More than half of people over the age of 50 in the north country are concerned about the future of Medicare and Social Security, two of the most important safety-net programs for seniors, according to a poll by the the AARP, an interest group for retired people.
The poll, which was conducted among residents of the 21st Congressional District, concluded that 53 percent of people over the age of 50 were not at all confident or not very confident that Social Security would be there for them and for future generations. Thirty-three percent were fairly confident, and 10 percent were very confident.
The answer on Medicare, the government-run health care program for seniors, was similar: 49 percent said they either were not at all confident or not very confident that Medicare would be there for them or future generations.
Only a paltry 2 percent of respondents said that the two candidates for Congress — Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and Republican Matt Doheny of Watertown — have done a very good job explaining their positions.
Here are their positions: Mr. Doheny says that Medicare should allow more private competition into the marketplace, and that Medicare should make wealthy beneficiaries pay more. He also has said that the eligibility age should be increased. No change should affect current recipients, Mr. Doheny says.
On Social Security, Mr. Doheny says that the program should do more to test for means — to see whether people actually need the financial benefits — and that the retirement age should be lifted.
Mr. Owens is against both raising the retirement age and means testing — he says the programs are already means tested. On Medicare, Mr. Owens says that President Obama's health-care overhaul might be enough to help bring down health-care costs to save the program.
You might also hear quite a bit about $716 billion that was "cut" from the Medicare program under that health-care law, a claim that requires some context. The law mandates that no benefits be curtailed; instead, the "cuts" are actually reductions in future spending on things that weren't working very well, according to supporters.