Time to Make Your Voice Heard

A voice has been missing from the political debate over the future of Social Security and Medicare – yours.

For more than a year, the President and Congress have been talking about changes to Medicare and Social Security as part of a budget deal. Absent from these discussions is how any changes would affect you and your family. Starting this week, we’re taking the debate out from behind closed doors in Washington, and launching “You’ve Earned a Say” – a national conversation to ensure you and other North Dakotans have a say in the future of Medicare and Social Security.

You’ve earned a say by paying into Social Security and Medicare for years, and you deserve to know what changes politicians are putting on the table. In the coming months, AARP North Dakota will host several community conversations open to the public and people of all ages. Our goal is to give you a chance to speak out and offer ideas about how to keep Social Security and Medicare strong today and for future generations.

Medicare is facing financial challenges. More specifically, the Medicare fund that pays hospital bills will face a shortfall in 2024. Social Security can pay all promised benefits until about 2036, and after that, it can still pay 75 percent. That’s not good enough, however, so policy decisions will have to be made.

Your voice matters because Social Security and Medicare are the foundation of income and health security in retirement for most Americans.

In North Dakota, more than 120,000 people (retirees, widows and widowers, spouses, people with disabilities, and children) depend on Social Security benefits to help pay the bills every month. Social Security is a lifeline for the 30 percent of North Dakota seniors who rely on the program as their only source of income.

About 95,000 North Dakota seniors count on Medicare to help them afford health care. Even so, North Dakota Medicare beneficiaries spent about $4,900 on out-of-pocket health care costs, consuming 23.7 percent of the typical seniors’ income.

That’s why we’re going to ensure that you have easy access to information about the programs and the challenges they face, free of Washington spin and jargon. Our website www.earnedasay. org will give you straightforward information and enable you to share your ideas about how to strengthen these programs with Congress and the political candidates.

We urge candidates for Congress and the White House to be forthcoming about their plans for Social Security and Medicare. Voters have a right to know their views, so they can weigh them carefully in evaluating candidates and making the best decisions for themselves and their families.

Whatever the politicians propose, they need to hear from you that the future of Medicare and Social Security isn’t just a debate about budget numbers, it is a debate about people’s lives. In this process, we can also show that it’s possible to discuss important issues without all the partisan bickering and posturing we’ve come to expect from Washington. Please join us at an upcoming community conversation in your area because you’ve earned a say.

Rodger Wetzel
AARP ND Volunteer State President

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