Campbell, 70, a retired schoolteacher, is one of hundreds who've sounded off at forums on Social Security and Medicare across Arizona. It's part of an AARP effort called You've Earned a Say that is gathering opinions about the programs from thousands of Arizonans through questionnaires, town hall sessions and tele-town halls. The results will be shared with the public, candidates and members of Congress.
Both programs have long-term financial issues driven by greater longevity and by the size of the retiring boomer generation. If nothing is done, Social Security is expected to fully pay benefits until 2033 and to pay about 75 percent thereafter; Medicare's hospital trust fund will be exhausted in 2024.
Washington is not expected to seriously consider any changes to the two programs until after the November elections. Some of the suggested reforms include raising the age for full Social Security benefits, increasing the income limit for payroll taxes, changing cost-of-living adjustments and restructuring Medicare.
Forums through October
In Arizona, more than 1 million people receive Social Security benefits, about one in six, and over 920,000 are covered by Medicare.
About 20 percent of residents speak Spanish at home, so AARP Arizona is holding some forums in Spanish as well as English. The sessions will continue through October.
"Sure, it'll be 110 degrees in Phoenix, but heat doesn't stop us. We're putting the heat on Washington," said Cynthia Fagyas, AARP Arizona communications director.
The forums have emphasized the broad benefits of Social Security and Medicare.
Annette Shrager, 62, retired in Pittsburgh and moved to Mesa to care for her mother, Norma, 82, and a disabled sister, Kelly, 42. This option was possible because of her Social Security benefits and Norma's Medicare benefits. "It all lightens the load," she told a forum.
Bill Engler, 72, of Anthem, north of Phoenix, said he was grateful that Medicare covers his daughter, Laura, 49, retired on disability. The Advantage plan was, he says, her only medical option. "It works for her," he said.