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Lawyer Michael Avenatti arrested on a domestic violence charge. Also on the Thursday rundown: More testimony on Ohio's "anti-protest" bill; and we'll take you to the Dakotas to celebrate American Education Week.

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ND Seniors Try to Keep Footing at Edge of "Fiscal Cliff"

PHOTO: AARP of North Dakota State Director Janis Cheney says changes to Social Security and Medicare should not be part of a last-minute deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff." Courtesy of AARP ND.
PHOTO: AARP of North Dakota State Director Janis Cheney says changes to Social Security and Medicare should not be part of a last-minute deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff." Courtesy of AARP ND.
December 17, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. - As Congress looks for ways to avoid the approaching "fiscal cliff," it's being told that changes to Social Security and Medicare should not be rushed through as part of a last-minute deal. Janis Cheney is the state director for AARP of North Dakota. She says the programs are vital for millions across the state and nation and changes need to be treated that way.

"And they're willing to have a conversation about these issues, but we do not want hasty, ill-considered decisions made in the context of a year-end budget deal. We want this to be a thorough, thoughtful conversation that all of the stakeholders have a part in."

Currently, there are more than 90,000 seniors in North Dakota who receive Social Security. Cheney says the average benefit is less than $13,000 a year.

"It's not a huge amount; however, Social Security does make up about 60 percent of the typical older North Dakotan's income. And at least 35 percent of those folks, or over a third, would be living in poverty without that Social Security benefit."

Medicare is also being eyed in Washington D.C., and among the various proposals is one that would push up the eligibility age from 65 to 67. Cheney says making people wait two more years when health care is already expensive for that age group is the wrong way to go.

"That would dramatically increase costs for people who can least afford it, and that is one of our significant concerns."

If Congress and the president do not reach a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, income taxes will increase and automatic spending cuts will kick in on Jan. 1.

More information is available at http://states.aarp.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND