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2009 Legislative Priorities

Today, our nation is facing serious challenges, but with these challenges comes the enormous opportunity to make America a better place for all. During the next two years, we will work with the incoming Obama administration and the U.S. Congress to reach common-sense, bipartisan solutions to our country's most pressing national issues.

First, we must make our economy work again and help Americans by adequately funding safety-net programs, providing relief for retirees, and addressing the nation's housing crisis.

However, we cannot fix our economy without fixing health care. Our current health care system costs individuals, families, and businesses too much, it wastes too much, it makes too many mistakes, and it returns too little value for our money. That is why we support efforts to guarantee all citizens the choice of health care plans they can afford, improved quality of care, and affordable, accessible prescription drugs.

Providing our nation economic relief, fixing our health care system, putting all Americans on the path to retirement security, and strengthening our communities--these are our priorities. We look forward to working with the new administration and Congress to achieve them.

Economic Crisis

We support an economic stimulus package that would help all Americans by:
• Protecting a Vital Safety Net: Provide a temporary increase in federal funding for Medicaid, which provides health security for the most vulnerable Americans
• Helping Workers: Extend unemployment benefits for those hardest hit by the economic crisis
• Addressing the Housing Crisis: Allow bankruptcy judges to modify home loans as they do for other forms of securitized debt to allow more Americans to stay in their own homes while paying off their debt
• Fixing Our Health Care System: Stimulate short- and long-term economic growth and lay the foundation for health care reform by bringing our nation's medical records online with a secure electronic records system
• Offering a Hand Up: Provide temporary government assistance to the millions of workers who have lost their health care along with their jobs to purchase affordable coverage for themselves and their families
• Training for 21st-Century Jobs: Provide training and job-search resources so that workers age 50+ who are losing their jobs can reenter the workforce
• Improving Nutrition Assistance: Increase funding for Food Stamps to help struggling families afford to feed themselves
• Fixing and Balancing Our Infrastructure: Repair existing roads and bridges; provide funding for public transportation vehicles; and invest in "green" transportation modes, such as rail, pedestrian, and bicycle facilities, and complete streets that are safe and accessible for all
• Providing Housing Assistance: Provide assistance to low-income families seeking rental housing
• Reducing Energy Cost & Consumption: Increase funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to help low-income households reduce energy consumption and lower utility bills

We believe we must protect Americans who are facing or on the brink of foreclosure, including nearly 700,000 age 50+ home owners, by:
• Modifying Primary Debt: Enact legislation that would allow bankruptcy judges the discretion to modify primary mortgage debt
• Giving a Time Out: Provide home owners facing foreclosure with a temporary "time out," which would allow them to negotiate a new loan using the Hope for Homeowners program or other refinancing option
• Accessing Equity: Raise the home value limit to $625,500 for the FHA's Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program, which provides older home owners the option of tapping the equity in their homes to pay off mortgages that have become too costly
• Holding Banks Accountable: Require banks receiving assistance from the Treasury Department to modify loans before foreclosing on struggling home owners; and
• Stop Taxing Borrowers: Remove disincentives in the current tax code for struggling home owners who renegotiate their home mortgage loans.

Health Care

We believe we can ensure that all Americans have access to affordable, quality health care and that we can make prescription drugs more accessible by:
• Reducing Costs & Improving Quality: Advance health information technology, evidence-based practices, chronic care coordination, and disease management and prevention; and provide greater consumer access to information on health care quality and costs
• Expanding Coverage: Extend quality, affordable, health care coverage through Medicaid, private insurance reform, new incentives to expand coverage to the 50-64 age group, and expansion of children's coverage through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)

• Strengthening Medicare: Rationalize spending by rewarding quality rather than quantity of care provided by physicians and managed care, and protection against premium increases when addressing physician payment reform• Permitting Biogenerics: Create a much-needed pathway for approval of safe, generic biological products
• Providing Low-Income Assistance: Eliminate, or liberalize, the Medicare Part D asset test
• Promoting Comparative Effectiveness Research: Promote quality in the pharmaceutical marketplace through greater use of comparative-effectiveness research
• Legalizing Importation: Provide for the safe and legal importation of drugs, starting with drugs from Canada
• Negotiating Lower Costs: Give Medicare—and the states—the authority to bargain for lower drug prices under Part D.

We believe we can ensure that individuals have the option to receive long-term care services and support in their homes and communities by:
• Supporting Caregivers: Provide comprehensive support for family caregivers, including assessing caregivers' own needs
• Providing Service & Financing Options: Expand home- and community-based services and care coordination; improve quality; and expand options for public and private financing of services

Retirement Security and Economic Recovery

We believe we must protect employee pensions and help provide all workers with the chance to save for retirement at work by:
• Improving Defined-Contribution Plans: Promote reforms to lower fees and reduce the range of risks inherent to defined-contribution plans
• Making Saving Simple: Promote a universal payroll deduction mechanism that allows employees to automatically contribute a portion of their wages to retirement savings accounts, such as through automatic IRAs• Helping Americans Save: Improve savings incentives for modest income workers, such as an enhanced saver's tax credit
• Protecting Pensions: Support employer-sponsored pension plans—a critical part of retirement security

We believe that we must take steps to strengthen Social Security, the foundation of our retirement-security system, by:
• Enacting Solvency Legislation: Reach a bipartisan agreement that will preserve Social Security's role as the guaranteed base of income security for current and future generations
• Ending the Disability Claim Backlog: Secure adequate funding for the Social Security Administration in order to help reduce the backlog of paperwork for people filing for disability benefits 

We believe we must expand and protect the rights of workers, with a special emphasis on age-50+ workers, by:
• Increasing Job Opportunities for Older Workers: Strengthen the Workforce Investment Act to provide improved services for older workers; and
• Promoting Fair Pay: Enact the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to prevent pay discrimination; Congress passed this bill, and it was the first legislation President Obama signed into law

Strong Communities

We believe we must ensure that America's communities provide housing and transportation options that are accessible, safe, and affordable for people of all ages by:

• Ensuring Affordable Housing: Protect funding for federal housing programs; promote more affordable mortgage options; and generate state-level action on zoning restrictions and barriers to developing diverse housing options and increased mixed-use development
• Ensuring Mobility Options: Pass transportation-reform legislation that increases transportation choices, promotes safe mobility for all users, strengthens the connection between transportation and land use, and ensures public accountability and transparency in transportation funding and decision-making.

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