By Dawn Neuses
More than 80 people attended a forum on Medicare and Social Security on Wednesday at Black Hawk College.
Forum sponsor U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, told the crowd that Medicare is a hot topic as the election approaches and "it's important to get the facts out there" because people say one political party or the other will end Medicare.
He called that a "fear tactic," saying the federal government has promised benefits to current senior citizens. Promises made to future senior citizens also need to be honored, he said, and to do that, politicians must set aside partisan differences and work together.
"Medicare will be broke by 2024," he said, adding he supports a Republican plan that proposes no changes in Medicare for those 55 and older.
"If you are 54 or younger, there will be some changes," he said. Those changes would include a premium-support payment and a list of guaranteed coverage options when people become Medicare eligible, so they could choose a plan that best fits their needs.
Rep. Schilling said companies would compete for the business, which would lead to better prices.
"As a nation, we have to do the right things and get this turned around," he said. "I think it's important we try to figure this out."
Two experts also were on hand to answer questions.
Kurt Frank, a retired Social Security Administration specialist, said the Social Security Administration determines if, and when, a person is Medicare eligible but not what is, or is not, covered.
He said it's estimated Social Security will be broke in 2033, but that's dependent on the future strength of the economy. He said the government can spend Social Security revenues two ways -- on benefits or to buy bonds that provide interest.
John Marruffo, a staff development specialist for the Illinois Senior Health Insurance Program, explained the differences between Medicare parts A, B, C and D and how a person can use the agency's website to choose a plan.