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Do You Know How Washington Wants to Change Your Social Security, Medicare?

As residents of the “grayest state in America,” Floridians of all generations have a huge stake in the future of Social Security and Medicare. After all, nearly one in six Floridians is covered by Medicare (about 3 million overall), and more than half of Floridians 65 or older rely on Social Security for half or more of their income.

See Also: You’ve Earned a Say

For about one in three Floridians receiving Social Security benefits, that Social Security check is all there is – it’s their only source of income. Small wonder, then, that Floridians 50+ pay close attention when the talk in Washington turns to changing Social Security or Medicare.

The trouble is, Washington is talking about these changes behind closed doors. Few Floridians 50+ understand exactly how those changes would affect their lives.

A quick reality check: Social Security is not bankrupt today, as some claim. Even if no changes are made, the program can pay all scheduled benefits through 2033, and about three-quarters of scheduled benefits after that. Medicare also is financially stable but faces longer-term financial challenges.

If both programs are to be sustained, however, nearly everyone agrees that some changes need to be made. But you may not know yet exactly how Washington’s proposed changes could affect you.

That’s why AARP has launched “You’ve Earned a Say,” a national conversation on keeping Social Security and Medicare strong for today’s retirees as well as future generations.

At scores of public events and community conversations across the Sunshine State, AARP volunteers and staff are talking with Floridians about the options under discussion behind closed doors in Washington. And AARP is providing straight talk, minus the political spin and jargon, about the pros and cons of each option.

To ensure that Americans can cut through the political spin, AARP persuaded the conservative Heritage Foundation, the progressive Brookings Institution and respected independent experts on both programs to provide the pros and cons for 12 proposals to change Social Security and 15 options to change Medicare. You can see the pros and cons all of the options at You’ve Earned a Say. (Look for “Pros & Cons”, in the center column.)

AARP also has provided a new tool at You’ve Earned a Say that helps you see exactly how much of a difference any particular option would have on each program. For example:

  • Changing eligibility ages for Social Security. Some have suggested raising the age of eligibility for full Social Security benefits from about 66 (67 for those born after 1960) to age 68, or even age 70. Changing the eligibility age to 68 would eliminate 18 percent of Social Security’s long-term financial gap, while going to age 70 would close 44 percent.
  • Each option has pros and cons, described in detail by independent experts.
  • Changing the Social Security “wage tax cap.” Wages above $110,100 (for 2012) aren’t subject to Social Security payroll tax. This means that about 84 percent of all U.S. earnings are subject to Social Security taxes. Increasing the “wage tax cap” so that 90 percent of all earnings are taxed would close 36 percent of the financial gap.
  • Eliminating the wage tax cap entirely, and taxing all earnings, would close 86 percent of the financial gap.

These examples involve Social Security, but the You’ve Earned a Say website also provides information on proposals to change Medicare.

It’s time to hang a sign on this discussion that says, "Open to the public." This is not a subject to be hammered out in secretive talks in Washington.

In this election year and beyond, the discussion about Social Security and Medicare needs to take place in communities in Florida and across the country. Americans should know first-hand what Washington is talking about – and what proposals would mean to them and their families.

Go to the AARP Florida web page or call 1-866-595-7678 to learn more about You’ve Earned a Say, find events in your area or contact AARP Florida to schedule a presentation on You’ve Earned a Say.

Social Security and Medicare are critical to the retirement security of all Americans, and you have earned a say on their future. Let's make sure our elected officials in Washington hear an unmistakable message from us: protect and strengthen Social Security for today's seniors and future generations.