The Obama campaign is responding to attacks from Mitt Romney with a TV ad that cites AARP as evidence that the Affordable Care Act won’t harm seniors despite its payment cuts to Medicare providers.
Republicans on the House Ways & Means Committee on Friday returned fire by seeking to discredit AARP, accusing the influential seniors’ group of sacrificing the well-being of its elderly members in order to boost its profits.
“AARP is being held up again today as a credible source committed to protecting seniors — this time in a new round of attacks on bipartisan policies that would extend the solvency of the Medicare program,” a statement from Ways & Means Republicans said. “This is the same AARP that hailed the law as benefitting seniors, despite a recent estimate by the Congressional Budget Office that the law cuts Medicare by more than $700 billion to fund a new entitlement program.”
Contrary to that assertion, the $716 billion in 10-year Medicare savings under ‘Obamacare’ do not target beneficiaries — they come in the form of payment reductions to providers, mostly hospitals and insurance plans under Medicare Advantage.
Obama’s ad cited AARP’s support for passage of the law in 2010. The group argued that the Medicare cuts wouldn’t harm beneficiaries and it championed provisions expanding seniors’ access to prescription drugs. The ad continued that, by contrast, AARP warned that the Romney-Ryan approach to Medicare “would undermine the market power of Medicare and could lead to higher costs for seniors.”
The GOP statement argued that AARP stands to profit “by more than $1 billion between 2011 and 2021 alone” thanks to the cuts, arguing that the law would shift millions seniors off Medicare Advantage and onto supplemental “Medigap” plans. One of the largest Medigap plans is run jointly by AARP and UnitedHealthcare.
“So, to AARP, reducing Medicare spending is only acceptable when AARP benefits financially, regardless of how it impacts America’s seniors,” said the advisory from the committee, titled Medicare, Money and Motivation: How AARP Stands to Profit under Democrats’ Health Care Law. The committee is chaired by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI).
A spokesperson for AARP did not immediately return a request for comment.
Earlier Friday, the group — one of many to fall out of favor with Republicans after backing the Affordable Care Act — kept its distance from the ad but didn’t alter its analyses.
“We were not aware of nor have any involvement with this campaign ad,” AARP senior vice president John Hishta said in a statement. “AARP is a nonpartisan organization and we do not endorse political candidates.”
Hishta added: “The next president and Congress will decide the future of Medicare.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.