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“CORRECTION: AARP Actually Makes a Boatload from Big Insurance”

The scope of AARP’s revenue from big insurance is so astonishing that it really does defy belief—so much so that it recently caught one health care publication off guard. We can understand why!

The POLITICO Pro Health Care newsletter was reporting on our ad “celebrating” AARP’s milestone of taking in over $1,000,000,000 in corporate royalties for the first time.

“Financial disclosures released by AARP show it received more than $1 billion in royalties in 2020, including nearly $753,000 from ‘health products and services,’” the original text from POLITICO read.

Catch the mistake? They were only off by a factor of 1,000. In reality, AARP banked $753 million from “health products and services” royalties in 2020 – most of which likely came from a single source: UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest insurance corporations.

It’s an eye-popping amount for an organization that presents itself as a scrappy non-profit, so you’ll have to excuse POLITICO’s error, which we would like to point out they quickly and politely corrected.

Previously, AARP’s financial statements disclosed the percentage of marketing revenue they received from UnitedHealth, which made it possible to calculate a dollar figure. From 2007 to 2017, AARP received $5.3 billion from UnitedHealth. Starting in 2018, AARP instead broke down its revenue into three categories, with “health products and services” leading the way. As the special report, “How AARP Puts Profits over Patients—And Principles,” notes:

“Because AARP decided to stop disclosing the percentage of “royalty” revenue received from UnitedHealth Group to its members or the public—quite possibly due to increased public scrutiny over its relationship with UnitedHealth—we can no longer calculate the amount precisely.”

The percentage of all AARP royalty payments from UnitedHealth increased steadily from 65% in 2012 to 69% in 2017. Using a conservative estimate of 66% of the $1 billion in royalty payments to AARP in 2020 ($753 million of which was in the “health products and services budget), about $661 million would come from UnitedHealth alone.

Again, POLITICO was quick to issue a correction, and the massive dollars flowing from Big Insurance to AARP do add up to a sum that is hard to believe. This is exactly why we’re working to educate seniors, the public, and policymakers about who AARP is really advocating for. The next time you hear AARP’s health care missives, consider their $1 billion in royalties, which dwarf the annual membership dues of seniors, and ask yourself: AARP advocates for who?