NASHVILLE - Can you imagine your retirement without Medicare or Social Security? What about your children's retirement? Do you have ideas about how to protect and preserve these crucial programs for current beneficiaries and future generations?
A new survey finds that most adult Americans - of all ages - believe Medicare and Social Security are important but that folks in Washington are making too many decisions about them behind closed doors and not listening to ordinary citizens.
AARP believes that you've earned a say over the years that you've paid into these programs - and we want to hear those ideas. That's why we are launching a "You've Earned a Say" listening tour.
In the coming months, AARP is sponsoring town halls, community conversations and other events throughout the state - and across the country - to give folks a chance to offer ideas about how to keep Social Security and Medicare strong for the long haul.
On April 4, we are hosting meetings in Johnson City, Knoxville, Nashville and Jackson. Live in Memphis? We would like to hear from you on April 5.
On May 17, there is an opportunity to be part of a live studio audience in Nashville talking about Medicare and Social Security on the national RFD-TV show "AARP LiVE." In June, we will have a "You've Earned a Say" forum in Memphis; in September, we will be in the Tri-Cities.
Also, AARP volunteers will be hosting smaller conversations in communities across the state. And they will be collecting questionnaires at fairs and expos. They want to hear from you.
Learn more about Tennessee events and opportunities to have your say at our web page (www.aarp.org/tn), Facebook (www.facebook.com/aarptennessee) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/aarptn).
You don't even have to leave home to offer your thoughts. You can call 1-888-OUR AARP to offer your opinion. You can go online to www.earnedasay.org. You can even register for one of our Tennessee telephone town halls - on June 20, July 20 or August 20 - and WE will call YOU.
"We want to make it easy for you to join the conversation because your health and retirement security are at stake," said AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly.
Right now in Tennessee, more than 1 million people rely on Medicare and 1.2 million receive Social Security checks. The number of people enrolling in both programs is expected to skyrocket over the next several years as Baby Boomers become eligible. That is going to place a strain on both programs. Because of the rising cost of health care, the Medicare fund that pays hospital bills will face a shortfall in 2024.
Bob Paredes, who heads the AARP Murfreesboro chapter and will be facilitating "You've Earned a Say" conversations in Middle Tennessee, says that a cousin who developed emphysema and had a double lung transplant might have died and certainly would have lost her home without Medicare coverage.
"There are a lot of seniors out there who think they can't make a difference. Throughout history, the spoken word has changed the course of nations and policies, Let's be part of the solutions; not part of the problems," Paredes said.
Social Security can pay all promised benefits until about 2036, and after that, it can pay 75 percent. That means there is no immediate crisis, but the sooner changes are made the easier they will be on all of us.
AARP volunteer leader Bettye Jo Wells of Chattanooga said that her family received Social Security benefits after her father's death. "Without those benefits, I doubt if my mom would have been able to survive, provide us with a home and pay for our incidental expenses at school on her income as a domestic employee."
In Tennessee, most Social Security beneficiaries are retirees, but more than 230,000 are disabled workers and some 100,000 are widows or widowers.
A primary goal of "You've Earned a Say" will be to empower Tennesseans with unbiased, straightforward and accurate information about proposed changes - without all the political jargon and spin. We also will ask federal candidates to clearly state their positions on Social Security and Medicare reform, and then share those positions with voters so they can make informed choices at the polls in November.
A new survey conducted by Woelfel Research Inc. found that more than 90 percent of adults believe Medicare and Social Security are important to health and financial security in retirement, but most believe folks in Washington are making decisions behind closed doors. Across party lines, nine in 10 adults say folks in Washington need to spend more time listening to ordinary citizens about Social Security and Medicare. The survey of 1,207 adults, conducted Feb. 13-28, has a margin of error of ± 2.8 percent.