November 16 2010

E Tu, AARP?

Hadley Heath

Whenever I visit home, I joke with my grandmother that I need some "old-lady food." (I can't wait for Thanksgiving!)  I don't mean food from a nursing home cafeteria, not food for old people.  I mean food prepared by someone - like my grandmother - who's had a lot of experience and practice with time-tested recipes.

"Old people" is the politically incorrect term for people above... a certain age.  These people, the "Greatest Generation," have given Americans in my generation much more than family-heirloom recipes.  They've fought wars for our freedom, they've lived through times tougher than the ones we face today, and they've sacrificed to give us a better life. 

That's what was so infuriating about the AARP lobbying for the passage of Obama's health reform.  Senior citizens will suffer more than anyone else from big cuts to Medicare that (bureaucrats hope) will fund more subsidies to other groups.  But just like the AMA doesn't really speak for doctors, the AARP doesn't really speak for older Americans.

And now, today's news: AARP is going to raise their employees' health care costs.  Because of ObamaCare.

From NPR:

In an e-mail to employees, AARP says health care premiums will increase by 8 percent to 13 percent next year because of rapidly rising medical costs.

And AARP adds that it's changing copayments and deductibles to avoid a 40 percent tax on high-cost health plans that takes effect in 2018 under the law. Aerospace giant Boeing also has cited the tax in asking its workers to pay more. Shifting costs to employees lowers the value of a health care plan and acts like an escape hatch from the tax.

"Most plan co-pays and deductibles have been modified," Jennifer Hodges, AARP's director of compensation and benefits, wrote employees in an Oct. 25 e-mail. "Plan value changes were necessary not only from a cost management standpoint but also to ensure that AARP's plans fall below the threshold for high-cost group plans under health care reform."

About the high-cost plan tax (a.k.a. the "Cadillac" tax): Our lawmakers in Washington either recklessly or unwisely overlooked the fact that medical costs inflate at a faster rate than the standard inflation rate.  Therefore, the tax will apply to more and more people each year, as the thresholds increase at the standard inflation rate, and our medical costs increase more.  Or, many Americans will have to follow suit with the AARP and switch to plans with less coverage, to avoid a tax "originally intended to only hit the rich."  (Have we ever heard that before?)

This bad news from the AARP has to hit Obama especially hard.  McDonald's and Boeing and others have already cried "Uncle (Sam)!" under the health reform.  Now it looks especially bad to have the AARP, a big proponent of the reform, cite the very law it advocated as its reason for present trouble.

But AARP's leadership says the organization still stands behind the law:

AARP officials say the organization's public policy recommendations are made independently of other considerations, including its range of business ventures, from travel, to insurance, to publishing.

The 40 million-strong AARP represents people 50 and older, including retirees on Medicare and Social Security. Its endorsement of health care overhaul came at a critical time last year, days before a close vote on the House floor.

"The impact on AARP employees is not a factor at all in our policy making, which is directed at the impact on our membership and on all older Americans," said Certner.

It sounds nice that the organization doesn't consider the plight of its own employees, just other people.  But don't they realize that so many people, including many AARP members, are similarly situated?  When I read this part of the NPR article, my first thought was, "AARP officials say the organization's public policy recommendations are made independently of other considerations, including reality." 

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