WASHINGTON (AP) — About 60,000 senior citizens have quit AARP since July 1 due to the group’s support for a health care overhaul, a spokesman for the organization said Monday.
The membership loss suggests dissatisfaction on the part of AARP members at a time when many senior citizens are concerned about proposed cuts to Medicare providers to help pay for making health care available for all. But spokesman Drew Nannis said it wasn’t unusual for the powerful, 40 million-strong senior citizens’ lobby to shed members in droves when it’s advocating on a controversial issue.
AARP is strongly backing a health care overhaul, running ads to support it and hosting President Obama at an online forum recently to promote his agenda to AARP members. However, the group has not endorsed a specific bill and says it won’t support a plan that reduces Medicare benefits.
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“We take stands on issues that are contentious, it’s part of what we do,” Nannis said. “And because we have so many members we’ll always have a small percentage that disagree with us so strongly they feel they need to cancel membership.”
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The approximately 60,000 number represents members who specifically cited AARP’s stance on the health overhaul debate in canceling their membership between July 1 and mid-August, Nannis said. He said that on average AARP loses some 300,000 members a month, but he couldn’t say how many more members had quit for other reasons in that time period.
He said AARP gained some 400,000 new members during the same period and that 1.5 million members renewed their membership.
The membership loss figure was first reported Monday by CBS News.
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