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GOP to examine AARP’s insurance sales

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Jeremy Hobson: In Washington, Republicans are looking into the books of the AARP — the senior citizens organization — saying that AARP stands to gain from the new health care law, which it helped lobby for. The issue is that in addition to lobbying for seniors, AARP also sells health insurance policies.

Marketplace’s Gregory Warner reports.

Gregory Warner: The AARP wears three hats. They’re an information house for senior citizens. They are a lobbying organization — one of the largest in Washington. And they sell commercial insurance.

And there’s the rub, says John Palmer. He’s a former public trustee for Medicare and now a professor at Syracuse University.

John Palmer: When they’re testifying on the Hill about health reform, are they reflecting their institutional interests as a seller of commercial products or are they representing their membership?

Many, if not most, nonprofits also have for-profit ventures. Think of a museum gift shop. In 2009, the AARP made almost a third of its $1.4 billion budget through insurance policy sales.

Merril Goozner: That’s a big gift shop.

Merril Goozner writes about health for the website Fiscal Times.

Goozner: I mean they are selling insurance policies to lots of senior citizens and near seniors.

House Republicans say that health care reform will mean $1 billion in extra sales for AARP in the next 10 years. AARP answers that it lobbied for premium cuts that the insurance industry opposed.

In Philadelphia, I’m Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

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