Public Policy

Debra Whitman is an authority on aging issues with extensive experience in policymaking, research and the political process. As AARP's executive vice president for Policy, Strategy and International Affairs, she leads policy development in retirement security, health care, consumer protections and other issues.

Gaining New Ground: Solutions for Financing Long-Term Services & Supports

There is little dispute that the cost of long-term services and supports (LTSS) is daunting. The typical cost for care in a nursing home is about $91,250 a year, and the average annual base price for assisted living is $43,200. Few people can accumulate sufficient savings, even over a lifetime, to cover the costs. Most people rely on their families and friends for the bulk of their LTSS needs. Yet, family caregivers cannot do it all, and in the future, …

Taking a Closer Look at Aging American Indians and Alaska Natives

I grew up next to the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state and I remember how native elders were revered throughout the community.  At the annual powwow the elders shared their history through song and dance, and all generations sat together, joining in the chanting and drumming. Those memories rushed back this week, as AARP’s Public Policy Institute released its most recent report, “Lifelong Disparities among Older American Indians and Alaska Natives.” AARP, along with researchers from Western Carolina University …

Time to Let the Sunshine In

By AARP Executive Vice President Debra Whitman, Ph.D. and AARP Director of Health Services Research Leigh Purvis Starting today, AARP members and consumers of all ages will be able to get a better idea of what may be driving their health care provider’s decisions thanks to the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, or Sunshine Act. The Sunshine Act requires drug and medical device manufacturers to publicly report virtually all payments, gifts, and other services provided to health care providers and teaching …

Make Your Voice Heard on AARP Policy Positions

Every day, thousands of AARP staff and volunteers bring AARP public policies to life when they fight on behalf of older Americans and their families in all state capitals and Washington, D.C. Yet those vital efforts would not be possible without input from people just like you. AARP policies are set by our all-volunteer Board of Directors, but only after an annual process that begins with listening to the insights and experience of individuals who are 50-plus. As a first …

Not Everyone Is Living Longer

When it is unveiled in the coming weeks, the Social Security Trustees report will no doubt prompt the program’s critics to call for change, as it does each year. And one of their suggestions will likely be to raise the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare benefits. It sounds so reasonable. Isn’t everybody living longer? Unfortunately, the answer is no. >> Sign up for the AARP Advocacy Newsletter The truth is that gains in life expectancy are not …

Expensive New Hepatitis C Drug Raises Alarms

This piece originally ran in the Huffington Post and was written by Leigh Purvis and Debra B. Whitman. Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis C virus. It currently affects more than 3 million Americans, many of whom do not know that they are infected. Left untreated, it can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer. Until recently, hepatitis C treatments only cured about half of patients and often had undesirable …