While listening to presentations on Social Security and Medicare, Ottilie Grim was reminded of something she needs to do.
"It reminded me that I need to be proactive in contacting legislators about these issues," said Grim, of Springfield Township. "I used to work for a congressman on Capitol Hill, and I know first-hand how important that is, to have your voice heard."
Grim and more than 300 people attended the "Is Your Future Secure: Social Security and Medicare" program Tuesday at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in West Manchester Township.
The program was sponsored by the Coalition to Strengthen Social Security and Medicare, which encourages people to contact their legislators, asking them to find ways to fix the two programs rather than cutting benefits.
Discussion panelists included state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a West Manchester Township resident, and state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, and local attorney Sarah Speed, state director of the Humane Society of the United States.
Prior to their comments, panelist Jim Palmquist, state president of the AARP, shared solutions for resolving Medicare issues, including improving communication between doctors and healthcare facilities, reducing overtesting and unnecessary paperwork and changing laws to allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to lower prescription costs.
For Social Security, the federal government should separate the benefit program from the budget discussions, as 84 percent of social security comes from employees' payroll taxes and not from Congress, Palmquist said, adding that 13 percent comes from Social Security's trust fund interests and 3 percent from taxation of benefits.
DePasquale said cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits would only hurt the people the programs were designed to help in the first place, including senior citizens, people with disabilities and those in need of affordable health care.
He encouraged attendees, especially people who are "living this issue" to make sure lawmakers hear from them.
Grim said she is learning more details about the various issues involving the two benefits programs and is opposed to cuts.
"I don't think that people who need to have secure retirement and health care can afford (cuts)," she said.
Skip Wills, 65, of Dallastown said the Social Security and Medicare programs were promises made by the government to support its senior citizens. Now the government wants to break its promises and "dump" the programs, he said.
"If Congress wants to get rid of our benefits, then they (shouldn't) get a retirement plan, either," he said.
Ruth Mazurek of West Manchester Township said she has been on Social Security for 10 years and is researching how the Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect Oct. 1, will affect her benefits.
However, Mazurek said she has kept up on current benefit issues and plans to let legislators know her thoughts on the matter.
"They've heard from me before on other issues," she said. "I think it works to contact them. It makes them sit up and take notice."
-Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.