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Blog - Dems fret: AARP gone missing on Medicaid

By Rich Daly

The charge that AARP's lobbying is driven primarily by the profits it derives from its Medigap insurance plans, which supplement standard Medicare coverage, has been a staple of congressional Republicans since the seniors group threw its considerable weight behind passage of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Now some high-ranking Democrats are joining in the attack. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) blasted the powerful seniors' group Tuesday for basing its Washington lobbying priorities on its financial profits. The chairman of the Finance Committee's Health Subcommittee accused the 20-million strong seniors group of failing to back congressional Democrats' efforts to block Medicaid changes as part of a major year-end debt deal.

“AARP always helps Medicare—made a lot of money off that; they don't make much money off Medicaid,” Rockefeller said during a Tuesday news conference outlining the effort to oppose Medicaid cuts. He might have also reminded the AARP leadership that millions of seniors—the so-called dual eligibles—rely on Medicaid for their nursing home care.

The charge echoed accusations by prominent Republicans like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who released a report in September that alleged AARP secretly lobbied against Medigap changes during last year's so-called super committee debt negotiations. The soon-to-be head of the Heritage Foundation said the changes would have lowered costs on seniors but cut AARP's profits by $1.8 billion over 10 years. Last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) blasted the group for its “over-my-dead-body resistance” to entitlement program changes.

The dust-up illustrates that there is nothing quite like a far-reaching debt deal to scramble the Washington playing field and leave even a big player like AARP scrounging for allies.

You can follow Rich Daly on Twitter @MHRDaly.


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