Social Security, Medicare under assault

There are proposals now being considered by Congress right now that would make harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security as part of a deal to pay the nation's bills.

These proposals would place arbitrary limits on federal spending requiring cuts that could dramatically increase health care costs for today's seniors (age 55 and over), threaten their access to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, and reduce the benefit checks they rely on to pay their bills. It's as straightforward as that.

We're not just talking about budget numbers here. We're talking about action by Congress that will have a disastrous effect on real people! Here's something else that's straightforward: AARP will do everything in our power to prevent Congress from these making harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

Of course Congress needs to make some tough choices to address our large and growing debt -- but not by hurting today's seniors and future retirees. What lawmakers need to do is start making the right decisions about our nation's future priorities. At the top of these priorities must be the health and financial security of older Americans.

There's a better way to reduce the deficit: Congress should begin by 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 - before considering harmful cuts to programs that are a lifeline to millions of older Americans. Tax breaks and loopholes cost the federal government an estimated $1 trillion each year.

And, perhaps most important, we need to tackle ever-rising health care costs. And if we really want to reduce health care costs, Medicare should not be singled out. We need to improve the way we deliver health care in Medicare and throughout the entire system - including a greater focus on prevention, better care coordination for people with chronic illnesses, and incentives that reward doctors and hospitals for providing high quality care, not seeing the most patients or running the most tests. Vermont has taken some important steps in this direction and leads the nation in addressing both health care cost control and access for all.

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