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State of the Union Statement

By Marie Smith, president-elect, AARP

The state of our union, as described in the President's annual address to Congress last night, gives us a golden opportunity to continue improving the state of America's growing 50+ population, particularly in the areas of retirement and health security.

Enactment of the landmark Medicare Prescription Drug law last year is a victory for older Americans, but more must be done to lower the cost of drugs. Too many of our older citizens and their families are struggling under the weight of high health care costs. And 43 million Americans still have no health insurance at all. We are pleased that the President highlighted the issue of the uninsured in his speech. We will work with the Administration and both parties in Congress to fashion the best approach to meeting the needs of the uninsured. Health care is AARP's number one priority for 2004, beginning with an all-out effort to make prescription drugs more affordable.

Last week, we announced the launch of a national and state-based Prescription Drug Affordability Campaign designed to educate, advocate, and, if necessary, litigate to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Among other efforts, we are calling for the safe importation of prescription drugs from Canada, faster approval of generic drugs, and using the bargaining power of state governments to lower drug prices. AARP will serve as a watchdog for consumers through implementation of the new Medicare law and highlight questionable industry practices to help bring down the costs of prescription drugs. Our campaign will give consumers the information and tools they need to make smart purchasing choices.

We are also concerned about other issues affecting 50+ Americans. High on that list is strengthening Social Security while maintaining its promise as the only life-time, inflation-protected source of retirement income for older Americans. As our long-standing policy clearly states, any private accounts should be in addition to, not instead of, Social Security's guaranteed benefit.

The State of our Union is absolutely dependent upon the state of 50+ Americans. That is why, this year, we hope to work with the Administration and bipartisan members of Congress to build on what we did last year to strengthen Medicare. Together, we are confident we can meet all these challenges and build a stronger future for everyone.

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