Critical Condition

AARP Tries to Thread the Needle

USA Today is reporting on attempts by the AARP to fashion a message on the health-care debate that doesn’t tie its fortunes directly to Obamacare but that also pushes for increased federal power over health care:

Since July 1, many of the 60,000 AARP members who have quit over concerns about health care legislation said they were worried it could lead to cuts in Medicare. Although AARP has not endorsed any specific plan, its general support for a system change left many members with the impression it backs the Democrats’ bill.

The resignations surprised leaders of the 40-million-member lobbying group, even though it signed up 400,000 new members during the same period.

“The last thing I want is for members to feel we’re not representing them,” says Lori Parham, AARP’s Florida director.

AARP’s new national campaign will include:

• A post-Labor Day direct-mail blast — 8 million letters will be sent — addressing concerns about health care and Medicare.

• Release of the September AARP Bulletin with a cover story debunking health care myths.

• Town hall forums and tele-town halls to address concerns about the changes the White House and Congress are considering.

• National TV and Web ads. A multimillion-dollar ad campaign, which started in mid-August, will continue through Sept. 14, and plans are underway for a second set of ads to run this fall.

My guess is that, despite management concerns and attempts at spin, AARP’s message will come across as in favor of the Democratic legislation. Water flows downhill.