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What the Debt Deal Means for Medicare and Social Security

It was a congressional battle that left many Americans frustrated and fearful. The Budget Control Act, the bill that raised the debt ceiling, was passed at the last possible moment. The debt ceiling — the amount the U.S. government is able to borrow to pay its bills — has been raised almost 100 times since it was implemented in 1917 to make sure the government did not default on its obligations. If the U.S. was deemed unfit to pay its debt, it could cause even more economic harm.

AARP fought to protect Social Security and Medicare, benefits that provide a foundation of support for millions of Americans, and we were very pleased that these programs were untouched in the first round of cuts. Social Security is considered one of the greatest anti-poverty programs in the world, funded by workers who contribute over a lifetime of earnings. While many believe that Social Security is one of the largest drains on the federal budget, in fact it has not contributed one dime to the deficit. In Utah alone $332 million flows into the economy each month. Children, disabled workers, and spouses of deceased workers receive benefits in addition to retirees.

Medicare is also a crucial program to ensure that those who likely need health care the most have access to affordable, quality coverage. It is crucial that benefits remain secure.

AARP CEO A. Barry Rand offered the following statement after the House and Senate nominated members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction:

“AARP looks forward to working with the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to ensure that the health and retirement security of current and future generations is protected. We recognize the extremely difficult task and decisions that this committee must undertake, and it is our sincere hope that it will work in a bipartisan manner that respects the needs of all Americans who are coping with the challenges created by these very trying times.

“Seniors have worked their entire lives to achieve a level of health and economic security in retirement. With the compounded effect of loss of retirement savings—particularly through the recent market fluctuations over the last two weeks—and home equity, high unemployment and rising health care costs, cuts to the benefits seniors have earned could undermine the standard of living today and for future middle class generations.

“Americans want Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid to be strengthened as part of a broader conversation around health and economic security, not one focused solely on deficit reduction. AARP believes that the American public deserves a seat at the table in any forum, including the newly created super committee, and we ask that members of the new committee actively solicit input from people across the country, particularly older Americans.

“We look forward to working with our elected leaders to strengthen health and retirement security, not weaken it, for current and future generations.”

AARP is staying vigilant to make sure that no cuts are contemplated to either program. Future generations must be able to count on these benefits for their health and financial security. Find more information about AARP’s position.