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.

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 …

Let’s Give Caregivers the Support They Deserve

You get up, get dressed, cook breakfast, make bag lunches for the kids, drop the kids off at school, rush to work, prepare for a big meeting, call to check in on your mom during lunch, go to your meeting, schedule your mom’s next doctor’s appointment, race to the pharmacy after work, drop off mom’s meds on your way home, cook dinner, help the kids with their homework, check in on mom again, and – finally – go to bed. …

Talents Can Transform Your Life and the World

In the movie A Bronx Tale, Robert De Niro plays a father who declares that wasted talent is “the saddest thing in life.” Those words ring true for me on a lot of levels. As an economist I view older Americans as an undervalued asset, too often denied the chance to use talents honed over a lifetime. As a policy wonk and advocate, I look for strategies that can help people live rewarding lives and that remove obstacles in their …

There is Nothing ‘Fuzzy’ About Social Security Benefits’ Positive Impact on the Economy

The idea that Social Security benefit payments help support local and state economies and the national economy is obvious to all 57 million beneficiaries who spend their dollars at stores and to the merchants who sell them goods and services. But it is not obvious to many in Washington. In a town focused only on what Social Security payments mean for the federal budget, a new report by AARP’s Public Policy Institute highlights, in actual dollars and jobs, what Social …

We Need More Nurses to Provide Primary Care

A recent survey of doctors and nurses has put the spotlight on a topic that is becoming more important every day — the shortage of primary care providers and the role for nurses in fixing it. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the doctors and nurses broadly agreed that, “Nurse practitioners should be able to practice to the full extent of their education and training.” Unfortunately, they held very different views on just what that …

The Fiscal Crisis of Families

Washington and the news media have long been focused on a series of budget deadlines and fiscal dramas. But a different headline stood out for me the other day, as I read a story in the Washington Post: “Fiscal Trouble Ahead for Most Future Retirees.” The story provided dramatic support for recent findings of AARP’s Public Policy Institute that the security of middle class Americans is under attack from all sides. AARP’s Middle Class Security Project and the Post article …