Current logo for AARP, in use since January 2007
|Motto||"To serve, not to be served"|
|Predecessor||National Retired Teachers Association|
|Former name||American Association of Retired Persons|
AARP, Inc., formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, is a United States-based non-governmental organization and interest group, founded in 1958 by Ethel Percy Andrus, PhD, a retired educator from California, and based in Washington, D.C. It is a membership organization for people age 50 and over.
AARP operates as a non-profit advocate for its members and as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States. AARP has two affiliated organizations: AARP Services Inc. which is managed wholly for profit, and the AARP Foundation, a charity that operates on a non-profit basis.
AARP Services Inc. offers Medicare supplemental health insurance, discounts on prescription drugs and consumer goods, entertainment and travel packages, long-term care insurance and automobile, home and life insurance. It provides quality control over the products and services made available by AARP-endorsed providers. According to AARP's 2008 Consolidated financials, it was paid $652,000,000 in royalties from insurance companies that sold products referred by AARP. AARP also received an additional $120,000,000 for the advertisements placed in its publications.
The AARP Foundation's website says the nonprofit "wants to win back opportunity for those now in crisis, so thousands of vulnerable low-income Americans 50+ can regain their foothold, continue to serve as anchors for their families and communities and ensure that their best life is still within reach." Key areas of focus are hunger, income, housing and isolation. The Foundation's vision is "a country that is free of poverty where no older person feels vulnerable."
AARP claims approximately 38 million members, making it one of the largest membership organizations in the United States.
- 1 History
- 2 Activities
- 3 Health care
- 4 Social Security
- 5 Controversy
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
According to the group's official history, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus founded AARP in 1958. AARP evolved from the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA), which Andrus had established in 1947 to promote her philosophy of productive aging, and in response to the need of health insurance for retired teachers. After ten years, Andrus opened the organization to all Americans over 50, creating AARP. Today, the NRTA is a division within AARP. Dr. Andrus founded AARP while living in Ojai, California, where she had established an innovative new retirement home named Grey Gables. Ojai served as national headquarters for AARP from 1958 until the mid-1960s. Honors to Dr. Andrus include National Teacher of the Year in 1954, induction into the Women's Hall of Fame and, more recently, a medallion placed on the Points of Light Institute's "Extra Mile Pathway" in downtown Washington, D.C.
Some critics of AARP offer an alternative version of the group's origins. 60 Minutes reported in a 1978 exposé that AARP had been established as a marketing device by Leonard Davis, founder of the Colonial Penn Group insurance companies, after he met Ethel Percy Andrus. According to critics, until the 1980s AARP was controlled by Mr. Davis, who promoted its image as a non-profit advocate of retirees in order to sell insurance to members. Possibly as a result of the 60 Minutes report, AARP conducted a lengthy competitive bidding process, and, in 1980, shifted the insurance contracts made available to members to Prudential Financial.
In the 1990s, the United States Senate investigated AARP's non-profit status, with Republican Senator Alan Simpson, then chairman of the United States Senate Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy, questioning the organization's tax-exempt status in congressional hearings. According to Charles Blahous, the investigations did not reveal sufficient evidence to change the organization's status, though in an interview years later by the Des Moines Register, Senator Simpson remained "troubled by AARP's practices", calling AARP "the biggest marketing operation in America and money-maker" and an organization whose practices are "the greatest abuse of American generosity I witnessed in my time in the U.S. Senate."
The organization was originally named the American Association of Retired Persons, but in 1999 it officially changed its name to "AARP" (pronounced one letter at a time, "ay ay ar pee") to reflect that its focus was no longer American retirees. AARP no longer requires that members be retired, but be at least age 50; it does not extend full membership privileges to applicants who are retired but not yet 50.
AARP is widely known for addressing issues affecting older Americans through a multitude of initiatives, including lobbying efforts at the state and national governmental level, an activity permitted by its 501(c)(4) status. The organization claims that it is non-partisan and does not support, oppose or give money to any candidates or political parties. AARP's total revenue for 2006 was approximately $1 billion and it spent $23 million on lobbying. Middle-class security has been a major focus for the organization in recent years. AARP also provides extensive consumer information, volunteer opportunities, and events including the annual National Event & Expo (2013 in Las Vegas from May 30-June 1 and in Atlanta from Oct. 3-5). One of AARP's goals is to reduce hunger among seniors through the Drive to End Hunger. AARP and AARP Foundation have a new relationship with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports to increase awareness of hunger in America with the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger race car and related food drives.
AARP launched Life Reimagined in May 2013, calling it a “first-of-its-kind series of online and offline experiences that guide people through life transitions by helping them discover new possibilities and connect with a community of people pursuing similar passions and goals.”  USA Today called Life Reimagined "the latest step for the AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) as it continues to rebrand itself and become the go-to address for feeling good about aging.
AARP Services, Inc. and AARP Financial Incorporated
AARP Services, Inc., founded in 1999, is a wholly owned taxable subsidiary of AARP. AARP Services manages the wide range of products and services that are offered as benefits to AARP's 40 million members. The offers span health products, travel and leisure products, and life event services. Specific products include Medicare supplemental insurance; member discounts on rental cars, cruises, vacation packages and lodging; special offers on technology and gifts; pharmacy services; legal services; and long-term care insurance. AARP Services founded AARP Financial Incorporated, a subsidiary that manages AARP-endorsed financial products including AARP Funds. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in June 2010, AARP Financial announced the discontinuation of AARP Funds "AARP Financial Announces Discontinuation of AARP Funds". Aarp.org. AARP Services develops new products, manages and markets products and services, and creates and maintains partnership and sponsorship relationships.
The AARP Foundation
The AARP Foundation is AARP's affiliated charity. Foundation programs provide security, protection and empowerment for older persons in need. Low-income older workers receive the job training and placement they need to re-join the workforce. Free tax preparation is provided for low- and moderate-income individuals, with special attention to those 60 and older. The Foundation's litigation staff protects the legal rights of older Americans in critical health, long-term care, consumer and employment situations. Additional programs provide information, education, and services to ensure that people over 50 lead lives of independence, dignity, and purpose. Foundation programs are funded by grants, tax-deductible contributions and AARP.
AARP Driver Safety
In 1979, AARP introduced the nation's first-ever driver safety course geared towards older adults. AARP Driver Safety, which can be completed in a classroom setting or online, teaches defensive driving techniques and provides "added information on age-related cognitive and physical changes that affect driving." The course is instructed and promoted by volunteers throughout the US. A half-million people completed the courses in 2012.
AARP publications and broadcasts
- The organization publishes AARP The Magazine (known until 2002 as Modern Maturity), a lifestyle magazine for people 50+. Established in 1958, the magazine is distributed bi-monthly to AARP members. AARP also publishes the AARP Bulletin.
AARP The Magazine and the AARP Bulletin with their approximately 40 Million circulation are by far the two magazines with the highest circulation in the United States. The organization also produces radio and television programs and has a book division.
- Inside E Street, hosted by broadcast journalist Lark McCarthy, takes a "nonpartisan, civil look into issues critical to Americans"
- Prime Time Radio, hosted by veteran broadcaster Mike Cuthbert, is a one-hour weekly interview program that focuses on the wide-ranging interests and concerns of Americans 40 and older. The program is heard on radio stations across the country as well as online at radioprimetime.org.
- Prime Time Focus, hosted by Alyne Ellis, is a 90-second daily feature with a five-minute weekend edition heard on more than 500 stations.
- Movies for Grownups, a weekly 2-minute program hosted by AARP the Magazine's Entertainment Editor Bill Newcott, is heard on stations nationwide and online at the radioprimetime website. Recent guests have included Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Ron Howard, Alfre Woodard, and Helen Hunt. The Movies for Grownups Awards (www.moviesforgrownups.org) are presented each February in Hollywood.
- My Generation, hosted by Leeza Gibbons, is AARP's lifestyle show featuring nationally known experts covering issues from health and money to relationships and volunteering.
AARP en Español is the Association's bilingual multimedia platform. Offerings include a Spanish-language website, a Spanish-language YouTube channel and informational resources.
AARP has been active in health care policy debates since c. 1960 and its recent engagement is a reflection of this long-standing involvement.
AARP's public stances influenced the United States Congress' passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, which authorized the creation of Medicare Part D, in 2003, and also influenced the Congress by resisting radical changes to Social Security in 2005. AARP also addressed health care issues in their campaign targeting the 2008 elections with Divided We Fail.
Divided We Fail
In early 2007, AARP launched "Divided We Fail," designed to address health care and long-term financial security. The initiative was launched with Business Roundtable and the Service Employees International Union, and encompasses advertising in national outlets and in the primary states, online activities, and traditional grassroots work, in order to engage the public, business and elected officials in the debate, and to encourage public leaders to offer solutions, according to the AARP. Nancy LeaMond, executive officer for social impact, said, "We want to really get to these candidates and ask for action, answers and accountability on these questions."
The initiative used an "elephonkey" mixed animal as its symbol, with the head and forelegs of the Republican elephant and the ears, hindquarters, and tail of the kicking Democratic donkey. "Champ" quickly became a recognizable symbol of the Divided We Fail initiative, fostered in part by television commercials that ran across the country. In addition, Divided We Fail Florida incorporated the initiative's mascot into an interactive educational vehicle, dubbed the "Champmobile," which traveled across the state and throughout the United States encouraging voters to "Let your voice be heard!"
In February 2007, AARP announced the launch of a new advertising campaign designed to address issues that will impact future generations and showcase the AARP brand. The campaign, called "Future Champions", features children talking about the state of health care and financial security. The multigenerational focus is designed to reinforce the AARP's Divided We Fail coalition.
Approximately seven million people have AARP branded health insurance, including drug coverage and Medigap, as of April 2007 and AARP earns more income from selling insurance to members than it does from membership dues. In 2008, AARP plans to begin offering several new health insurance products: an HMO for Medicare recipients, in partnership with UnitedHealth Group; and a PPO and "a high-deductible insurance policy that could be used with a health savings account" to people aged 50–64, in partnership with Aetna. AARP will likely become the largest source of health insurance for Medicare recipients, and AARP estimates the new products will increase its health insurance customers to 14 million by 2014.
AARP is not an insurer and does not pay insurance claims. Instead, AARP allows its name to be used by insurance companies in the sale of insurance products, for which it is paid a commission like an insurance agent.
Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said in 2008 that the "limited benefit" insurance plans offered by AARP through UnitedHealth provided inadequate coverage and were marketed deceptively. One plan offered $5,000 for surgery that may cost two or three times that amount.
AARP does a "thriving business" in marketing branded Medigap policies. As of October 2009, Medical care reform contained a proposal to trim an associated program Medicare Advantage, which was expected to increase demand for Medigap policies. However, as cited above, AARP also brands a Medicare Advantage plan (MedicareComplete), and would also be subject to cuts under health care reform.
On the other hand, single-payer advocates have criticized AARP for not supporting the single-payer or public option during the health care debate. Single-payer advocates supported H.R. 676, proposed by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). AARP released a statement explaining to its members why the organization was not supporting H.R. 676:
Starting over with a new, "single-payer" program will not eliminate the problems Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP currently face, such as the spiraling costs of procedures and prescription medications, as well as technological advances that are often not comprehensively tested to be proven safe or effective before marketing. H.R. 676 does not address the problem of increasing health-care costs. Rather, it allows costs to continue to grow, which will result in unaffordable coverage.
John Rother, AARP's former chief lobbyist, said the single-payer model would "disrupt the system that is currently in place" and "would require a very significant tax increase." But Rother admitted that it would be possible to design a system that would avoid these problems and function well. AARP's priorities now are to protect the current programs and implement the Affordable Care Act. Rother said that any effort to promote single payer would be undercutting health reform. Rother said. "To go to a single-payer you do have to trust government. The climate we're in right now is a very hostile climate for something like that."
Rother also thought that an educational effort on the benefits of single payer would undercut the ACA. AARP has not published any material relating to single-payer health insurance on its website, in its several hundred page policy book, or through its Public Policy Institute.
Since March 2012, AARP’s You’ve Earned a Say campaign has sought to foster nonpartisan conversations about how to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch reported, "AARP took the debate about Medicare and Social Security from what it called behind closed doors in Washington to a series of town hall meetings around the country to make sure retirees have a voice in the discussion." 
In June 2011, AARP dropped its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits. A news release emphasized "AARP has not changed its position on Social Security." In 2005 AARP led the effort to kill President George W. Bush's plan for partial privatization. AARP now has concluded that change is inevitable, and it wants to be at the table to try to minimize the pain. "The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens," said John Rother, AARP's policy chief and a prime mover for the new position. AARP declined to join a coalition of about 300 unions, women's groups and liberal advocacy organizations created to fight Social Security benefit cuts. "The coalition's role was to kind of anchor the left, and our role is going to be to actually get something done," said Rother.
In an editorial column within the Los Angeles Times, critic Dale Van Atta wrote that AARP does unauthorized lobbying for its membership, and lobbies against the best interests of its membership. Van Atta says that by lobbying for the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, AARP leaders betrayed the membership.
According to an Annenberg Public Policy Center report, critics have said AARP had a conflict of interest in supporting the Act, because AARP "derives income from the sale of health and life insurance policies," by licensing its brand to insurance dealers such as New York Life, and would benefit financially from passage of the legislation.
In 2004 BusinessWeek said questions have arisen in the past about whether AARP's commercial interests may conflict with those of its membership, and characterizes many of the funds and insurance policies that AARP markets as providing considerably less benefit than seniors could get on their own.
Approximately 60,000 AARP members quit AARP between July 1 and August 18, 2009, in a controversy that arose over AARP's support for U.S. health care reform. FOX News stated, "The Atlanta-based American Seniors Association, which is opposed to President Obama's health care plan, is trying to capitalize on growing public dissatisfaction with the AARP." AARP spokesman Drew Nannis responded that AARP loses about 300,000 members a month on average, and the controversial 60,000 of those that had left had specified leaving over the Health Care debate. Nannis also stated that the AARP gained 400,000 members and that 1.5 million members renewed their memberships within the same period of time. The American Seniors Association is a for-profit organization operated by the American Seniors Association Holding Group, Inc (ASAHG, Inc).
Thomas C. Nelson, Past Ex-Officio / Past COO AARP Foundation & AARP respectively, received $1,176,614 salary/compensation from the charity. This is the 5th most money given by any charity to the head of a charity, according to Charity Watch. It includes a separation payment of $682,285. The full amount of Thomas Nelson's compensation was paid by AARP, not AARP Foundation. Despite this, Charity Watch rates AARP a "B-".
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