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By the Numbers: AARP Idaho Dissects Debt Debate

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July 13, 2011

BOISE, Idaho - Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are tangled together in congressional talks about raising the nation's debt ceiling. Proposals on the table to keep the country solvent include cuts to many programs, and AARP Idaho is providing a breakdown of how cuts to Social Security and Medicare would affect Gem Staters.

About 260,000 Idahoans - 17 percent of the state's population - receive Social Security benefits, says Lynn Young, a member of the AARP Idaho executive council.

"One in four over age 65 say that that accounts for 90 percent of their income, and the average benefit is $1,000. That's just not a nebulous thing. It's very real here in our state, and many people depend on it."

More than 225,000 Idahoans have Medicare insurance coverage. It's tough enough for Idahoans to prepare for retirement in this economy, Young says, and reducing benefit checks and Medicare insurance coverage would create real hardship.

"There are certain things that shouldn't be out there on the table, and two of them are Social Security and Medicare. Those are supported by the people. People pay into them, and then receive from them."

If a deal isn't reached, the country will default on loans and tough decisions will have to be made on what bills will be paid. President Obama has warned that Social Security checks could be delayed. Other fallout could include negative effects on the bond market, consumer interest rates and Pell grant college payments.

Social Security and Medicare numbers for Idaho are online at

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID