News Column

AARP Brings Social Security and Medicare Debate to Orlando

Aug. 21, 2012

Jeff Kunerth, Orlando Sentinel

AARP

On the way to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, the AARP's "You've Earned a Say" tour made a pit-stop Tuesday at the Florida Conference on Aging being held at the Grande Lakes Ritz-Carlton in Orlando.

The AARP trailer, which has been touring the country since March with interactive information on Social Security and Medicare, is intended to provide impartial facts on what is turning into a hot-button topic in the presidential race.

"We don't endorse, but we know how important it is for our members and Americans in general to understand these issues," said Will Phillips, AARP campaign director. "We know how important Social Security and Medicare are when you have incredible numbers of people who don't think they will ever retire."

According to the AARP, 5.6 million Floridians received $51.3 billion in Social Security benefits and $31.2 billion in Medicare health care services in 2011. About 84 percent of the state's 2.8 million residents 65 or older receive Social Security and 96 percent of the elderly were enrolled in Medicare.

The trailer contains six iPads that enable visitors to play around with the various plans to solve the looming funding problems for Social Security and Medicare -- reducing benefits, raising eligibility ages, increasing taxes. On one wall is the quote, "If I can figure out how to fix Social Security, why can't Washington?"

Included in the interactive options on Medicare is the voucher plan advocated by presumptive Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in which future retirees would be covered by private insurance plans instead of traditional Medicare.

"We are talking about all the options being discussed," Phillips said. "We know our members and Americans don't feel like they know enough or the candidates are talking about it enough."

"What I liked about it, it wasn't just easy questions," said Bill Aycrigg, 64, a Land O Lakes resident and president of the Florida Council on Aging. "It had critical choices. It's providing a fiscal reality for our country."

The "You've Earned a Say" tour also allows participants to record their thoughts and opinions about Social Security and Medicare in a video studio in the back of the trailer and on printed questionnaires, which will be compiled and released prior to the election in November, Phillips said.

"It's critically important in this election," Phillips said. "We absolutely want it to be part of the debate and we will do everything we can to see that it is."



Source: (c)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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