AARP urges Congress to protect seniors

Published 12:09 am Friday, June 17, 2011

For more than 50 years AARP has been working to ensure older Americans have affordable health care and financial security in retirement. We are committed to protecting and strengthening Medicare and Social Security so today’s seniors and future generations will get the benefits they’ve earned through their lifetimes of paying into the system.

In Mississippi, approximately 476,564 people receive Medicare and approximately 559,344 people receive Social Security. These benefits are being threatened.

There are proposals being considered by Congress right now that would make harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security as part of a deal to pay the nation’s bills.

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These cuts could dramatically increase health care costs for today’s seniors — yes, those who now are 55 and over — threatening their access to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, and reducing the benefit checks they rely on to pay their bills.

AARP will strive to prevent Congress from making these harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security as part of any deal to pay the nation’s bills.

Of course Congress needs to make some tough choices to address our large and growing debt — but not by hurting today’s seniors and future retirees.

There’s a better way to reduce the deficit. Instead of cutting the benefits America’s seniors have earned, Congress needs to start making the right decisions about our nation’s future priorities, beginning by cutting tax loopholes and special interest tax breaks for companies that make billions of dollars in profits, but pay little or no taxes. Estimates are that all tax breaks and loopholes cost the federal government roughly $1 trillion each year. And what national priority is being addressed by Congress doling out more than $200 million in tobacco subsidies?

Today’s Medicare beneficiaries already pay an average of $5,500 each year out of their own pockets for their medical expenses. And it’s rising every year. Social Security’s benefits already are modest by any standard. Today, the average Social Security retirement benefit is only about $14,000 a year. The average annual benefit for retired women is even less — about $12,000.

Mississippi seniors have spent decades paying into the system.

They’ve earned the peace of mind that comes with being assured that Congress won’t make harmful cuts to their Medicare and Social Security benefits.

Bruce W. Brice Sr. is the AARP Mississippi state president and a Natchez resident.