AARP sets priorities for 2009

Washington, DC – At an event today where he outlined the organization's annual legislative and advocacy priorities, AARP CEO Bill Novelli pledged to work with Congress and the Administration to address our nation's most serious challenges.  In outlining the AARP agenda for the 111th Congress, Novelli stressed the urgent need to provide economic relief for America and to fix our health care system. Novelli also identified key areas that will ensure that older workers have the skills they need to compete for 21st Century jobs, help put all Americans on the path to retirement security and strengthen communities across the nation by addressing the housing crisis.

"People are losing their jobs, their homes, their health care and their pensions and retirement security that they have worked a lifetime to attain,” said Novelli.  "People have lost confidence and they need help.  As we work our way out of this mess, two things are clear:  First, the decisions that Congress and the Obama administration make over these next few months will have an impact for decades to come.  Second, there are opportunities in all this.”

Today, AARP also released the findings of a new economic survey.  The survey found that Americans remain concerned about their ability to pay health care bills, and many expect to delay retirement and work longer due to investment losses, and that elected officials in Washington should take a prominent role in addressing these important issues. Among adults 45+, 64% said the economy is in very bad shape.  And in a new finding, 1/3 of respondents said that they are concerned about being able to afford their mortgage or rent payments. In addition, 55% of those surveyed said that they are concerned about being able to pay their health care bills over the next 12 months. And more than 3 in 10 (32%) employed respondents said that they have stopped putting money into their retirement accounts in the past 12 months, a sharp increase from the number (20%) AARP reported in October 2008.

According to the survey:

  • 83% say the government should help people who have lost their jobs keep their health insurance or purchase affordable health insurance.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 said that the government should help people who are facing foreclosure so that they can stay in their homes.
  • Of those adults ages 45+ who lost money in their investments over the past year and are currently working or looking for work, more than half (57%) expect to delay retirement and work longer as a result of their investment losses.
  • One in four (25%) retirees who are not currently working or looking for work say that, within the past 12 months, they have either looked for a job because they needed more income but been unable to find one (8%) or thought about returning to work because they needed more income (17%)

In discussing the findings of the new report, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond noted, "The economy's effect on people who are in the workforce, near-retirees and retirees is drastic; the time for solutions is now.  Whether working or retired, people need relief from the current economic crisis, from jobs to housing to the skyrocketing cost of health care.  It's critical that we realize, too, that this is not an 'older American' issue or a problem for Generations X or Y; this is a nationwide crisis and AARP's advocacy agenda reflects the need to solve these problems for all generations.”

Following are a few of the key initiatives that AARP is working toward in the 111th Congress:

  • Reducing Health Care Costs & Improving Quality:  Advance health information technology, evidence-based practices, chronic care coordination, and disease management and prevention; and provide greater consumer access to information on health care quality and costs.
  • Expanding Health Care Coverage:  Extend quality, affordable, health care coverage through Medicaid, private insurance reform, new incentives to expand coverage to the 50-64 age group and expansion of children's coverage through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
  • Training for 21st Century Jobs: Provide training and job search resources so that workers age 50+ who are losing their jobs can re-enter the workforce.
  • Making Saving Simple: Promote a universal payroll deduction mechanism that allows employees to automatically contribute a portion of their wages to retirement savings accounts, such as through automatic IRAs.
  • Helping Homeowners: Enact legislation that would allow bankruptcy judges the discretion to modify primary mortgage debt so more Americans facing foreclosure can stay in their homes.

"This is an exciting time,” added Novelli.  "Despite obvious challenges, we are faced with a rare opportunity to lead in putting America back on track—we have a crisis that demands it, a new administration and Congress with a mandate for change, and a public ready for change.  This is not the time for business as usual.  It is the time to demonstrate bold leadership—to take our agenda to the people and our nation's leaders, to demand change and to work hard to bring about that change.  And that's exactly what we intend to do.”

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