Grassley slams AARP for increasing employee premiums

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, slammed AARP on Friday after news broke that the powerful seniors' lobby was blaming the health reform law for an increase in employee premiums slated for next year. AARP's support of the law was crucial because of the fierce opposition from many seniors to the cuts to Medicare Advantage that helped pay for the overhaul.

In an e-mail to employees obtained by The Associated Press, AARP says healthcare premiums will increase by 8 percent to 13 percent next year because of rapidly rising medical costs. AARP is also making its plans' benefits less generous to avoid the taxes on generous "Cadillac plans" starting in 2018.

"Most plan co-pays and deductibles have been modified," Jennifer Hodges, AARP's director of compensation and benefits, wrote employees in the Oct. 25 e-mail. "Plan value changes were necessary not only from a cost management standpoint but also to ensure that AARP's plans fall below the threshold for high-cost group plans under health care reform."

"AARP supported a partisan health care overhaul that cut Medicare by almost $500 billion," Grassley said in a statement. "That will result in less choice, fewer benefits and decreased access to care for millions of its members. But now we hear that AARP’s members aren’t the only ones who will bear the brunt of the new health care law.

"Like companies across the country," Grassley continued, "AARP is shifting more costs onto employees in reaction to the health care overhaul. Despite their employer’s support, AARP employees are learning that the health care law is not going to address the top priority of making health care coverage less expensive. Supporters of the law tend to have tunnel vision and focus on how it will affect narrow groups of people, rather than recognizing that most people will just end up paying more. But the big picture is clear.  Employers and employees nationwide will pay more for health care because of the new law."

AARP legislative affairs director David Certner told the AP the new law was "a small part" of the reason for the changes and added that "(t)he impact on AARP employees is not a factor at all in our policy making, which is directed at the impact on our membership and on all older Americans."