AARP national President Robert Romasco during a July 18-19 visit to Arkansas discussed the importance of providing straightforward facts and engaging Americans in conversations about the future of Social Security and Medicare.
Romasco was among the panelists on a live call-in program that aired the evening of Thursday, July 18 on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN). The program, “You’ve Earned a Say on Medicare and Social Security,” featured questions posed by moderator Pamela Smith and questions called in or e-mailed by AETN viewers.
On Friday, July 19, Romasco was interviewed by several Arkansas news media outlets including KTHV/Channel 11, KARN News Radio and KARK/Channel 4.
“Social Security and Medicare are critical programs,” Romasco told KTHV. “We believe that the people who are affected and who have paid into these programs all their lives ought to be involved in that conversation. We shouldn’t leave the challenges of those programs to people in Washington in cloak rooms. We need to get voters and citizens involved and that’s why we launched this.”
In Arkansas, 647,077 people receive Social Security benefits, and about 543,000 receive Medicare benefits. Arkansans have earned the coverage, benefits, protections and guarantees of Medicare and Social Security, and these programs will face a number of challenges in the coming years, including changing demographics and rising health costs.
Both programs are of significant importance to Arkansans. In Arkansas, 36 percent of Social Security recipients rely on the program for 90% or more of their income. Nationally, the figure is about 25 percent.
The percentage of Social Security recipients in Arkansas who rely on the program for 50% or more of their income is even higher—about 63 percent. Nationally, that figure is about 50 percent.
In Arkansas, Social Security benefits keep 39 percent of older Arkansans out of poverty. And benefits are modest, averaging just $13,200 a year.
Medicare enables Americans and Arkansans mentioned above to receive affordable health care. Still, seniors have to pay $4,500 on average out of their own pockets for care each year. Without Medicare, many would have to spend thousands more for private coverage – if they could afford it at all.
Since early 2012, AARP has been encouraging a conversation about the long-term financial challenges facing Social Security and Medicare, and how to keep these programs effective for the long haul.
This effort, which is called You’ve Earned a Say, has engaged millions of Americans.