AARP Health Reform Stance Alienates (Some) Members

Some “60,000 people have canceled their AARP memberships since July 1, angered over the group’s position on health care,” CBS News reports.

Many are switching to the American Seniors Association, a group that calls itself the conservative alternative as CBS News Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports. Last week alone, they added more than 5,000 new members. Our camera was there Friday when the mail came. Letters were filled with cut-up AARP cards.

“I think that probably the seniors are most upset with cuts in Medicare,” said ASA President Stuart Barton. The American Seniors Association is flat-out against President Obama’s plan, which calls for $313 billion dollars in Medicare cuts over ten years. The AARP is widely viewed as supporting the President.

Last week, Obama told a town meeting in Portsmouth, NH, “We have the AARP on board because they know this is a good deal for our seniors.” The AARP called the President’s statements “inaccurate,” saying it hasn’t endorsed any plan or bill. Some were left with the feeling that AARP was waffling. “I feel they’re supporting it through the backdoor, and telling members that they’re not through the front door,” said Guardiani.


AARP says for a group with 40 million members that adds hundreds of thousands each month, losing 60 thousand is just a drop in the bucket. But to the much smaller American Seniors Association it’s a flood.

Right . . . .

So, the AARP has lost 1.5 percent of its membership?  And replaced them with multiples of that over the same period?  I’m not sure that’s really noteworthy.  How many people quit the organization in a typical month, anyway?  CBS doesn’t say.

The AARP has a huge amount of clout because it can claim to represent a huge number of people.  The dirty little secret — oft told but seldom mentioned when such controversies arise — is that 99 percent* of the AARP’s membership join for the various discounts that the ridiculously cheap membership fee brings, completely oblivious to the political stances of the leadership.

As an aside, I’m amused that a so-called “conservative” AARP alternative is bitching about cuts in Medicare, a program conservatives naturally opposed for the same reasons they’re opposing ObamaCare.  A massive entitlement program for a fast-growing demographic which is fiscally unsustainable is many things; conservative is not among them.

AP Photo

*Note: I totally made this number up.  But it’s probably close to accurate.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hi. You are right to be suspicious. I wrote on this earlier when Fox issued a same report. Now CBS is failing to do its job. Basically — and this is really a bad indictment of the media — the alternative conservative group is sponsoring a membership drive. New members can get 2 years for the price of 1, if they mail in their torn-up AARP cards. So, in order to take advantage of the discount, people are doing this: See here.

  2. Ed, Watertown MA says:

    The story last evening on the AARP ignored the fact that there are thousands of people like me who joined the AARP specifically because of the AARP support for healthcare reform. I would bet that those of us who have joined in the last year outnumber or at least cancel out the people who have quit.

  3. Triumph says:

    AARP is the devil.

    The top of the health care reform agenda needs to be the eradication of Medicare. It is socialized medicine at its finest and an offense to free market values.

    Until we get rid of Medicare, our health care crisis will never be resolved.

  4. Brett says:

    In one sense, I suppose you could call it a “conservative” organization, in that it’s trying to preserve the status quo (no limits on Medicare).

    The top of the health care reform agenda needs to be the eradication of Medicare. It is socialized medicine at its finest and an offense to free market values.

    It also created health care coverage for seniors at a time when more than half of them were uninsured (and usually uninsurable for obvious reasons). Medicare is burning a budget hole, but if you want to replace it, you need something better than promises of “free market values”.

  5. Pug says:

    The top of the health care reform agenda needs to be the eradication of Medicare. It is socialized medicine at its finest and an offense to free market values.

    I’m betting you won’t find many Republicans to run on that platform. They should, though, because it would be interesting to see some of the town hall screamers get their chance to live in a socialism-free world.

  6. An Interested Party says:
  7. Charlotte says:

    Seems rather stupid of the AARP to support this legislation. Its members are the ones who are going to be the most effected. If you don’t think so, then you are ill informed.

    AARP can comfort themselves with the idea that this is just a drop in the bucket, or that that “OTHER” organization is funding a drive for members. Numbers reported are only for a short period of time. If people continue to resign, then the organization could have some financial problems. [with any luck]

    Do not think you can argue that there will be lots more members to enroll. Believe that this bill will be thinning out that population, for sure. AARP could become a moot point anyway.

    Older people will be given a pill, and told that hospice (the murderers of Terri Schiavo) will be there. Do your duty you old people who aren’t working and paying taxes!!!

    Therefore, we can all live the reality of Logans Run crossed with Soylent Green. If you actually believe that the government will run healthcare well, then you are an idiot.

    I ask one question: Has there ever been a program run WELL by the government? QED

  8. floyd says:

    Starting with those born in 1945, those who are demanding that the government pay-up on their promise of Medicare are taking a conservative position. They were brought into system the without a vote and forced to pay for it for 40+ years at gunpoint.It is only right that they demand that the government fulfill their obligation. The same government that allowed employers to renege on health-care promises in retirement packages by dumping their retirees onto Medicare!

  9. floyd says:

    According to your article, 150% of those who were aware AARP’s political positions have resigned their memberships.
    That sounds pretty noteworthy![lol]