Medicare and Social Security are hot issues in the presidential elections. Every worker in America has contributed to these programs and has a right — and a duty — to help guide any reform.
AARP representatives who met with the Press-Republican Editorial Board say almost everyone acknowledges that change has to occur in the programs, especially with 2023 pegged as the last year that full Social Security benefits can be paid, based on the financial status of the fund.
AARP thinks it is important that Americans have a voice in any changes that are made, and we agree wholeheartedly. But having a voice requires some effort; it doesn't contribute to a solution if you just sit at home and gripe about the disintegration of the programs.
The Social Security and Medicare programs are designed to help care for Americans in our later years. This is not an entitlement, like the Medicaid program created to help the poor. Workers paid in to the fund and have a right to expect money to be available when they retire to help pay living expenses and cover some of their health care. The questions are how much each person should get, when and in what form it is delivered.
AARP has held 50 forums around New York state, including one in Plattsburgh, and heard about 42,000 people share their feelings about the program. AARP plans another 100 forums in the next three or four months, including another session in Plattsburgh, tentatively scheduled for sometime in September.
It's important that local people turn out to voice their opinions. The stakes are high. AARP reports that 32,000 people in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties get their health care from Medicare and 38,000 receive Social Security payments.
Twenty to 23 percent of people say that 90 percent of their retirement income comes from Social Security. The average benefit is $14,600 a year. The number of people relying on Social Security in their later years is sure to grow as more companies eliminate their pension programs or reduce their contributions to 401K plans.
As part of its "You've Earned a Say" campaign to encourage public input, AARP has put together two free booklets: "The Future of Social Security: 12 Proposals You Should Know About" and "The Future of Medicare: 15 Proposals You Should Know About." These documents look at proposals being debated nationally by the Democrats and Republicans. Find out more at earnedasay.org.
AARP, which bills itself as a non-partisan source of information, does not make any recommendations in the booklets. That is what they hope the public will do at the forums.
If you care about your financial future — and that of your children and grandchildren — here is your opportunity to prove it: Learn about the options, and attend the forums.