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AARP: Health Care and Pension Reform Critical to Economic Recovery

December 4, 2008
Contact: Drew Nannis 202-434-2560 anannis@aarp.org

WASHINGTON—AARP CEO Bill Novelli today released the following statement in reaction to the latest Congressional efforts to help failing industries.

“We are in dire economic times that will only get worse if we allow America’s biggest automakers to fail. The immediate choice is between letting these corporations go under—taking with them the men and women who built those companies as well as many small suppliers who depend on them for business—or using taxpayer funds to help them survive and hopefully rebuild. This choice must be made, but it does not address critical underlying issues that affect all businesses, and in fact, all Americans.

“America needs a strong economy, affordable, quality health care, a sound pension system, and increased jobs. Congress can determine whether the plans submitted by the automakers create this path, but any rescue package may wind up being meaningless if we don’t address the greater issues.

“The current debate over proposed loans to the auto industry is connected to other important issues. First, health care costs continue to rise far faster than inflation. General Motors has long stated it spends more on health care than it does on steel. These soaring costs must be brought under control or health care for workers and retirees will continue to be at risk, as will the global competitiveness of the companies in all industries that continue to provide health coverage. While Congress should consider immediate options such as early buy-in for Medicare and subsidizing COBRA, long-term success will only come from slowing the skyrocketing costs of health care.

“Second, these troubled companies highlight the need to restore people’s confidence in the guaranteed pension system. Appropriate funding is critical to ensure that retirees have access to the pensions they were promised, and to ensure current employees that the pensions they are working toward will be there for them when they retire. Congress must look beyond this current crisis and ensure that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is financially sound. All workers and retirees who have a pension deserve to know that their promised retirement income is secure.

“Finally, any company receiving a government loan has a responsibility to its employees, retirees and the American taxpayer to manage those funds appropriately. Congress and the Administration have a responsibility to conduct oversight to be sure that funds loaned to any corporation are used properly and effectively to restore the vitality of the American economy and the jobs it creates.

“In summary, we believe that any government funds provided to failing companies must be used as an investment to rebuild our economy and add jobs. However, Congress and the Administration must go beyond this and address the rising cost of health care and the pension needs of all workers and retirees so that Americans can realize the security they earned.”

ABOUT AARP
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 34.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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