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Unholy Alliance: The AARP and The Hartford!

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When I turned fifty years of age -- now nearly thirty years ago -- one of the good things was being able to join what was then the fledgling American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP. In those days of yore, the AARP was probably the premier organization representing the elderly in the United States, lobbying for us on a host of major issues, providing vital services, and proudly representing the best interests of this growing population group which helped to build the nation.

Sadly, that was then, and this is now. The AARP (now the full name, as the meaning of those initials was dropped some time ago -- that, alone, is rather telling) sends out daily emails advising seniors on everything from how to have "the best sex of your life" to how to bake better cookies. In between those two goals, there is not much that the AARP does not sell to its members -- even such dubious services as horoscopes and travel to dangerous locations. Most of all, though, the AARP sells insurance of all types -- life, health, financial -- especially auto and home insurance!

Not being an insurance company itself, the AARP has to partner with various insurers who make the actual sales and issue the actual insurance policies. That brings us to The Hartford, a giant insurance firm which the AARP has regretfully chosen to handle AARP Auto and Homeowners Insurance, and related coverages. And, speaking as a retired professor of insurance among other subjects, as well as an outgoing auto and home policyholder of The Hartford AARP program, The Hartford may not be the worst insurer on earth, but it is surely the worst insurer with which I have ever had the misfortune to deal. And, today's AARP is not much better either.

When my wife and I took out our AARP auto and home insurance policies -- nearly four years ago -- we were promised by both telephone and email customer service representatives that we would receive a "5% longevity premium reduction" in the third policy year. Had that actually occurred, it would have helped to make up for the continuous premium increases which took place in both of our AARP Hartford policies, even though we had absolutely no claims, no traffic tickets, no accidents, nothing negative -- we have been "poster kids" for wise insurance behavior.

None of that mattered to The Hartford though: each policy year, we were subjected to substantial rate increases, particularly on the auto policy, with not the slightest explanation given. So in the third policy year, particularly upon not receiving the long-promised and long-awaited longevity discount, I probed a rise of over 30% in our auto premium, pressing The Hartford to explain. The state where we reside had indeed granted a much-smaller rate increase, but some two-thirds of our particular premium hike was totally unexplained -- and then The Hartford refused to even try to explain that massive jump by saying it was "proprietary information." From decades of teaching insurance, I know that each and every policyholder is fully entitled to have his or her own premiums fully explained -- there is nothing proprietary about that requirement! I told the Hartford that fundamental fact, again demanded to know how our premium was set -- and got zero from them. And when I pressed The Hartford about the promised longevity discount, I was told that, regretfully, it did not apply to my policy in my state. There are terms for that sort of thing -- misrepresentation and possible insurance fraud are among those which come to mind!

All of this came to a head when we recently purchased a modest four-year-old Scion xD and tried to add it to our AARP The Hartford auto insurance policy -- unbelievably, we were told the policy premium would nearly double as the Scion added over a thousand dollars of annual cost. This was so unbelievable that I demanded to speak with a supervisor, who confirmed the vast jump in premium -- take it or leave it, was their attitude, so I left it -- and am also leaving the AARP Hartford insurance program soon, with a vast sigh of utter relief!

It should be noted that the issues above were the bigger ones -- but there were also a host of petty and not-so-petty annoyances dealing with the The Hartford AARP insurance program. For example, whereas most modern insurers have a system for secure on-line signing of documents, The Hartford requires such routine documents to be faxed or mailed to them after signing. This wastes time and money, while the documents sometimes take weeks to turn up. Then there are the wide variety of stories told by customer service reps, who seem to make up facts as they go.

Now: ENTER THE AARP. As matters became more and more difficult in dealing with The Hartford itself, I decided to deal instead with my membership association for nearly thirty years, the AARP itself -- but they immediately responded by email that they take zero responsibility for any and all blunders, errors, and misconduct by The Hartford -- all AARP does is refer members to their chosen insurer, while abdicating all responsibility for the actions of their chosen partner. Upon escalating these issues to the executive and managerial levels of AARP, after totally ignoring the issue, AARP just "circled the wagons" by responding with meaningless blather!

If you are an AARP member and are considering their auto and homeowners insurance program via The Hartford, my advice, as both an AARP member and outgoing insured with The Hartford, is>CAVEAT EMPTOR, BUYER BEWARE! There may be a chance you will have a better experience with The Hartford AARP insurance program -- but why take that chance? I have repeatedly asked my membership organization, AARP, to look into partnering with a different and competent insurer for these types of policies, as (now speaking as a retired professor of insurance as well as personally) The Hartford does not deserve to get clients from the AARP. There are many competent and caring insurers ready to service seniors! Too bad AARP refuses to even look into this.

Unfortunately, the AARP itself ignores all such proposals to change from The Hartford to a different insurer; instead, AARP executives prefer to sit on their hands. After all, it is far easier to circulate articles on "better sex for seniors" -- or "baking better cookies" -- than it is to deal with serious, and indeed profound, issues with your chosen insurance partner.

Finally, if you are among the aggrieved in dealing with The Hartford AARP insurance program, file complaints with your State Insurance Department, and the White House Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Be sure to copy all of your Members of Congress on those complaints, demanding at least the following:
1) Full State and Federal investigation of the insurance practices of AARP & The Hartford for compliance with all relevant statutes, laws, rules, regulations, policies, and procedures.
2) Full State and Federal audits of all outstanding insurance policies of The Hartford.
3) Full State and Federal investigation of the tax-exempt status of AARP, now extremely dubious since AARP has become a purveyor of a host of products and services for which it presumably makes money so it can pay those excessive salaries to execs.
4) Be sure to copy Senator Elizabeth Warren, the founder of the White House Consumer Financial Protection Burear, and Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, on all of your complaints.
This is a great potential election issue -- AND WE SENIORS ALWAYS VOTE!


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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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