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How Would you Keep Social Security, Medicare Strong?

Florida voters 50+ had been looking for specifics from the presidential candidates on the future of Medicare and Social Security all year, without success. By a two-to-one margin or more, older Sunshine State voters told AARP that the candidates were doing a not so good or poor job of explaining their positions on these two critical programs.

See Also: AARP Voters’ Guide

Then GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney named U.S. House Budget Chair Paul Ryan, R-WI., as his running mate. Suddenly, the 2012 presidential election seemed to focus squarely on proposals to change Medicare – an issue about which older Florida voters had been hungrily seeking information, according to a recent AARP survey.

In the AARP Florida poll, more than six in 10 Florida voters age 50 and older said information about presidential candidates’ plans for Medicare and Social Security would help them make up their minds how to vote in November.

Huge majorities of both major parties’ voters, as well as independents, also agreed that finding long-term solutions for Social Security and Medicare was too big a problem for either major party to solve alone.

Some 93 percent of Democrats, 91 percent of independents and 88 percent of Republicans said that Republicans and Democrats need to come together to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations. The poll, which surveyed 505 Florida registered voters, was expected to be accurate to within plus or minus 4.4 percent.

To bring the conversation on Washington’s plans to change Social Security and Medicare out from behind closed doors, earlier this year AARP launched You’ve Earned a Say, a national conversation on both programs.

Since March, AARP Florida volunteers and staff have conducted nearly 300 in-person events, contacted hundreds of thousands of AARP members via e-newsletters and talked to thousands of AARP members in Tele-town Halls so far this year, explaining in detail the proposals in Washington to change Social Security and Medicare.

The core of AARP’s effort is a groundbreaking effort to provide straight talk about the pros and cons of all major proposals to change Medicare and Social Security, without the insider jargon and political spin that permeates so much of today’s political discourse.

To ensure that Americans get clear information, 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. Each set of proposals is detailed in a downloadable brochure at You’ve Earned a Say (look for “Download Brochures” at upper left).

AARP also has provided a new tool at You’ve Earned a Say that helps you see exactly what Washington is proposing to change Medicare, with pros and cons of 10 options for c changing Medicare and another 10 for changing Social Security.

On Medicare, for example, options include:

  • Raising the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67. This would eliminate about 5 percent of Medicare’s long-term funding gap, but also may pose problems for older people who can’t find affordable medical insurance.
  • Raising Medicare premiums so that Medicare beneficiaries pay about 35 percent of the cost of their own care, rather than the current 25 percent. This would raise Medicare premiums by about 40 percent for most beneficiaries, or about $40 a month.
  • Changing Medicare to a premium support plan, so that Medicare beneficiaries would receive coverage through private insurance plans rather than Original Medicare. By gradually reining in the support provided to beneficiaries, the program would rein in costs.
  • Each option has pros and cons, described in detail by independent experts.

A similar tool at the same web address helps viewers see exactly how various proposals to change Social Security would affect the program’s long-term solvency gap as well as Social Security beneficiaries.

For example:

  • Raising the age of eligibility for full Social Security retirement benefits from 67 to 68. This would close about 18 percent of the Social Security solvency gap.
  • 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.

For more information about You’ve Earned a Say, go to AARP FL online or call 1-866-595-7678 toll-free.