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Our Finest Hour: Defending Health Care

Eric Schneidewind, outgoing national volunteer president, ponders achievements and challenges ahead

Eric Schneidewind and Alicia Georges at AARP headquarters

John Loomis

As Eric Schneidewind reflects on his time as AARP's national volunteer president, he says one particular moment stands out: AARP's successful defense of health care benefits for millions of older Americans. Catherine Alicia Georges will be the next president.

As I look back on my two years as president of AARP, one particular moment stands out: our successful defense of health care benefits for tens of millions of older Americans.

When ill-advised legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) imperiled countless consumers who depend upon it for life-sustaining care, AARP dug in.

Our dedicated staff and volunteers stood shoulder to shoulder and used every bit of their brain and lung power to persuade lawmakers to keep the law in place. They called, they tweeted, they wrote, and they showed up — at town halls, congressional district offices and on Capitol Hill. They demanded that Congress protect health care coverage for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, including 7 million older adults who rely on Medicaid for their long-term care.

I believe that was AARP’s finest hour.

It was a victory worth celebrating. But make no mistake. The time will come when we will be called upon to rise up again. When that time comes, I believe that we should issue a challenge to the nation: Instead of cutting individual health care benefits, let’s reduce health care costs. Instead of denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions, let’s cut excessive prescription drug costs. Instead of slashing Medicare spending, let’s eliminate fraud, waste and abuse. And let’s use technology to reduce health-related administrative costs, which are some of the highest in the world.

As I end my term, I offer my deepest appreciation to my colleagues on the AARP volunteer board of directors.

To my successor, Catherine Alicia Georges, who will be our incoming national volunteer president, I know I leave this position in the most capable of hands. I am certain that you will contribute all of your considerable warmth, enthusiasm and intellect to continuing to empower people to choose how they live as they age.

Thank you for allowing me to serve people age 50-plus and their families. And look for me at future AARP volunteer events. I’ll be wearing a red shirt.