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Today’s Threat to Medicare and Social Security: The Supercommittee

AARP member John from Wakefield said, “I was unable to continue in my job as a pest control technician. It was a painful decision to retire but it would not have been possible without Social Security and Medicare. I worked from when I was a teenager until I turned 65 years old. I should not have something taken away from me that I worked hard for most of my life.”

Patricia from Billerica added, “I have seen my family and friends struggling to make ends meet in this economy. One more hurdle put in their paths would only increase their struggles. We work hard and put our faith in our government to help us build a future for our old age.”

In fact, the vast majority of Massachusetts residents age 50 and older say Medicare (88%) and Social Security (85%) are very important to them, yet they have concerns about the programs meeting their needs in the future.

Bottom line: There are better ways to reduce the deficit than targeting Medicare and Social Security. Congress should begin by cutting wasteful government spending and closing tax loopholes – before considering harmful cuts to programs that are a lifeline to millions of older Americans and their families. These tax breaks and loopholes, alone, cost the federal government an estimated $1 trillion each year.

Further, instead of shifting health care costs to seniors, we need to improve the way we deliver health care throughout the entire system, including greater focus on prevention, better care coordination for people with chronic illnesses, and incentives that reward doctors and hospitals for providing high-quality care – instead of seeing the most patients or running the most tests.

Too many Americans count on Medicare and Social Security, as benefits they’ve earned, for the President and Congress to rush in and make harmful cuts as part of another Washington budget deal. These programs should be strengthened as part of a thoughtful, reasoned, and broader conversation about retirement – and American values.

So, we continue to fight. I ask you to raise your voices in support of Medicare and Social Security. Contact Sen. Kerry – as a member of the Supercommittee – Sen. Brown, and your U.S. Representative – tell them what Medicare and Social Security mean to you. Visit aarp.org/protectseniors for more.

Deborah Banda is the state director of AARP Massachusetts, which serves more than 800,000 members age 50 and over in the Bay State. This editorial appears in the November 2011 edition of the Fifty Plus Advocate, the statewide mature market newspaper.

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