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AARP: Fighting for Older Americans 2010 Advocacy Agenda

For 50 years, AARP has had one mission: making life better for older Americans. AARP was created after its founder discovered a retired teacher, who was in poor health, living in a chicken coop, with barely enough money to live on and unable to afford medical care. Since then, AARP has been fighting for the health and retirement security of older Americans, and this year we will continue our fight to: protect Medicare and Social Security; stop insurance companies from denying care; hold Wall Street accountable; help all Americans save for retirement; and ensure people can get the services they need to remain living independently in their homes and their communities.

In 2010, AARP will be fighting to help older Americans get the health care they need, to give older Americans the tools they need to remain financially stable and to make communities more livable for people of all generations.

Improving Health Care: AARP is fighting to protect Medicare for older Americans and future generations; lower prescription drug costs; eliminate waste, fraud and abuse; and crack down on insurance abuses that are denying Americans, especially those ages 50-64, access to affordable, reliable coverage.

 Health Care for Americans Ages 65+: We’re working to strengthen Medicare and other services by: protecting guaranteed benefits; lowering drug costs by closing the Part D coverage gap or "doughnut hole" and allowing the program to negotiate for lower drug prices; requiring the program to cover immunizations and important preventive screenings (e.g., cancer, diabetes and other health conditions) free of charge; cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare; providing more Americans with the choice to receive the services they need to live in their homes and communities; reducing preventable hospital readmissions by providing follow-up care that will help individuals transition out of the hospital; holding down Medicare premium increases; strengthening assistance with cost sharing obligations for people with very limited incomes, and ensuring older Americans have access to doctors by improving the way Medicare pays for physician care.

Health Care for Americans Ages 50-64: We’re fighting to make health care more affordable and accessible to older Americans by: preventing insurance companies from denying affordable care to anyone based on age or pre-existing conditions; providing a choice of insurance plans to those who don’t have coverage now; offering assistance to people who can’t afford to pay insurance premiums; limiting out-of-pocket costs; preventing insurance companies from putting a cap on the amount of health care you can receive in a given year or over the course of your life or taking away a person’s coverage if they get sick; creating a new option to help individuals plan and pay for the services they need to live in their homes and communities; and providing consumers with access to safe, lower-cost drugs from abroad as well as affordable generic versions of biologic medications used to treat serious diseases such as cancer.

Fighting for Economic Relief: AARP is fighting to provide $250 in relief to millions of older Americans whose Social Security benefits will be frozen this year.  Since automatic Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs) went into effect in 1975, there has never been a year without a COLA. The 65+ population needs relief because older Americans are paying more out-of-pocket for medical care and prescription drugs, have suffered a real decline in their retirement accounts and in housing values, and face longer periods of unemployment for those who need to work.

Strengthening Social Security: AARP is fighting to protect Social Security for today’s older Americans and future generations.  We are also working to ensure that the Social Security Administration has the resources to provide the level of services our members need.

Helping Americans Save: AARP is calling on Congress to help Americans save for retirement by supporting a plan that would allow individuals whose employers don’t provide a retirement plan to automatically enroll in a retirement savings account, such as an IRA.

Protecting Retirement Security: Unfair lending practices, foreclosures, fraud and excessive fees have robbed millions of older Americans of their financial stability. That’s why AARP is supporting protections to hold banks accountable to all Americans, such as establishment of a consumer financial protection agency. These protections should:

Require Transparency: AARP is fighting to pass the "401(k) Fair Disclosure for Retirement Security Act," which would provide timely and understandable information about plan fees and expenses to 401(k) plan participants and sponsors, so that they can make informed choices.

Protect Borrowers: AARP supports financial regulatory reform that protects older Americans from predatory lending practices such as excessive fees and penalties on mortgages to credit cards.

Customize Products: AARP is fighting to prohibit the financial industry (banking and investment) from selling products to consumers that cannot afford them.

Prevent Conflicts of Interest: AARP is fighting to prevent financial services companies from providing advice where they have a financial interest by urging Congress to pass the "Conflicted Investment Advice Prohibition Act of 2009."

Strengthen Enforcement: AARP is fighting for legislation that would strengthen federal regulatory authority while preserving states’ authority to enact stronger remedies.

Protect Homeowners: AARP is fighting to strengthen consumer protections and disclosure standards for older homeowners seeking Home Equity Conversion Mortgages and all other reverse mortgage borrowers.    

Providing Relief for Workers and Families: AARP continues to call on Congress to extend critical financial and health insurance support provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Older workers are more likely to be out of a job longer than younger workers, and they depend on COBRA more than younger workers because they are often denied affordable care based on age or pre-existing conditions. Without COBRA, older Americans who are unemployed are more likely to go without insurance or rapidly deplete their UI benefits and become more dependent on other forms of government assistance, such as food stamps.

Relief for States Helps Families: AARP is also fighting to extend the federal match rate for Medicaid and increase and extend federal relief for state and local governments so workers, children, and families can get the health care and other services they need.

Preventing Age Discrimination: AARP is fighting to protect older workers from workplace discrimination or from being denied access to extra help because of their age.

Protect Older Workers: AARP is fighting for passage of the "Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act," which would restore protections reduced by court decisions that require older Americans to meet a higher standard to prove illegal age bias claims than other claims for unfair discrimination at work, such as discrimination based on race or sex.

Provide Tax Relief for Older Workers: AARP is fighting to extend the earned income tax credit (EITC) to workers over age 64, so older workers aren’t penalized for working into their retirement years.

Providing Transportation Choices: AARP is fighting to improve transportation and mobility options by calling on Congress to enact the following changes in federal transportation law:

Complete Streets: Require states and metropolitan planning organizations to adopt Complete Streets policies for federally funded projects. A complete street is safe, comfortable and convenient for travel by automobile, foot, bicycle and transit, regardless of age or ability.

Protect Older Drivers and Pedestrians: AARP is calling on Congress to support the "Older Driver and Pedestrian Safety and Roadway Enhancement Act of 2009," which would provide $500 million a year from the Highway Trust Fund to states to implement road improvements to improve safety at the most dangerous intersections.

Strengthen Transportation Services: AARP is calling on Congress to strengthen public transportation programs, particularly federal programs to address the special mobility needs of older Americans and people with disabilities.

Improving Housing Programs: AARP is calling on Congress to improve standards for housing programs.

Address the Rental Housing Crisis: High rates of home foreclosures have only intensified a long-standing rental housing crisis. AARP calls on Congress to increase annual funding for federal rental housing assistance programs and expand rental housing construction under the Public Housing and Section 202 Senior Housing programs.

Protect Senior Housing: AARP is fighting for a national strategy to preserve affordable senior housing projects to prevent conversion and displacement of low-income residents and those with disabilities, and for rehabilitation of buildings to meet current safety, accessibility and energy efficiency standards.

Increase Housing Accessibility: AARP is fighting to extend long-established federal housing accessibility standards for multi-family rental housing to new and rehabilitated single family housing to assure broader availability of suitable housing opportunities for older residents and those with disabilities.  

Protecting Energy Security: AARP is fighting to protect older Americans’ energy security and keep utility prices affordable.  

Protect Consumers: AARP is fighting to protect consumers from rising energy costs as part of any energy independence or climate change legislation. For example, if utilities benefit from such legislation through free pollution rights, consumers should share the benefit through a direct reduction in their monthly electricity bills.

Give Consumers a Voice: AARP is fighting to create a Consumer Advocate Office to provide an independent voice for consumers at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Provide Help for Struggling Americans: AARP is fighting to provide additional assistance to low- and fixed-income consumers who pay a disproportionate share of their income on utilities.