Seniors aren’t numbers

Published 1:00 am Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hundreds of AARP members were in Washington, D.C., 11 days ago to send a clear message to the “supercommittee” and all members of Congress: “Seniors aren’t numbers. We aren’t line items in a budget. And we’re definitely not pushovers.”

The supercommittee is considering proposals behind closed doors that would shift health care costs onto seniors and cut their Social Security benefits. Instead of focusing on cutting waste and tax loopholes, they’re treating seniors like we’re just another budget line-item.

In Mississippi, 492,298 people receive Medicare. About 583,515 Mississippians depend on the Social Security that they’ve paid into for years. We’ve talked to our members of Congress and it doesn’t matter if they’re Republicans, Democrats or Independents, they think it’s wrong for the supercommittee to cut the benefits we’ve worked for and depend on.

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We’ve spent our lives working for our Medicare and Social Security benefits. Right now, too few people outside Washington know that behind closed doors, this supercommittee is considering proposals that would shift health care costs on to seniors, threaten seniors’ access to their doctors, or reduce the Social Security benefits they rely on. For example, cutting Social Security by $112 billion could cost seniors thousands of dollars over their lifetime. Raising the Medicare eligibility age would cut benefits for younger retirees and increase out-of-pocket spending for 65- and 66-year-olds by an average of $2,000 per year — at a time when many people are already struggling to make ends meet. Increase premiums for people already in Medicare because it would leave older, more costly people in the system. Increase health care costs for businesses because workers would stay on employer plans longer.

The supercommittee has a choice. It can start focusing on cutting waste and tax loopholes, or harm more than one million combined Mississippians who have worked their entire lives to earn the Medicare and Social Security benefits and will hold them accountable for making harmful cuts.

Bruce W. Brice Sr.

AARP Mississippi president