Saturday, May 1 2010 11:19 AM EDT2010-05-01 16:19:26 GMT
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Medicare and Social Security, as we know them, are running on borrowed time.
The senior citizen advocacy group, AARP, is hoping to spur action to save these major programs by reminding citizens "you've earned a say."
AARP is sending representatives on tour to remind Americans of the situation for both Medicare and Social Security.
AARP Senior Counsel Cheryl Matheis explains the Medicare trust fund for hospital care is running low and will go broke in about 12 years.
She says the Affordable Care Act has put money into the fund, giving it another two years.
Matheis says the rest of Medicare that pays for doctors visits and medications is funded by premiums and taxpayers.
She says there are three things that can be done right now to cut costs to patients, to taxpayers and to improve the quality of care.
"Making sure that we don't duplicate services, making sure we give people the right care at the right time. It'll make a cheaper cost. Another area is pharmaceuticals. We should let Medicare negotiate for the price of pharmaceutical drugs," Matheis says. "The third area is fraud. There is a lot of fraud that goes on in these systems by very entrepreneurial people who know how to bilk Medicare."
Matheis says if you spend one dollar chasing down fraud, you get between three and seven dollars back.
On Social Security, Matheis says, if absolutely nothing is done to fix it, it's estimated Social Security will stop paying full benefits in about 20 years.
Then it will pay about 75 percent, quite a reduction for people depending on it.
Matheis says AARP is on a big push to educate people about Social Security.
She says AARP says it has consulted with two think tanks, one conservative and one liberal, to explain 12 possible fixes Congress has been considering.
She says the conservative organization is the Heritage Foundation. The liberal one is the Brookings Institution.
The AARP is hoping to spur a national discussion on retirement security.
"People do not have the kind of pensions they used to have. People who have 401K's are subject to the stock market which, as we know, can go down as much as up. People do not save the way they should and then we need Social Security to be strong," Matheis says.
To see the 12 options and opinions on them, click here.