the AARP sold out


"first, do no harm"

I can hardly believe that in the year 2003 I had to be in the street demonstrating against the imminent privatization and evisceration of virtually the only sliver of public health care now available in this once proud nation. But there I was this morning outside the New York offices of the AARP, screaming my head off and holding a big, mean sign, condemning the largest seniors advocacy group in the country for the greedy betrayal of its members.

The AARP is supporting the Republican Medicare bill and is now spending millions of its members' dues to pay for advertising pushing immediate passage of the legislation as proposed. The AARP has finally become just another insurance company.

We should not be dithering over the kinda, sorta medical help with which the wealthiest country on earth might deign to reward some of its citizens, some of the time. We should not have to be talking about this particular absurd bill. We should not be talking any more about how to care for the drug and insurance companies. We should instead be talking about how to care for people, with an efficient, comprehensive single-payer national healthcare system.

Working on ideas for the obverse of my "AARP SOLD OUT!" sign last night I had come up with "GET YOUR PROFITS OFF OF MY HEALTH CARE". I almost immediately hesitated however, because of doubts that an American audience was able to digest the concept of health care divorced from profit-making. Barry reassured me by offering the analogy of the federal highway program. A government which can make roads its direct responsibility can also make the health of its people its responsibility.

The text made the cut.

If we have to deal first with the bill now on the table, can we at least insist that Congress "first, do no harm"? On Public Radio this morning Ted Kennedy recalled that famous admonition of Hippocrates while chastizing his colleagues' haste in fiddling with Medicare.

The House and the Senate should both tear the damn thing up, and instead, do something really worthy of its charge.

[image notes: Most of the people in the crowd today would be eligible for AARP membership; almost without exception the few demonstrators there under 50 were AIDS or queer activists (where was everybody else?); one "partisan" sign survived totally unchallenged, even though there might actually have been an old-school Republican or two in the crowd; Bill Falk, who was representing SAGE today, is holding my sloppy sign in the third picture; and the last image is of a real activist burning her real AARP card (some people announced earlier that they were going to go walk straight into the organization's offices and demand a refund of their dues)]

It appears to me that AARP has gone from being an advocate for our seniors , to being a clearinghouse for the Insurance Companies. the majority of AARP's correspondence is on behalf of these companies. In order to stop the hard sell by AARP on the part of these companies I will not renew my membership and urge others to do the same

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Published on November 21, 2003 6:50 PM.

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