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AARP to CO: "You've Earned a Say" about Medicare, Social Security



March 20, 2012

DENVER - Colorado is one of four states where AARP launched its "You've Earned a Say" campaign on Monday. At town hall meetings, including one in Denver, the group released a new study about the importance of Medicare and Social Security to retirees, and began a nationwide effort to solicit comments from people from all ages about the programs.

The campaign is based on AARP's view that Congress doesn't have a clear picture of how many people rely on these programs to keep them out of poverty.

Morie Smile, AARP Colorado communications director, says the discussion needs to shift from the cost of the programs, to their value.

"That's not to say that one turns a blind eye to what's happening with the budget. But when you figure that Social Security pumps over $8 billion into Colorado's economy, we have to figure out how we can maintain those figures."

Almost 700,000 Coloradans receive Social Security, and for about one-third of them, it's their only retirement income. There are 600,000 on Medicare.

AARP has set up a website, EarnedaSay.org, to collect opinions and post information. It is also planning more community conversations and bus tours, nationwide.

At Monday's town hall in Denver, Keith Kelly shared his frustration about the gridlock in Congress.

"Too often in today's political environment, we're reduced to non-constructive dialogue from our parties. And by having a forum like this, it allows people like me to get up and listen and learn. And that's why I'm here."

The campaign launch coincides with a new AARP national survey of people over age 18. It says across all political persuasions, 98 percent think Social Security and Medicare are important to people's health in retirement. Somehow, the message isn't getting across to elected officials, says AARP national board president Lee Hammond.

"A lot of the work that's being done, a lot of the so-called plans that are being developed, are being done behind closed doors; people don't know what they are. Our concern is that, if you're going to be affected by this, you need to know what it is and how it affects you. And we really haven't had that from Congress."

Hammond says AARP will work with two national think tanks, one conservative and one liberal, to analyze every plan proposed in Congress, and will publicize their findings.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - CO