For the last year, Congress has been debating cuts to Social Security and Medicare as part of a deal to reduce the federal deficit. But what Washington hasn't been focusing on is how to ensure that Medicare and Social Security can continue to provide the health and economic security that older Americans count on.
Social Security can pay promised benefits through 2036 with no changes to the system. After that, 75 percent of benefits can be paid. And Medicare's hospital trust fund, which pays for inpatient and skilled nursing care and the program's administration, is expected to fall short in 2024. Over the last few years, various changes to Medicare and Social Security have been proposed. But much of the conversation has been behind closed committee and caucus room doors.
On the campaign trail, some candidates have suggested substituting private retirement accounts for some or all of Social Security. Others have called for raising the retirement age, decreasing benefits for better-off older adults or increasing the amount of income subject to the payroll tax. Proposed changes to Medicare have included raising the eligibility age, reducing benefits, increasing copayments, establishing a voucher system or reducing payments to Medicare providers.
President Obama said in his State of the Union address that he "is prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long-term costs of Medicare and Medicaid and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors." In 2012, AARP aims to take the conversation about these programs out from behind closed doors in Washington.
AARP's You've Earned a Say initiative encourages members and all Americans to share their ideas on how to strengthen Social Security and Medicare.
"Together, we need to start a national discussion on strengthening health and retirement security for hardworking Americans," says AARP CEO A. Barry Rand.