As the debate over paying the nation's debt rages on in Washington, D.C., many Kansans are keeping a watchful eye when talk turns to cutting Social Security and Medicare. And it's little wonder why. More than 478,000 Kansans receive Social Security and 20 percent of them rely on it for 90 percent or more of their income. Nearly 430,000 Kansans 65 and older rely on Medicare to cover a portion of their health care costs.
Disappearing pensions, dwindling retirement savings, and rising health care costs are leaving more Kansans unprepared in their retirement and increasingly reliant on Medicare and Social Security. Cuts to the programs would be devastating, forcing many to struggle needlessly.
Cutting Social Security and shifting more costs onto Medicare beneficiaries will hurt hundreds of thousands of hardworking Kansans who've paid into the programs and who rely on the benefits in retirement. AARP stands strong in opposition to Social Security and Medicare benefits being on the table as part of deficit reduction.
Last week AARP state president David Wilson and I joined our counterparts across the country in going to Washington to meet with members of Congress and urge them to make responsible decisions during the deficit-reduction debate by cutting waste and closing loopholes instead of cutting critical Medicare and Social Security benefits. We hope they listened.
To be sure, Congress needs to make some tough choices to address our large and growing debt.
But there are better ways to reduce the deficit. First it should consider cutting wasteful government spending and closing tax loopholes and special-interest tax breaks for companies that make billions of dollars in profits but pay little or no taxes. Perhaps most important is tackling ever-increasing health care costs. To do this, Medicare should not be singled out. We need to improve the way we deliver health care in Medicare and throughout the entire system.
AARP is urging our members and all Kansans to make their voices heard by calling, e-mailing and writing our representatives in Congress. We must make sure Congress keeps Medicare and Social Security strong for both today's and tomorrow's retirees.