We have a question for our 17-, 21- and 23-year-old grandchildren when they are here for Thanksgiving.
Have you joined AARP, we want to know.
It’s right there on the AARP website.
“While AARP is dedicated to people over 50, there is no minimum age to join. People of all ages can get an AARP membership for as low as $12 per year with auto-renewal,” the website states. “Anyone can become an AARP member and gain access to hundreds of discounts, programs and resources.”
Quite simply a membership card is the ticket to all sorts of benefits. It is a great attraction as inflation takes a bite out of everyone’s pocket.
I remember when the organization was the American Association of Retired Persons, one that was established in 1958 by a retired teacher. She envisioned an organization focused on promoting healthy aging and health insurance for retirees.
Additionally, I recall the organization changed its name in 1999 to simply AARP.
Anyone 50 and older could join. Retirement wasn’t a requirement but I don’t remember if there was a minimum age.
Frankly, learning that even teens could become members is, well, a bit unsettling.
It is certainly a cost-benefit to pay so little for all the discounts and even a credit card that offers “unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases with no annual fee.”
Why not? Especially now with inflation eroding purchasing power.
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Of course, any increase in membership — more than 38 million in 2018 according to the most recent figures I could find — gives AARP more clout for its lobbying efforts.
OpenSecrets, a nonprofit that tracks data on lobbying as well as campaign finance, reported AARP’s lobbying expenditures in 2019 totaled more than $8 million nationally. AARP that year had 58 lobbyists, more than half of them former government regulators, congressional staff members or one-time members of Congress.
That is common too of lobbyists for pharmaceutical and insurance industries, giants often with goals that conflict with AARP aims.
We have received lobbying-type letters from AARP, usually with a preprinted form for us to sign and send to members of Congress. They offer no room for nuance or suggestions for addressing an issue. Generally they are along the line of “Tell your representative you oppose any cuts to Medicare ... or Social Security,” usually with a fill-in-your name form to mark and send.
Obviously, the issues are not so simple.
The trustees of Medicare and Social Security funds in 2022 both reported the programs “face long-term financing shortfalls under currently scheduled benefits and financing.” Continued inaction could mean more dramatic and painful benefit cuts, the trustees warn.
AARP publications have printed some excellent articles outlining various ideas for addressing the shortfalls but none of those are included as proposals in those mail-in forms we are asked to send to Washington.
Recently, Congress gave Medicare the authority to negotiate prices for a limited range of prescription drugs. AARP has been for years sought legislation to curb prescription drug prices and will monitor implementation. Already drugmakers, an even more powerful lobbying group, are seeking to influence regulators as they work on the details for implementing provisions of the law in hopes of blunting the impact.
Increasing membership rolls is a boon for lobbying at the state level, but in West Virginia there are no contracted lobbyists, communications director Tom Hunter said in an email.
Rather a cadre of about 30 volunteers from around the state and chapter officers spearhead efforts.
During the 2022 session the lawmakers passed legislation benefiting seniors, state president Jane Marks reported. They include increased support of home and community-based services, access to high speed internet service and protection for older West Virginians against fraud and financial exploitation.
About 300,000 state residents 50 and older are members, according to the West Virginia AARP websites.
Which leads me to wonder if there are many younger members, including, perhaps, our grandchildren.