Over the past month, AARP has hosted more than 50 telephone town halls involving tens of thousands of our members who are deeply worried about how the coronavirus will affect them and their families. As we hear your concerns, whether on those calls or in the messages you send or the comments you post on our website, we are taking them directly to the halls of power and demanding action.
When this pandemic began, public health officials urged people to consider calling their doctor or doing a telemedicine visit rather than potentially exposing themselves or others to the virus. But Medicare’s complex web of rules around the use of these services meant many of our members had never really used telemedicine before. How were you supposed to call your doctor or do a video chat visit if Medicare would not allow it?
That’s why, in the very first bill Congress passed to respond to the coronavirus emergency, we fought to include new flexibility for Medicare to let people use telemedicine where it makes sense. Of course, you cannot do everything over the phone or video. But if you can avoid going to a doctor’s office, Medicare should help you do that. In these times when we are all being asked to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, it is important for Medicare to adapt and keep up.
We have also heard from so many of our members who are worried about their retirement funds. Under federal law, once you reach a certain age, you must begin taking money out of your retirement savings. It’s called a required minimum distribution. For many years, that age was 70½, but last year, Congress passed (with AARP’s support) the SECURE Act, which changed the age going forward to 72.
The policy underlying this rule does not make sense in the current environment, and we should not force retirees to take huge losses because of market downturns in times like this. So AARP fought hard to suspend these required distributions, for this year. We successfully included this commonsense flexibility in the CARES Act, which was signed into law in late March.
AARP will continue to listen to the concerns you share with us and fight for you. We have already asked Congress to fund additional stimulus payments, expand unemployment and paid leave benefits, and increase food assistance for people most in need at this time. We continue to fight for personal protective equipment for health care providers on the front lines, including in nursing homes, assisted living and home care; help for caregivers who are taking on extra burdens; and virtual visitation so people living in nursing homes and residential facilities can keep connected with their loved ones.
Please stay in touch with us and know that we will continue to look out for your health and economic security. Together we will get through this crisis.