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Keeping the Promise: ND Worries about Future of Medicare

Talk of changing Medicare to a voucher system has North Dakota's senior advocates concerned. (
Talk of changing Medicare to a voucher system has North Dakota's senior advocates concerned. (
February 6, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. — The AARP is warning that congressional proposals to change the Medicare program into a voucher system could drastically raise health care costs and risks for current and future retirees.

Josh Askvig, state director for AARP North Dakota, said that would have an impact on many older North Dakotans.

"It could put 111,000 seniors' benefits at risk,” Askvig said. “And then it could threaten the guaranteed benefits for another 144,000 North Dakota workers that are between ages 50 and 64, currently paying into the system."

According to the Social Security Administration, the average senior citizen has an annual income of about $25,000, with one in six dollars being spent on health care. Askvig said moving toward a voucher system would increase costs and decrease coverage for most seniors.

"Older North Dakotans depend on Medicare for affordable health care, and we think a voucher system would dramatically increase that risk for current and future retirees,” he said. "And that could mean many thousands of dollars out of hard-working North Dakotan's pockets."

Askvig recalled how President Donald Trump promised repeatedly during his campaign that Social Security and Medicare would not be changed, and said he encourages the new president to stick to that pledge.

"President Trump was very clear during the election about his position, stating that he's going to protect and save Social Security and Medicare, that a deal was made a long time ago,” Askvig said. "And we certainly agree on that point, that should be done, and we're urging Congress to also keep that commitment."

Several voucher plans are under discussion, but none has been officially introduced by lawmakers.

More information is available at

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - ND