and the AARP sold to them. Drug developers have signaled a pullback on critical reserach-and-development investments in new cutting-edge medicines due to the IRA’s price controls — just as economists, and even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, warned.

Why would AARP host dozens of town halls (almost exclusively for the benefit of Democrats in the House and Senate), conduct petition drives, and spend millions in paid media to enact a policy that raids Medicare and deprive seniors of access to new treatments and cures?

Follow the money. AARP now earns more than a billion dollars a year in corporate royalties — more than three times what its own members pay in dues — and most of it comes from its financial relationship with a single health insurer-PBM company, UnitedHealth Group. Over the last 15 years, research estimates that AARP has been paid around $8.2 billion due to its unique royalty and marketing relationship with the Minnesota-based insurance giant. All of which serves as a blatant conflict of interest for AARP’s advocacy for the IRA and other health care-related policies.

Whatever AARP’s reasons for advocating and celebrating the IRA, two things are clear: It has betrayed the very seniors it claims to represent and helped weaken Medicare — and for that, AARP deserves its recognition as the “Seniors’ Shame of the Union.” 

Jon Decker is the executive director of American Commitment.

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  • Typical GOP lie.

    From CRFB:
    IRA Would Lower Medicare Costs, NOT Cut Benefits
    AUG 2, 2022 HEALTH CARE
    Several political advertisements have made misleading attacks that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) would cut Medicare spending by $300 billion. In reality, the bill’s prescription drug savings would save the federal government nearly $300 billion through 2031 without cutting benefits – and while actually reducing premiums and out-of-pocket costs by nearly $300 billion more. Unfortunately, attacking cost-reduction policies as benefit cuts is a bipartisan tradition; similar misleading attacks were made against President Trump’s sensible Medicare proposals, and these false and misleading attacks make it more difficult to bring health care costs under control.

  • This has been going on for 30 years. AARP is the largest UH broker in the country. They are K Street. Even their building was dubbed the Taj Mahal. A very successful grift.

  • What a complicated topic. The estimated cost savings of the IRA are, well, estimates. I think estimates of future savings are highly uncertain. The expenditures promoted by the IRA will almost undoubtedly occur and soon. Moreover, the expenditures promoted by the IRA will have very negative effects on the economy despite what the CFRB thinks. Just one example, the CFRB figures the IRA will help lower the costs of renewable energy.

    No. Subsidizing renewable energy is not really going to make it cheaper. It will shift its costs and encourage it to grow. Considering the external costs of renewable energy and the phony accounting making it appear “cheap” this is not a good thing to encourage.

    So, now we come to the nub of this article. The author sees the IRA as robbing seniors to promote Democrat wishes in the green new deal. Someone else refers to this view as typical GOP lies in the comments section. If the IRA can find 300 billion in projected savings, should those savings be applauded as helping get healthcare costs under control? I don’t know. They are for one thing speculative but for another they don’t do anything to reform the structural problems of entitlements. But a long list of other questions now occur to me.

    Presume these savings do actually occur on time and in the amount estimated. Should these savings remain within medicare complex to shore it up on some way? Or does it make sense to use those savings to enable other programs? Is it actually robbing seniors? People can see what they wish but what I see is a fine micro-example of why Federal spending is out of control and may never be tamed.

  • I have had the UHV/AARP medigap supplement for 13 years. Started out with monthly premium of $169.00/mo, now up to $289.00/mo. Never any problem getting payments made by them to Medicare providers. If government medicare pays, they pay. The cheapest of all the medigap providers. Works well for me. I have no connection to AARP or UHC, and no love lost for the AARP, but their UHC medigap coverage is 100%. Howard

  • I remember watching Alan Simpson many years ago talking about AARP.
    In his words, “they must hate their grandchildren” – and then went on the explain how they push government spending so hard that they are bankrupting future generations.
    Their primary goal has been to generate income and power for themselves and it will never change.

    • No, they aren’t the ones who are bankrupting future generations. It’s the people who want to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for future generations. The sooner we fix it, the less painful it will be, but politicians keep failing to get it done.

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