Q: Could the budget debate in Washington lead to cuts in Medicare?
A: For months Washington lawmakers have been talking about Medicare as if it were just a line in the federal budget, not the guarantee of health coverage millions of older Americans rely on. AARP is fighting to stop legislation that would cut benefits or arbitrarily limit Medicare funding (to do so could threaten patients' access to their doctors or other health care), or would force Medicare recipients to pay much more for needed services. Instead of shifting costs to people who depend on Medicare, Congress needs to find ways to lower health care costs throughout the system, such as by increasing access to generic drugs, improving the coordination of care, and promoting prevention.
Q: How does AARP decide what position to take on public policy issues?
A: It begins with our all-volunteer National Policy Council, which represents a diverse cross section of members who have public policy experience. Using member input from policy forums, surveys, and polls, the council focuses on the issues you say you care about most: economic security; health care, including access to affordable, quality long-term care; and creating and maintaining livable communities. After analyzing options, the council recommends specific policies to the Board of Directors, which has power of approval. Approved public policies are published in The Policy Book; take a look at the new 2011 – 2012 edition.
Q: How do you spend most of your time as AARP President?
A: As AARP's lead volunteer, I share AARP's positions and views in speeches and media interviews. I represent AARP at national and international events and conferences, such as the 2011 AARP – U.N. Briefing Series on Global Aging; I testify at congressional committee hearings on Capitol Hill (I spoke in March about the impact of proposed cuts in funding to the Social Security Administration); and I support work at AARP state offices nationwide, meeting with staff, volunteers, and state-government officials. I also serve on AARP's Board of Directors, which approves AARP's budget as well as its policies, programs, activities, and services. I'll devote more than 200 days to these duties this year, without reward, except for the tremendous satisfaction I get from working with members to create positive social change.