A letter from Clinton Ashworth (Forum, Aug. 20) accuses AARP of lying, saying we claimed that all 33 million members support the Mitchell and Gephardt health-care bills, and that he was told on the telephone that a poll was taken, presumably of the entire membership.
I cannot comment on what he was told, of course. But I can say that Eugene Lehrmann, the volunteer president of AARP, made it clear that he was giving advice to members, not asserting that all agreed. His statement, released in Washington, D.C., began: "AARP recommends to our members that they support the health-care reform bills introduced to Congress" (by the majority leaders).I can also say that any member who had been paying attention to what AARP was advocating in its publications would have known that it supports major health-care reform. Over the past few years, AARP has used polls (none, however, of all the members), as well as focus groups, meeting discussions and other methods to encourage members to express their opinions on this complex subject. AARP sends a great deal of information to its members, and it has given no issue as much attention as health care.
As to Mr. Ashworth's comment that reform should be done in "open, bipartisan hearings," AARP volunteers have appeared numerous times in just such forums - the committees of Congress. And individual senators and representatives have been told over and over what AARP believes is in our country's best interest on health care, including coverage for all, prescription drugs, long-term care and cost containment.
AARP state director