By strong margins, new polls show that Americans of all political persuasions are upset at Congress in the wake of the early-August debt ceiling agreement and subsequent market turmoil.
But even though the first round of budget-cutting action left Social Security and Medicare intact, older Floridians are starting to realize that they’re still in a fight to protect the benefits they’ve earned over a lifetime of hard work.
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“Now is the time to learn more about this issue and to speak out on solutions,” said AARP Florida Interim State Director Jeff Johnson. “It’s clear that Congress will make critical decisions on the future of Social Security and Medicare in the next several months. So it’s very important for you to add your voice to this debate.”
Under the debt-ceiling deal, a 12-member Congressional committee is to craft a plan to trim from $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion more from the nation’s long-term deficit by Nov. 23 of this year.
This “super-committee” could recommend reductions to any kind of federal spending, including Social Security or Medicare. AARP Florida is concerned that this fast-track process would deny older Americans a chance to make themselves heard in the debate over budget reductions.
Under the legislation, Congress cannot amend the committee’s plan, but can only accept or reject it. Congress must act by Dec. 23. If the “super-committee’s” plan is rejected, then the legislation requires a broad range of across-the-board budget cuts, including a 2-percent reduction to Medicare reimbursements to your doctor, hospital and other health-care providers.
This potential cut would be in addition to a possible 30-percent cut in Medicare doctor reimbursements that will occur at the end of this year if Congress does not fix a flawed Medicare-reimbursement formula.
“AARP believes that now is the time to strengthen, not weaken, Social Security and Medicare,” Johnson said. “We are calling for a broader national conversation about protecting American values and everyone’s retirement security.
To help get this conversation started, AARP Florida is reaching out to Floridians in several ways. A series of “community conversations” will be held later this year to explain the deficit-reduction issue and its possible impacts on older Americans. Also, tens of thousands of AARP members statewide will be able to listen to a “Tele-Forum” to explain the issue via a toll-free telephone call later this year.
Also, AARP Florida volunteer speakers are available to speak to your civic or fraternal organization, club, condo or homeowners’ association or other group this fall on this important issue. To schedule a speaker to come to your club or organization and speak about this or other topics, please call AARP Florida at 1-866-595-7678 and ask for the Speaker’s Bureau line, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, AARP Florida will be providing information on protecting Social Security and Medicare in e-newsletters send to hundreds of thousands of AARP members, as well as on Facebook.
The outcome of this debate could have a big impact on older people.
On average, Americans 65+ spend about 30 percent of their income on health costs. The median income of Americans age 65 or older is only $18,500 a year, and half of all Floridians age 65+ rely on Social Security for half their income. Shifting costs to seniors, or cutting Social Security benefits, could have devastating impacts on older Floridians.
“We hope these conversations provide a way for older Floridians to sort through this very complex issue, so they can be better equipped to ask questions of their elected officials,” Johnson said. “It is critical that older Floridians, and Floridians of all generations, raise their voices in this debate.”