William Novelli and John Rother

William Novelli, chief executive officer of AARP, and John Rother, its strategy director were Tuesday's guests. Here are excerpts from their remarks:

On the outlook for private savings accounts as a component of Social Security:

(Novelli) "The idea of private accounts may or may not be dead in Congress. It is a little bit hard to tell. [A new AARP poll found] two-thirds of the people oppose it."

On whether the Jan. 1 launch of the Medicare prescription drug benefit will be postponed to help pay for Katrina relief:

(Novelli) "We think the odds are small that there would be a postponement. We also think that a postponement would be a huge mistake. This [benefit] is what keeps people out of nursing homes and out of doctors' offices."

On whether, after Katrina, Congress is less likely to pass the cuts in Medicaid it had been considering:

(Rother) "The majority of the evacuees ... were uninsured or were on Medicaid. Their health needs are overwhelming. The images of this kind of need ... as well as the images of people in nursing homes who obviously had no resources of their own, changed the public perception of Medicaid. And I hope we are going to see efforts to strengthen the program rather than weaken it."

On organizations that compete with AARP to serve seniors:

(Novelli) "[Americans over 50] are a huge and inviting audience.... So, for us, as we had expected, competition is growing very fast."

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