AARP, one of the nation’s most powerful lobbying organizations, is using its considerable political power to oppose cuts to Medicare and Social Security in talks to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff.” AARP opposes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid because much of its support base rely on the programs for medical coverage in retirement.
In a post on its website dated November 13, the advocacy group made it clear to Washington that they will not go silently into the night or be used as pawns in a war about the fiscal future of the nation. AARP says that politicians are “looking for funds to offset cuts to defense and other federal programs. Because of that, benefits for older Americans and their children and grandchildren are on the table.”
There are various theories of how this would affect seniors and those about to become seniors. The most prevalent idea being discussed among lobbyists in Washington is that the average Medicare consumer will see a significant increase in co-pays and other associated costs due to cuts in the system.
The post goes on to briefly detail some of the proposals that are on the table, but quickly denounces each, saying, “One proposal on the table would change the way the Social Security cost-of-living allowance (COLA) is calculated and reduce benefits by $112 billion over the next 10 years alone. That’s money directly out of the pockets of today’s older people and their families.” These considerations are already at odds with the stance of the AARP. The mean income of seniors today is roughly $22,000 per year and most rely on COLA increases to keep up with inflation and rising health care costs in the form of pharmaceuticals and associated healthcare devices. AARP doesn’t want seniors to have to endure any further cost increases.
The post continues saying, “The president and Congress are also considering raising the Medicare eligibility age, which would dramatically increase costs for younger seniors, drive up premiums for those in Medicare and raise overall health care expenses.” During the recent Presidential campaign one of the most hotly debated topics among the vice presidential candidates was facing the reality of changing Medicare, specifically increasing the age of eligibility. Groups like AARP, have become, and continue to be, a political “third rail” due to their continued efforts to thwart such changes. Further, it has been suggested that such a plan would merely allay the healthcare costs of people between 55 and 65 from the government to their employers. This would in turn drive up overall healthcare costs, as employers would pay more in premiums and drive prices up.
All this comes on the heels of rumblings in the Republican Party that proposed Medicare cuts, such as the $716 million in cuts enacted by the Affordable Care Act, that are set to take place, must be part of the solution to the debt problems facing the country. Using the consideration of tax increases as a negotiating point, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has continued to pressure the administration over ACA, writing in an op-ed this week, “That’s why I’ve been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge.”
Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also said, “And as Congress looks for savings, we need to look at the new health care entitlements too. While Democrats and Republicans may disagree on Obamacare, it’s ridiculous to suggest that we make changes to Medicare and Medicaid, while leaving $1.6 trillion in Obamacare spending untouched.” The GOP has attempted to make political hay by highlighting the $716 million number to AARP’s primary base.
Republicans have had a difficult fight in this arena since the passage of Medicare Part (D) during the Bush administration. Medicare cuts have breathed new life into conservatives in government who are opposed to the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans aren’t the only ones placing Medicare and Social Security on the table. James Carville told CNN Monday night that Senate Democrats would have to negotiate potential Medicare cuts for the sake of keeping the country from going over the fiscal cliff. The Democrats seem to be using cuts in the system as a bargaining chip, much to the chagrin of AARP.
What makes this particularly sticky for both sides is that the Republican Party made pledges as a whole not to increase taxes, while the Democrats have received major donations and support from AARP to prevent cuts in Medicare and its related services. It is unclear whether American’s foremost senior advocacy group will continue its support of either side of the political spectrum, however the American people can be certain that the AARP and its 37 million members will not tolerate an eleventh hour deal that includes any draconian cuts to medical services.