Tags: AARP | Obamacare

AARP Loses Members over Healthcare Stance

Wednesday, 19 Aug 2009 10:09 AM

By Dave Eberhart

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About 60,000 senior citizens have quit AARP since July 1 because of the group's aggressive support for a healthcare overhaul, according to a report at Townhall.com.

AARP, the nation's most powerful seniors' association, launched a multimillion-dollar campaign on Aug. 10 aimed at dispelling myths surrounding the healthcare debate, according to NationalJournal.com. Founded in 1958, AARP has 40 million members and offices in all 50 states.

AARP's “myths-vs.-fact” advertising is off and running on national and local television and radio, in print publications, and online. The organization wants to dispel thinking that healthcare reform is not affordable to fix in these distressed times, will mean the virtual end of Medicare, and will lead to a government takeover, as well as an unattractive rationing of services.

The campaign is hardly a new one for AARP. For the first half of 2009, AARP spent millions on federal lobbying on the issue.

"It's critical that people have the information about the proposals currently being debated in Congress," said Drew Nannis, spokesman for AARP. "There is a lot of misinformation out there, and people need to make decisions based on accurate information, not myths, lies, and scare tactics."

All well and good, but some rank-and-file members are peeling away in droves over the organization’s pro-reform agenda.

Many senior citizens are concerned about proposed cuts to Medicare providers to help pay for making healthcare available for all, according to the Townhall.com report.

It isn't unusual for the senior citizens' lobby to shed members in droves when it's advocating on a controversial issue, Nannis said. The organization hosted President Barack Obama at an online forum recently, allowing him to pitch Obamacare to AARP members.

Despite its apparent support of reform in general, the group has not endorsed any specific bill and maintains it won't support a plan that reduces Medicare benefits.

"We take stands on issues that are contentious; it's part of what we do," Nannis said. "And because we have so many members we'll always have a small percentage that disagree with us so strongly they feel they need to cancel membership."

The approximately 60,000 number represents members who specifically cited AARP's stance on the health overhaul debate in canceling their memberships between July 1 and mid-August, Nannis said.

On average, AARP loses about 300,000 members a month for whatever reason, he said.

Despite the walkout of the disenchanted, Nannis noted that AARP gained about 400,000 new members during the same period, with about 1.5 million members renewing their membership.

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