MARQUETTE - Area senior citizens were given the chance to voice their concern Tuesday over the problematic future of Social Security and Medicare, two federal programs that many seniors use.
"After the election, politicians will probably focus on some of these issues and when we do, we think seniors should be in the middle of that discussion, not on the outside," said Robert Kolt, president of AARP Michigan. "That's why AARP has taken this year to be extremely active."
Kolt traveled to Marquette Tuesday to host a "You've Earned A Say" conference. More than 50 seniors attended.
Attendees at the Michigan AARP “You’ve Earned A Say” conference Tuesday at Marquette’s Peter White Public Library listen as Michigan AARP President Robert Kolt talks about Medicare and Social Security. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
The conference centered around roundtable discussions, with area residents working in small groups to discuss the pros and cons of certain solutions to the problems facing Social Security and Medicare. They then reported back to the group as a whole what they thought was the best way to ensure both programs continue to be solvent.
Conference attendees were also given a brief survey about Medicare and Social Security and ways to fix their financial woes.
So far, Michiganders have turned in nearly 25,000 surveys.
"The responses have been varied," Kolt said. "Everybody believes that Social Security and Medicare are important programs to protect. No one really believes that there's a crisis right now. They know that something will have to be done in the future to protect future generations."
While the groups varied on their willingness to enact some solutions to help both programs - such as taxing people at a higher percentage or moving the retirement age up a few years - most everyone agreed they would remove the current $110,100 cap on taxable income, so people making more than that in a year would be taxed on that income as well.
Kolt said the conferences, which have been hosted in cities around the state, are giving seniors a chance to be a part of the conversation.
"(Those conversations) are taking place behind closed doors with politicians in Washington, and AARP wants to lead the discussion publicly about what should be done," Kolt said.
Cliff Trudell, 74, of Ishpeming, was one attendee at the conference, and said he decided to participate because of what he saw as a need to fix America's poor health care system.
"We are supposedly the richest nation in the world and yet we treat some of our people like no other nation does," Trudell said. "In this country, education and our health is probably the biggest right we have. People have given their lives for this, and we're not getting it."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.