Published for www.nationalreview.com/corner, September 22, 2012

Be sure to read Paul Ryan’s speech to the AARP’s national convention today — a clear and forthright elucidation of the case for saving Medicare and the federal budget through market-based reforms and against doubling down on failed central planning and price controls through Obamacare.

As he surely knew he would be, Ryan was met with some opposition (though also some support) in the audience, and boos could be heard at various points — particularly during his criticisms of Obamacare. That’s hardly surprising. The AARP sometimes presents itself as a kind of membership organization consisting of senior citizens, but it is basically a huge financial-services company with an enormous stake in the current design of the Medicare system (it makes about half a billion dollars in revenue each year endorsing and selling Medicare supplemental, Medicare Advantage, Medicare prescription drug, and long-term-care-insurance policies). It profits in particular from higher-premium Medicare supplemental coverage (because it receives a royalty fee on every dollar seniors spend on premiums for AARP-endorsed products), and so would be a major loser in a premium-support reform. The organization has therefore worked closely with Democrats to oppose such a reform, and in return has also been helpful to them in the broader health-care debate — lobbying in favor of Obamacare, for instance, despite the fact that it made major cuts in Medicare and despite the very evident opposition of AARP members. (This recent letter to the organization’s leadership from Republican members of the House lays out some of the staggering details of AARP’s cooperation with the White House on that front.)
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