If you follow political coverage, you’ve no doubt heard about the AARP lobby. The AARP’s opponents like to paint the organization’s lobby as one of the most powerful back-room forces in Washington. While this charge is open to question, it’s a narrative that many reporters have bought into — lock, stock and barrel.
The most recent example of this narrative in action is this story by Politico’s Chris Frates, in which he says the AARP is “threatening” legislators on healthcare reform and quotes a pharmaceutical industry representative trashing the organization and saying its real motives are financial (even though it is a non-profit organization).
What a bunch of nonsense.
Yes, as lobbies of non-profit organizations representing real people go, the AARP is a powerful one. That’s to the organization’s credit, and thank God for it. Because without the AARP as a buffer to Big Pharma, we would be in big trouble.
The AARP draws its strength from its members — tens of millions of seniors who are concerned about issues like Social Security, Medicare and — yes — prescription drug costs. It fights hard on Capitol Hill to make sure the voices of its members are heard.
That’s why the organization expressed concern to Senate officials last week that Congress is considering giving Big Pharma pricing monopolies of 12-14 years on generic biologics. Generic biologics are drugs such as insulin that are made by living organisms. Big Pharma is trying to slip this windfall provision into broader healthcare reform legislation.
The AARP would like a shorter monopoly window — meaning generic competition, and lower prices for consumers, sooner. The organization’s “threat” was simply to tell the Senate that it might not be able to support reform legislation if Big Pharma is allowed to sneak in such a lengthy window of monopoly profit-taking.
Sounds pretty reasonable to me.
And you know what? I’m pretty sure about 90 percent of the American public would agree — if anyone cared for our opinion on the matter.
And yet, Frates presents this as just another example of the AARP, the supposed 800 pound gorilla, throwing its weight around.
So, who’s the real 800 pound gorilla?
Frates even allows a pharmaceutical industry representative to charge the AARP, a non-profit, with having a profit motive for its lobbying efforts.
Nowhere is it mentioned in Frates’ story that pharmaceutical industry lobbying is motivated entirely and unashamedly by profits. Or is that just too obvious to mention?
Chris, I’m afraid you’ve gotten too absorbed in the hand-to-hand combat in Washington to see the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. It’s a common malady among the Washington press corps.