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Ask Lee

AARP President W. Lee Hammond answers your questions

Q: With rising utility rates, what is AARP doing to help us save money on our utility bills?

A: AARP has worked with members to successfully challenge utility-rate increases for nearly 20 years. How do we do that? In South Carolina last year, for instance, AARP warned members about a proposed rate increase. By e-mail, and at public hearings, thousands of members spoke out — and the utility request was cut by $96 million. In 2010 alone, our advocacy on affordable home energy resulted in savings to consumers of at least $3 billion in denied rate increases. We are now expanding these efforts significantly, with a long-term commitment by AARP to ensure that people 50 and up have affordable, fair, and reliable utilities.

Q: I’m worried I’ll lose my doctor if her Medicare reimbursement is cut. Can you explain what the “Doc Fix” problem is all about?

A:  In 1997 Congress passed the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for paying doctors who treat Medicare patients. This system, designed to hold down physician costs by setting limits on spending, underestimated how much Medicare would spend on tests and procedures for patients. As a result, it called for reducing physician fees to stay within spending limits — and in 2011 the SGR mandated a decrease of more than 20 percent in payments to doctors. Had that happened, many physicians would have stopped treating Medicare patients, so Congress postponed the cuts, as it had in previous years. AARP will continue to press Congress to pass a permanent, fair Medicare physician-payment formula that will provide both doctors and patients with the stability and peace of mind they deserve.

Q: What is the NRTA?

A:  NRTA: AARP’s Educator Community is a division of AARP — and the nation’s largest network of 50-plus adults and organizations that share a passion for education and community service. Many NRTA members have retired from the classroom, but they still support children in programs like Equipped to Learn, which in 2010 collected and donated backpacks filled with school supplies to thousands of needy students. NRTA’s With Our Youth! program serves 500,000 students every year in 1,000 communities by creating key resources such as safe places where children can learn and grow. As a former teacher, school administrator, and volunteer leader of the Maryland Retired Teachers Association, I know these volunteer efforts help students succeed. NRTA membership is free for AARP members (1-888-687-2277).

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