Great. Big. Fun.
That's the slogan for the North Dakota State Fair, and AARP North Dakota plans to add to the fun at this year's fair.
We'll be sponsoring and hosting the AARP Team Trivia Challenge from 4 to 5 p.m. on Friday, July 20, and on Saturday, July 21. The contest will be located on the Dakota Talent stage across from the grandstand and food court.
We'll ask for up to 10 volunteers from the audience and split them into two teams. The questions will focus on what else but Social Security and Medicare. Anyone with a job should know about both programs because they pay into both programs with each paycheck. The vast majority of retired people receive income from Social Security and rely on Medicare for their health care.
We'll have a local personality serving as host and asking the questions. Members of the audience will get to do more than watch. They will get to participate by answering the same questions on a paper copy.
The winning team on stage will win prizes. And those in the audience who answered the most questions correctly will also be eligible for prizes.
The State Fair Team Trivia Challenge is part of AARP's "You've Earned A Say" our grassroots effort to ensure you and other North Dakotans have a say in the future of Medicare and Social Security.
Americans have earned a voice in any discussion about the future of these programs. All year we will be listening to our members and the public about their ideas and their opinions on the different proposals being debated in Washington and on the campaign trail. We want to know how people of all ages think we can strengthen both programs for current and future generations.
If you're not able to attend the State Fair on July 20 or July 21, you can still participate and make your voice heard by going to (www.earnedasay.org).
Here are a few facts for you to study to prepare for the trivia challenge:
Social Security is not going broke. The program can continue to pay full benefits until 2033. After that, the program will be able to pay around 75 percent of benefits indefinitely.
--Social Security provided $1.5 billion in benefits to North Dakotans in 2009.
--The average annual Social Security benefit in North Dakota is $12,600.
--There are 120,098 North Dakotans who receive Social Security, including retirees, widows and widowers, disabled workers and surviving children.
--A vast majority of North Dakota seniors 92.7 percent receive Social Security.
--Social Security is a foundation of retirement for most North Dakotans. It 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.
--There are 108,878 people in Medicare in North Dakota.
--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.