North Dakota seniors count on Medicare and Social Security benefits to provide them with the foundation of income and health care they need in retirement benefits earned and paid for through long years of work.
Throughout Washington's budget debate over the past year, AARP members and Americans 50-plus, including thousands of North Dakotans, urged Congress to prevent cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Americans have earned a voice in any discussion about the future of these programs. That's why AARP is launching "You've Earned A Say" to bring this debate out from behind closed doors in Washington and help to make your voice heard. We need to hear from you on how to strengthen health and retirement security for hard-working Americans.
To help get this conversation started, AARP North Dakota will be holding a series of listening sessions across North Dakota. We want to hear from our members and the public about their ideas and their opinions on the different proposals being debated in Washington and on the campaign trail.
Also, AARP North Dakota volunteer speakers are available to speak to civic and fraternal organizations, clubs, or other groups on this important issue. To schedule a speaker, please call AARP North Dakota at 1-866-554-5383 and ask for Josh; or e-mail email@example.com.
The ultimate goal of these community conversations is to protect today's seniors and keep Medicare and Social Security strong for future generations.
On average, Americans 65+ spend about 30 percent of their income on health costs. The median income of Americans age 65 or older is only $18,500 a year, and 60 percent of all North Dakotans age 65+ rely on Social Security for half of their income. Ensuring we protect and strengthen these programs is important to North Dakotans.
We hope the community conversations provide a way for North Dakotans to sort through these very complex issues so they can be better equipped to ask questions of current elected officials and Congressional candidates. We want North Dakotans of all generations to make their voices heard during these discussions.
Watch for more information on these public forums in your local media, or check for updates on our website at (www.aarp.org/nd).
Facts about Social Security and Medicare in North Dakota:
--Social Security plays an important role in North Dakota's economy. The program provided $1.5 billion in benefits to North Dakotans in 2009.
--The average annual Social Security benefit in North Dakota is $12,600. A vast majority of seniors 92.7 percent received Social Security in 2010. That's 90,700 seniors.
--Social Security is a foundation of retirement for most North Dakotans. Social Security accounted for 60.7 percent of the typical older North Dakotans' own income.
--Low- and middle-income seniors in North Dakota are even more reliant on Social Security's earned benefit, typically receiving 77.5 percent of their individual income from Social Security.
--Social Security is a lifeline for 30 percent of North Dakota seniors, who rely on the program as their only source of income.
--Medicare also plays an important role in North Dakota's economy. The Medicare program spent $820 million on health care services for North Dakota residents in 2010.
--Medicare provides peace of mind. Almost all seniors 99.8 percent are enrolled in Medicare. In contrast, nearly 10.7 percent of 60- to 64-year-olds are uninsured.
--Medicare provides guaranteed health coverage but out-of-pocket costs are high. North Dakota beneficiaries spent about $4,900 on out-of-pocket health care costs, consuming 23.7 percent of the typical seniors' income.
Lyle Halvorson, of Bismarck, is associate director of AARP North Dakota.