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The Decline and Fall of AARP

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When I received my AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) card in the mail on my fiftieth birthday, over twenty years ago, I was very proud to be a new member.  In those distant days, AARP was a fine organization, dedicated to both the welfare of America's aging population and to advocacy on behalf of seniors.  My pride in AARP continued for many years, but gradually the organization began to change, diminish, and ultimately to do disservice to its members and to American seniors in general.  AARP's decline is not only a real shame, it is truly shameful as well.   

That decline might be marked from the introduction of Part D of Medicare, which covers prescription drugs.  Many seniors, particularly economists such as myself, found that 1990s legislation to be far from ideal for us, indeed far below the mark of providing affordable prescriptions.  We were quite surprised when AARP not only endorsed that adverse bill, but campaigned vigorously for it.  It was only after Part D passed the U.S. Congress that I realized why AARP was so supportive "" the reason was that AARP was in the process of offering its own supplemental coverage in that area and the less that was provided by Medicare, the more AARP could charge to insure seniors against such poor legislation.  Like many others, I was astounded at AARP's crass and callous endorsement of such a bad bill. 

AARP's trend towards offering seniors bad deals has continued and, indeed, grown vastly since then.  Now, auto insurance, travel and a travel club, other medical coverage, credit cards, and a host of  "benefits"- are available through AARP "" mostly at inflated prices and with adverse terms.  Take their auto insurance provided through The Hartford insurance company.   The last time I compared costs, I would have paid several hundred dollars more on our vehicles through the AARP insurance than what I was paying with another company after careful shopping for rates.  Indeed, the AARP/Hartford insurance consultant with whom I spoke himself told me, "Stay with your present coverage; we can't offer you nearly as good a deal."-

 Much the same is true of AARP's other not-so-good deals for seniors, on top of which our confidential information goes to third parties.     Meanwhile, while AARP still pays lip service to legislative issues, and indeed does some good on those issues at the State level, there are mainly the Sounds of Silence as to national needs and national legislation.  The present economic stimulus package should have had major and serious input from AARP as America's seniors struggle with very limited incomes and rising costs "" but it did not.  I haven't seen much from AARP as to how senior investors can reduce the risks of investment losses, or how the SIPC (Securities Investors Protection Corporation) can provide compensation in fraud cases such as the Bernie Madoff scandal.  Many other examples of not-so-benign neglect could be cited. 

What the AARP does very well now, however, is to run demeaning advertisements endlessly on television, particularly CNN, where dozens of times a day, literally, an annoying woman tells us how she called AARP to get supplemental medical insurance upon turning sixty-five, or another annoying woman tells us how her brother Earl drives a twenty-year-old car and has insurance even more out-of-date, or a rather-dumb man gets a lecture from a fake traffic cop as to how much money he could be saving with the AARP/Hartford auto insurance.  Their few clever ads are drowned in a sea of poor taste.     I started complaining about those demeaning ads in 2008, and finally, after many ignored emails, received a response that The Hartford was in the process of changing them to an entirely new set (not that it is likely to be much better than the present ones).  When I wrote my AARP contact several months later that the old ads were still being run endlessly, I got a snotty reply that nobody ever said that they would be changed "soon."-  Someone needs to tell AARP that, as the courts say, justice delayed is justice denied.

Further communications with AARP on this and the other matters above, including to their CEO, from this particular long-term member, have been totally ignored "" just as the real needs of America's seniors have been mainly ignored by AARP in recent years.  And that is the most shameful truth of all.
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Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)

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