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Coloradans Weigh In On Social Security and Medicare

Changes needed...but not right away

Dennis Valentine, AARP Colorado questionnaires on Social Security and Medicare

Dennis Valentine, 70, of Castle Rock, is one of many Coloradans who filled out AARP questionnaires on Social Security and Medicare. Two-thirds said major changes to the programs should wait. — Matt Nager

Medicare trustees have warned that the hospital fund will be depleted in about a dozen years. Social Security trustees forecast that program will be able to pay full benefits only until 2033. After that, payments to beneficiaries would drop to about 75 percent.

Congress is expected to consider changes to both programs, including a boost in the amount of income subject to the payroll tax that funds most of Social Security and some of Medicare; benefit cuts; a higher eligibility age for both programs; a curb in the cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries; and higher premiums for higher-income Medicare participants.

"Balanced approach"

Among Coloradans who answered questionnaires, more than 60 percent endorsed "a balanced approach of benefit and revenue changes" to make sure both programs exist for future retirees.

But a strong consensus failed to emerge about how best to put both programs on a more secure financial footing.

In fact, 39 percent responded "none of the above" when asked to choose the best source for increased Medicare funding; 28 percent favored steeper payroll taxes, followed by general federal revenues (21 percent) and higher premiums (11 percent).

Among other findings:

  • Three-fourths said all future retirees should get the guaranteed insurance coverage and care that current Medicare participants receive. About one in four said future retirees should receive a set amount of money to buy their own insurance plan.
  • Fifty-two percent said it is OK for upper-income workers to receive higher Social Security benefits because they paid more into the system; 48 percent said wealthy workers should receive less — or nothing — because they can tap other sources of retirement income.
  • Fewer than one in 10 said the programs are in such crisis that they should be entirely overhauled for future participants.
  • Thirty-eight percent said rising health care costs posed the greatest challenge to Medicare. Other issues earmarked as the program's biggest challenge were the growing population of older people and longer retirements (20 percent) and the high cost of Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket expenses (12 percent).
  • Slightly less than half said the biggest challenge facing Social Security is lack of people paying into the program. The breakdown: 27 percent said higher-paid workers weren't contributing enough; 18 percent said fewer workers were funding the program.

Roger Fillion is a writer living in Evergreen, Colo.

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