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Blog - Dems fret: AARP gone missing on Medicaid

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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