|Wally Herger: Anti-AARP Crusader|
The audience member later amended his terrorist characterization of himself, saying what he really meant was "extremist"-- as if that is any more palatable than terrorist. Herger, though, amended nothing and refused to apologize. He would do anything, say anything to defeat "Obamacare" then - and it appears he'll do what it takes to repeal it now. And destroy the biggest lobby for older Americans in the country while he's at it.
Herger is co-chair of an investigative joint House Oversight and Health subcommittee "looking into" AARP - the American Association of Retired Persons. According to Herger and his sidekick, Louisiana Republican Charles Boustany, the purpose of Friday's
According to Herger, "AARP is known for being the largest and most well known seniors’ organization in the country. But what Americans don’t know is that AARP was the 4th highest spending lobbying organization between 1998 and 2010 or that the AARP brand dominates the private Medicare insurance market. This hearing is about getting to the bottom of how AARP’s financial interests affect their self-stated mission of enhancing senior’s quality of life. It is important to better understand how AARP’s insurance business overlaps with its advocacy efforts and whether such overlap is appropriate.”
And Boustany added, “As one of the country’s most well-known non-profits, many of America’s seniors trust AARP to represent their interests. But in light of AARP’s dependence on its income from insurance products, there is good reason to question whether AARP is primarily looking out for seniors or just its own bottom line. Before seniors decide whether AARP is worthy of their trust, or their hard-earned dollars, they deserve all of the facts. The purpose of this hearing is to provide a public examination of the facts so seniors can decide those questions for themselves.”
Those statements do indeed sound noble -- but coming from these two right-wingers, they are anything but. AARP has long been a thorn in the side of conservatives for its support of the Affordable Care Act. Although seniors as a group shifted to the right in the last election, Republican candidates have used the law's alleged cuts to Medicare (supporters call them efficiencies) as one rationale for repeal. AARP remains the top lobbying group defending the law. It is also the single strongest lobby defending Social Security and Medicare from planned cuts -- and therefore anathema to Republicans and their wealthy corporate puppetmasters.
It's curious that Boustany and Herger are mouthing such concern about the possible bilking of senior citizens by the AARP insurance arm, when some of the biggest contributors to each of their campaigns have been insurance companies. I wonder if these contributions from insurance companies overlap with the congressmen's stated purpose of serving their constituents, and whether these overlaps are appropriate. Let's examine the facts, as the good gentlemen suggest, and let people decide for themselves:
The single top donor to Herger's war chest was Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which contributed $96,000 to his cause last year. His other big contributors were "health professionals," pharmaceuticals and health products and HMOs. Boustany, a Louisiana heart surgeon, received $224,000 from health care professionals, more than $100,000 from insurance companies, and $67,132 from pharmaceuticals and health products. (source: OpenSecrets.org). And Dick Cheney, probably at the top of some secret list for a government-funded heart transplant, campaigned for him.
Herger and Boustany have yet to announce their witness list for the hearing, but I am willing to bet it will include professionals from conservative think tanks and insurance company front organizations testifying in the personae of unaffiliated geriatricians and social workers.
The subcommittee is accepting testimony and comments by internet, so drop them a line and tell them what you think. Go to waysandmeans.house.gov., select "hearings" and follow the instructions for submissions. I wrote them a quick message, saying if we'd gone for Single Payer/Medicare for All, they wouldn't be in this pickle, worrying about AARP having a stake in the for-profit insurance scams which have done more than anything else to drive up all our health care costs. Two-thirds of us still want a public option, Wally and Charlie! Actually, even the Tea Party would just love government-run health care, once they had it.
Remember - this Friday, April Fools Day, 9 a.m., Longworth Office Building. Show up or tune in to C-Span. Hope for a contingent of Gray Panthers to storm the hearing room and raise a ruckus. Herger will rue the day he joined the Republican Overreach Club and will be praying for his show trial to end. We will not be hearing any resounding "Amens" from him this time. He will go down in ignominy as just one more craven, self-serving politician, joining the likes of Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Peter King and Joe McCarthy in the Congressional Hall of Shame.