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Daily Newscasts

FL Seniors Are Peering Over the Fiscal Cliff

December 17, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Is a last-minute budget deal better than no deal at all?

Congressional leaders are saying they're prepared to stay on the job until Christmas Eve if necessary to work out a deal. However, the lack of agreement on what should be part of that deal is making people in their 50s and beyond a little nervous.

AARP Florida says almost 2.8 million seniors in the state receive Medicare, and spokesman Dave Bruns says receiving Medicare is so important to Florida seniors that many have a party when they reach the current eligibility age.

"Becoming Medicare age is literally cause for celebration all over the state of Florida and the U.S. It's extremely expensive to get private health-care coverage for people who are older."

On average, Floridians receive about $1200 a month in Social Security. Bruns points out that seniors hit hard by the recession don't have many years to work and recoup their losses.

He says language referring to Social Security and Medicare as "entitlements" is bothersome to Florida seniors.

"The quickest way to pick a fight with an older Floridian is to call Medicare or Social Security an entitlement program. They've paid into these programs all their lives."

Nationally, AARP says, about 5 million people responded to its campaign called "You've Earned a Say," and views from every state about how to fix Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have been shared with their senators and representatives. Bruns says the down market makes it even harder for Florida seniors to consider a decrease in benefits.

"They've seen their biggest asset, their home, plunge in value. The market turmoil has threatened what little nest egg they've been able to put aside, and now they're seeing Washington bent on cutting Medicare and Social Security."

Some proposals being tossed around in Congress include: raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67; making workers pay Social Security taxes on more of their income; and changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL