I’m very happy to have an opportunity to contribute my thoughts on health and financial security issues to this new, online companion to the print edition of The Journal. As I just recently took office as AARP president, perhaps I should begin by telling you a little about myself.


I devoted my career to education, having begun as a classroom teacher in the Wicomico County School System in the state of Maryland. After five years, I began 25 years as a school administrator. When I retired, I joined the Maryland Retired Teachers Association and later became its president. I also served as a member of the Maryland Commission on Aging, and was named as a member of AARP’s Board of Directors in 2002.


My experience will serve me well. Now that health care reform is law, we have launched the biggest and most challenging consumer education and “watchdog” campaigns in AARP’s history. These campaigns are vital for our members because, in the United States, when the president signs legislation into law that mandates something as massive as health care reform, it marks only the beginning of a long, arduous task of getting it all implemented and functioning as intended.


The new health care reform law is more than 2,000 pages -- longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace -- and it contains many complicated new benefits, rules, penalties and projects. Federal agencies must now write the regulations – which will be open to public comment -- that will govern how they all will be implemented. We must ensure they do it right.


It all has been made even more difficult because some key responsibilities for implementing health care reform measures have been spread out beyond our federal government to our states, and implementation of the law has been spread out over a number of years.


Our states, for example, are responsible for meeting such basic requirements of the law as creating temporary “high-risk pools.” The provisions for these high-risk pools are expected to be implemented by July 1 of this year. On the other hand, broader provisions, such as Medicaid expansion and the insurance mandates, will not take effect until January 1, 2014.


So, AARP will be closely monitoring the regulations for, and implementation of, the new health care law. In other words, we will act as a diligent “watchdog” over the regulation writers and the implementers, and we will speak out forcefully on our members’ behalf when we see an action – or lack of one -- that may result in their harm.


But even more important from AARP’s point of view is our commitment  to being a trusted source of straightforward, reliable information on what the new law means for our members and their families – how they can understand it and take full advantage of it


AARP’s Health Care Reform Implementation Education Campaign began with the development of a wide range of educational materials, tools and resources targeting our members and other 50 and over consumers. These materials are intended to educate these folks about the changes, the impact, and the benefits associated with the new law. The materials will be distributed through four key channels: AARP digital properties, AARP state offices, AARP call centers, and through external partnerships with other organizations our members trust.


Our Education Campaign will provide the answers to these five fundamental questions:


  • What does the law mean for older Americans?
  • What does it mean for Medicare?
  • What does it mean for Americans not yet eligible for Medicare?
  • What does it mean for people with long-term care needs?
  • What, exactly, happens to the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole?”


But, in the most direct sense, the campaign aims to answer the three most basic questions facing individual consumers:


  • What does it do for me?
  • What do I get?
  • What, if anything, do I need to do?


You may liken the task of implementing health care reform and educating consumers to a marathon, rather than a sprint. No less than the maximum level of resolve and commitment will be required if we are to succeed. And that is exactly what AARP is prepared to offer.

  —W. Lee Hammond, President




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