Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Association Battles for Issues on Federal Level

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Association Battles for Issues on Federal Level

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter Issues facing older Americans at the federal level include Social Security, health care, housing and retirement pensions, according to a representative of the American Association of Retired Persons.

"Social Security is a success story, in a sense that it's taking in about $75 billion more than it needs to pay out next year," said John Rother, legislative director for the association in Washington, D.C.

"It's building up a reserve that should be adequate for any economic downturn in just a couple more years, so on the benefit side it's in good shape."

A continuing controversy exists, however, in the relationship between the social security system and the federal budget deficit.

"There are many people, including a majority now in Congress, who believe that Social Security should be removed from the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit calculation, because otherwise the building up on the trust funds has been used to make the true operating deficit of the federal government look smaller," Rother said.

Others question whether Social Security should be a part of any effort to cut the federal deficit, he said.

"Because it is a self-financed program, and therefore not contributing to the problem, many people, including the AARP, believe that it's not appropriate to cut Social Security in order to bring the federal deficit down," Rother said.

Social Security cost-of-living freezes have their greatest impact on poor families, because they depend on Social Security for most of their income if a relative is disabled, he said.

Health care is another major issue. Rother said a number of lawmakers are introducing bills to expand health care coverage to the whole population.

"Over 30 million Americans do not have any health insurance coverage," he said.

The flurry of legislation reflects the political judgment that health care is a building issue, Rother said.

"Something's going to have to be done fairly soon to solve these problems," he said.

"One, the high costs, two, about 30 million Americans have no health insurance whatsoever, and three, there's a lack of any system to protect people against long-term health care costs, such as a nursing home stay or home health care."

On the other side, however, President George Bush's administration has targeted about $6 billion worth of cuts in the federal Medicare program in an effort to cut the budget deficit, Rother said. …

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