Monday, September 22, 2008

I complained to AARP that they're just shilling for insurance companies. Here's who I think replied to me.

AARP talks a good game about reforming healthcare for seniors. But I believe them about as far as you can throw a concrete block

Recently, they wrote to me asking me to enlist in their "Divided We Fail" healthcare "reform" effort by sending them money.

I wrote back to say their current "Divided We Fail" campaign is nothing but a vacuous plan with no substance, demanded by a company that shills profit-making medical insurance. Did I get back a reply? I sure did. But it was either from an illiterate or a robot.

Hey, I could be wrong, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, by letting you read the correspondence between me and AARP.

AARP started it all when
they sent me this e-mail:

Dear Crank [Real name redacted],

We have recently written you about the growing health care problem in the United States. As you know, in these difficult economic times, millions of Americans, especially those over 50, are finding it harder then ever to get by.

Meanwhile, health care costs are spiraling out of control, and many Americans are being forced to split pills, postpone medical treatment and even forego necessary medications. This is just not right!

We need to cure our ailing health care system – and you can help by supporting the most aggressive grassroots effort in AARP history – Divided We Fail. Through this massive effort, we will demand actions, answers and accountability from our leaders in Washington.

But, we can only succeed and create change with the support of AARP members like you. Can we count on you?

Support our work by clicking here now to give a secure, online gift. There is a lot of work to be done – and membership dues don’t go far enough – but with your gift of $15 today, we can continue our work to:

Lower the Cost of Prescription Drugs. Since 2001, the average price of prescription drugs has grown at more than double the rate of general inflation.

Keep Medicare Premiums Fair. Monthly Medicare premiums have doubled since 2000.

Improve Patient Care …and Provide Better Options for Long-Term Care. Patient care is more than caring for you when you are sick. It is also about keeping you from getting ill in the first place, and helping you avoid more costly health procedures.

Please contribute today. Peter, your online gift is urgently needed to help us make quality, affordable health care a reality for all Americans – especially seniors!

Individually, we accomplish little. But when we stand together, we can accomplish anything. Divided, we fail.

Thank you for your help in this and all our legislative efforts.
Bill Novelli

Chief Executive Officer
I thought, “This is pure bullpoop."
And I replied via e-mail with this:

Absolutely not! AARP fought for the lousy drug plan we have now. The so-called "divided we fail" message says nothing. "Tell your Congressman to fix this mess?" All you do is denigrate Congress and further the division. How should Congress fix the mess? You never say, do you?

When AARP sponsors a single payer plan for all Americans, and negotiated prices with drug companies, then I'll support you. Until then, so far as I'm concerned, AARP is nothing but a shill for an insurance agent who manages his own finances so ineptly (or perhaps greedily) that he has to go begging for money.
Then somebody
— or some thing —

at AARP replied to me.

The reply, as you’ll see, had nothing to do with my complaint that AARP is in effect pretending to sponsor nonspecific "legislation," while its interests lie with leaving healthcare and the Medicare drug plan in the hands of the insurance companies. Here is AARP's reply:

Dear Mr. Crank, [Real name redacted] Thank you for your message sharing concerns that a donation is required before signing our online petitions. We have shared your message with our web activist team and it's my pleasure to clarify this issue.

We apologize for any confusion our online messages have caused. You
are not required to provide a donation in order to sign our petitions. We are grateful for any support you can provide, be it through signing our petitions, getting involved through volunteer work, or making monetary contributions. Your involvement is key to our progress and we look forward to your continued support.

Occasionally, we send messages to activists like you requesting
donations to help with our advocacy work. Additionally, upon signing our petitions, you are sometimes sent a follow-up message requesting a donation, or you are immediately directed to a new page thanking you for your signature and also providing the opportunity to make a donation via our online form. We recognize that many of our activists are facing financial hardship, and we understand completely if you are unable to contribute monetarily.

Again, as with all of our efforts, we are thankful for your
involvement and with your help, we will gain the strength to convince Congress to ease some of the financial burdens our members are facing.

I hope this message clarifies this issue for you. We look forward to
continuing our relationship with you and working to positively impact the lives of our members, their families and society as a whole. It is the combined interest, energy and commitment from members like you that gives AARP the power to make life better.


Member Communications

Toll-free 1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277)

Toll-free 1-877-434-7598 TTY
Be a champion for change! AARP's Divided We Fail initiative is
amplifying the voices of millions of Americans who believe that health care and long-term financial security are the most pressing domestic issues facing our nation. Demand action and answers from elected officials and candidates by signing the Divided We Fail pledge at
Huh? Is AARP staffed by illiterates or robots?
Beats me, but I sent a reply to “Hilda.” Here it is:
Dear "Hilda," Did AARP give you a reading comprehension exam before they hired you? Or, before they plugged you in if, as I suspect, you're a machine?

My message made no mention whatsoever of donations. What I had to say is repeated in the next paragraph. Incidentally, I think your reply is such an obvious non sequitur and example of how AARP isn't listening to its own membership that I plan to post our correspondence on my blog, The New York Crank [Http://] within the next 24 hours.

Here's what I said:

>>Absolutely not! AARP fought for the lousy drug plan we have now. The so-called "divided we fail" message says nothing. "Tell your Congressman to fix this mess?" All you do is denigrate Congress and further the division. How should Congress fix the mess? You never say, do you? When AARP sponsors a single payer plan for all Americans, and negotiated prices with drug companies, then I'll support you. Until then, so far as I'm concerned, AARP is nothing but a shill for an insurance agent who manages his own finances so ineptly (or perhaps greedily) that he has to go begging for money.<<

Thanks for providing the provocation for me to post our correspondence on my blog.
Crankily yours,

The New York Crank [Real name redacted]
Will Hilda have a meltdown?
Will AARP ever meaningfully address

the needs of its members? Stay tuned.

So far I haven’t heard back from “Hilda,” much less from Bill Novelli, who is not only the CEO of AARP but also the co-founder of a national PR firm that for some weird but unexplained reason (maybe you can guess) doesn’t publish its client list on the web.

If you want truly meaningful drug legislation — a no-hole drug benefit, universal healthcare and a single payer system, let AARP know about it. Send them a blistering note at

Tell them the New York Crank sent you.


New York Crank said...


The following is a reply I received from "Ayan" at the AARP on October 1. Note that finally — finally! — someone at AARP comes out and admits they have a specific political position that opposes single payer healthcare and believes, like most Republicans, in the mysterious power of "market forces."

Presumably those are the same forces that as I write are crashing the American economy. Also, AAARP seems to think that continuing to soak you and me for a good part of the cost of prescription drugs will prevent "overmedication." As if it's only the price of prescriptions that prevent us from gobbling down blood pressure medications willy-nilly and chug-a-lugging chemotherapy drugs for cancer. Yeah right.

Anyway, here's what AARP has to say, through its mouthpiece, "Ayan.":

Dear Crank [real name redacted]:

Thank you for your follow-up e-mail. We appreciate hearing back from you and it is my pleasure to appropriately respond.

First, please accept our sincerest apology for the previous error as that message was intended for someone else.

I'd like to individually respond to each of your three concerns noted in your e-mail:

1) The Medicare RX Plan: In 2003, we supported passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act.
However, the measure only gained our support by including several important provisions intended to protect consumers from rising drug costs. For instance, the law is designed to speed up the development and marketing of lower-priced generic products.

In addition, the new Medicare prescription drug benefit can be provided by private plans whose Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBMs) are able to negotiate volume-based drug discounts from pharmaceutical companies. This will help hold down the costs of participating in the new program by using market forces to hold down prices. Requirements for electronic prescribing will help reduce errors and prevent overmedication, which will raise the quality of care and lower costs at the same time.

Our support of the Medicare legislation was crucial to its passage, which gave seamless coverage to more than 13 million older Americans. We supported the measure on its final merits, even though it drew the ire of many Democrats and cost us about 70,000 of nearly 36 million members. There is more that needs to be done, however. I
want to let you know that advocating for affordable health care, including expanded prescription drug coverage, is still a major priority for AARP.

2) Our Divided We Fail initiative: I'd like you to know that AARP, Business Roundtable, the Service Employees International Union and
the National Federation of Independent Business, are leading Divided We Fail, an initiative to give voice to millions of Americans who are
tired of letting Washington gridlock stand in the way of affordable, quality health care and long-term financial security - the most
pressing domestic issues facing our nation. Common sense solutions are needed, and everyone - individuals, businesses and government - has a role and a responsibility in ensuring health and financial security for all.

Already, more than 600,000 people have joined in our "Millions of Voices for Change" effort by signing the Divided We Fail pledge or sharing a personal story on their struggles to maintain health and
financial security for themselves and their family. We are using these pledges and stories to let the candidates and our elected leaders know, the time for action on health and financial security is
now. It is critically important for each of us to stand up, speak out and demand action. To learn more about Divided We Fail you can visit, where you can sign the Divided We Fail pledge, share your personal story, see a listing of the more than 90 supporting organizations or see if your member of Congress is one of the more than 300 who have signaled their commitment to work in a bipartisan way to provide Americans with actions and answers on
health and financial security. Also, if you'd like to learn more specifics of our various legislative positions and legislative advocacy; you can visit our Make a Difference web pages at To view or download chapters from the AARP Policy Book, visit

3) Lastly, about our position on the single payer plan: AARP strongly believes comprehensive healthcare reform that guarantees coverage, improves quality, and lowers costs should be an urgent priority. However, we do not support H.R. 676 ( the US National Health Insurance Act or the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act) for the following reasons.

First, H.R. 676 does not address the problem of increasing healthcare costs. Rather, it allows costs to continue to grow. By 2016, projections show total health spending almost doubling to $4.1
trillion and consuming one-fifth of the nation's gross domestic product. Efforts to control costs include comparative effectiveness research, a generic pathway for biologic drugs, and increased
attention to prevention and care coordination, none of which are included in H.R. 676.

Additionally, H. R. 676 essentially eliminates Medicare, Medicaid, and the SCHIP programs that have served the American public well for
many years. These programs have very finely- tuned financing arrangements and have adapted their coverage to meet the needs of many Americans. "Reinventing the wheel" with a new single-payer program will not eliminate the problems Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP
currently face, such as the spiraling costs of prescription medications, and technological advances that are often not comprehensively tested and proven safe and effective before marketing.

Moreover, H. R. 676 does not promote shared responsibility for healthcare coverage among employers, employees and the government - a
basic principle of AARP policy. The bill would relieve employers and individuals of their obligation to contribute toward healthcare coverage. Therefore, even with the trust fund contained in the bill and other sources of funding, the single-payer system cannot remain solvent. Taxes will need to be increased. This means that the bill
simply shifts the burden of the rising costs of health care onto the taxpayer alone, with no motivation built in its structure for cost containment.

We do, however, support comprehensive healthcare reform. We will continue to monitor H.R. 676 and other legislation regarding the crucial issue of adequate health care for all. We believe quality
health care and lifetime financial security are the most pressing domestic issues facing our nation. The time for action is now. Therefore, it is vital that Congress deliver healthcare legislation with the strength to elicit bipartisan support and end the gridlock that continues to obstruct positive change in our country.

Crank [real name redacted], thank you again for getting in touch with us and once again we do apologize for the previous response error. We do hope that in the future, we can regain your full faith in AARP as an organization worthy of your membership. It is vital that we maintain
open dialogue with our members, so we do appreciate hearing from you.

If there is anything we can discuss with you in the future, please don't hesitate to contact us.


Member Communications

Anonymous said...

please stop sending me your junk,i just throw it away.i've tried for a year to get you to stop!

"...been there, done that!" said...

Hi All,

AARP pushed this bankrupting obamacare program that is terrible from all reports by medical people, hospitals, smarter people than me and me. I just received a notice that our local hospital is offering FREE prostate screenings for those non insured and underinsured! Who is paying for that? You & I!

The latest glossy magazine arrived with a picture of the ungrateful, clueless Michelle Obama on it two months before election. Inside, along with Mrs. Biden, they all of a sudden are chastizing us about doing something for military families. Where have they been for 10 years?? All this is, is a slimy political move to keep their names in the press leading up to the election. Cheap politics by useless, unpatriotic people.

Vote these people out! How can anyone vote for a democrat when their behaviour shows they care nothing for this country, our values, our Constitution, economic basics, and the people who are working everyday to keep this country viable (this does not include those who were bailed out as that was just another odorous political move, giving money to their supporters ).

Anonymous said...

I rejoined aarp in Aug.was suppose to get the travel bag,i have called 3-4 times and still no bag.wonder if they do this to everyone?