AARP Colorado is thrilled to introduce this new feature. Each month we will publish a profile of one of our volunteer advocacy team members, the people who work on your behalf within the Colorado Legislature to ensure older adults receive the best in local government. Look for it each month at aarp.org/CO.
An AARP Colorado legislative advocate since 2004, A.W. Schnellbacher, Jr. brings more than 30 years of federal government experience, including 27 years with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to the AARP Colorado advocacy team. His focus is primarily on healthcare and financial issues, areas where he has strong interests.
“I’m concerned that the nation is unprepared for people retiring,”Schnellbacher said. “We’re so concerned about budget in this country. We’re not investing in our population – the work force, education and older people.”
He’s also concerned that America’s healthcare debate is polarized between advocates of a market system and those supporting single-payer or "Medicare for all."
From the beginning of his career working with the nursing home industry in Kansas, he’s seen how political favoritism can distort systems of care.
“Politics kills ways to control costs,” Schnellbacher said. “I support universal coverage, but we need a good discussion about how to do it. Don’t just focus on the two poles. There’s lots of ground in between for discussion. And the U.S. is particularly challenging. Each state is different economically, demographically and in its culture, and that holds true within states.”
Schnellbacher has worked for a better world since long before Jean Nofles, AARP Volunteer President, met him. Nofles worked with Schnellbacher for 33 years both as a colleague at CMS and as a fellow legislative advocate with AARP Colorado.
“He was in the military. He worked in certification of healthcare facilities for the state of Kansas. He worked for the federal government holding management positions in all the program areas of CMS. A.W. tries to leave a position, job or duty in a better state than it was when he accepted it,” she said.
Schnellbacker said he likes the way the AARP Colorado legislative advocates volunteer team tackles the complexity of issues before them.
“The thought processes that go into researching legislation are superb with good discussion. It’s really a learning experience,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the group; the talent is outstanding. Doing this keeps you young.”
And Schnellbacher gives the process his all, Nofles said.
”A.W. makes knowledge of the legislators and legislative functions a part of his advocacy work and, as a result, has developed an acute understanding of what motives the average legislator," she said. "He reads and studies when the legislature is not in session so he will be fully prepared and ready to roll from the first legislative day until the last.
“A.W. is really a good guy,” Nofles continued. "He is warm. His eyes twinkle when he smiles. The entire group of advocates respects him, his wisdom and willingness to share what he knows with others. He has a generosity of spirit that I wish we all had.”
Schnellbacher also volunteers as a member of the AARP Colorado Executive Council as a congressional liaison. He emphasizes the importance of AARP Colorado members in supporting the efforts of the legislative advocates.
“We need the support of our Colorado seniors through phone calls to their legislators and attending town meetings, or just meeting one-on-one with their representatives,” he said. “It makes a big difference.”
_Carol Lynn Tiegs is a Colorado writer and AARP volunteer