Friday, August 14, 2009

And I feel fine

AARP, for many, especially, well, retired folks, is a benevolent organization helping senior citizens make their way through the autumn of their lives. The reality is far from that:
Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus founded AARP in 1958. AARP evolved from the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA), which Andrus had established in 1947 to promote her philosophy of productive aging, and in response to the need of retired teachers for health insurance. After ten years, Andrus opened the organization to all Americans over 50, creating AARP. Today, NRTA is a division within AARP. According to Andy Rooney, AARP was established by insurance salesman Leonard Davis in 1958, after he met Ethel Percy Andrus. Ms. Andrus was at the time helping teachers get health insurance through the National Retired Teachers Association. According to Rooney, Davis saw the opportunity to sell medical insurance to the elderly rather than just retired teachers and for that purpose put in $50,000 establishing AARP. According to Rooney, Davis established the Colonial Penn Insurance Co. in order to control AARP, selling millions of dollars in insurance to its members through advertisings in AARP's magazine Modern Maturity and for several years Colonial Penn Insurance Co. became one of the most profitable in the U. S. In 1978, after a 60 Minutes report exposé, AARP got rid of Colonial Penn Insurance Co. and signed up with Prudential Insurance Co.[3]

According to critics, until the 1980s AARP was controlled by businessman Leonard Davis, who promoted its image as a non-profit advocate of retirees in order to sell insurance to members.[4] In the 1990s, the United States Senate investigated AARP's non-profit status, with Republican Senator Alan Simpson, then chairman of the Finance Committee's Subcommittee on Social Security and Family Policy, questioning the organization's tax exempt status in congressional hearings. These investigations did not reveal sufficient evidence to change the organization's status.[5]

As an insurance sales organization, AARP shouild be considered immediately suspect. But that doesn't mean they can occasionally get it right.

Here's a commercial they're running, criticising the lying by Health Care Reform opponents:

I can't fault their statement, but I still don't trust them. Still, AARP is beloved by many older folks. My grandmother, who died 10 years ago, had become knee-jerk paranoid conservative in her later years, and railed against Reaganesque welfare cheats and other symbols of "I got mine, screw you" selfish conservatism. But she had AARP insurance, and believed in them faithfully.

I'd like to think that if she were alive today, she'd listen to AARP and not Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Chuck Grassley, Newt Gingrich, and the rest of the lying bastards on the right.

So for that, AARP, you have my thanks.