In a recent op-ed discussing health care and inflation, AARP’s West Virginia chapter called for a Medicare “negotiation” scheme to handle prescription drug prices. This drained proposal can be disastrous for pharmaceutical innovation – and, ultimately, for the seniors the AARP claims to represent.
Medicare negotiation is tantamount to government-imposed price controls, forcing manufacturers to set prices on certain medications at the federal government’s direction or face a 95 percent excise tax. And while the AARP leaned on Sen. Joe Manchin’s repute to make their case, the proposal is anything but moderate. Actually, the scheme was central to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. three price-setting laws and located a house in President Joe Biden’s far-left Construct Back Higher plan.
By supporting Medicare “negotiation,” AARP is endangering future innovation and access to care while potentially benefitting big health insurers and Pharmacy Profit Managers (PBMs) like its corporate bedfellows UnitedHealth and its wholly owned PBM subsidiary OptumRx. Under Medicare “negotiation,” these corporations could see a financial windfall, with the federal government’s market-distorting price-setting increasing their profit margins.
So why would AARP side with big insurance concerns and support policies that might reduce the longer term availability of cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s? The organization’s publicly available financial records is creating some speculation.
AARP’s fundamental financial benefactor is none apart from UnitedHealth – the biggest medical health insurance company within the U.S. The senior “advocacy” organization pulled in an astounding $11 billion from its sales and marketing activities over the past decade, with revenues climbing from slightly below $200 million in 2001 to greater than $1 billion in 2020. In 2017, the last yr AARP voluntarily reported it as a line item, 69 percent of AARP’s royalty payments were derived from its relationship with UnitedHealth – dwarfing the annual revenues AARP derives from dues-paying seniors.
Does this lucrative relationship explain why AARP opposed one among President Trump’s Medicare reforms that may have applied discounts to seniors’ prescriptions on the pharmacy counter – discounts that OptumRx and other PBMs currently pocket.
So, with regards to AARP’s support for presidency price controls, seniors – and policymakers – should ask themselves: who’s AARP advocating for?