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Share Your Thoughts on Social Security

Offer ideas about Medicare and retirement safety nets at You've Earned a Say sessions statewide

Washington is not expected to seriously consider any changes until after this year's presidential and congressional elections.

The goal of You've Earned a Say is to gather a wide cross section of opinions, said Virgil Reed, state leader of the meetings.

"Our entire focus is on listening," said Deadwyler, who is leading volunteer efforts for the northeast Ohio stops. "We don't want to assume that we already know what our members are thinking."

The concerns and suggestions from Ohio residents will be shared with the AARP national office and with elected officials.

"There's a tremendous amount of misinformation out there on these two programs, and some of the campaign rhetoric on either side doesn't make the situation any easier to understand," said Reed, 67, of Anderson Township.

Difficult transitions

Reed expects the sessions to generate many unsettling personal stories. He has some of his own.

Reed's parents, ages 88 and 92, got a letter from their doctor of more than 15 years saying he would no longer take Medicare patients. If they wanted to continue to see him, they'd have to pay a large out-of-pocket fee each month.

And when Reed retired as a cable TV executive, moving to Medicare came with unexpected obstacles. His wife and two children, who had relied on coverage from his work insurance, were denied private insurance based on pre-existing conditions.

His former employer eventually offered an insurance continuation, Reed said, but he had to pay the total premium — about $25,000 a year.

"It was either that or pay [medical bills] out of pocket. That's not a risk we wanted to take."

Many others question whether Social Security will be enough of a safety net for those who have saved little on their own. While 30 percent of those 55 and older polled last year by the Employee Benefit Research Institute were "very confident" they'd have enough money for basic expenses during retirement, only 15 percent expected to have enough to live comfortably.

Visit the AARP Ohio Facebook page for You've Earned a Say meeting times and locations.

You may also like: A guide to Medicare Part D. »

Sarah Hollander is a writer living in Cleveland.

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